[Another one of those long posts, saved only for the most extraordinary of days].
The boat rumbles to life at 6am. At 6.45 we're in the water at a dive site called Castle Rock, beginning our descent. Today Fabi has taken me on, I think to ensure I don’t have another experience like the night dive. At the briefing he tells us that a lot of fish will be feeding at today’s first dive - but it doesn't begin to describe what we eventually see.
It’s quite a shallow dive at 15 metres, but the place is like a washing machine. From zero current to 2-3 knots in a split second, circular and up and down current all over the place – making us tumble around within huge schools of fish eating their breakfast. In one place we hold on to the corals, the only way to stay in one place without using too much energy and air, and it’s like looking into the eye of the storm.Together with the noise from your own breathing and the bubbles it is LOUD. It’s a struggle even to hold on; when your legs fly all over the place and you have to be careful not to hurt yourself on the sharp coral.
The current brings in lots of nutrients to the location, with sand bottom and big coral mounds, which attracts the schools of fusiliers. These in turn attracts larger fish like trevally, groupers, sweet lips and tuna. These, then, in turn attracts the sharks. I don’t have an underwater housing for my camera, so to get an idea have a quick google for these: white tip shark, reef shark, Bluefin trevally, dog tooth tuna, fusiliers, blue spotter grouper and hump head wrasse (also known as Napoleon fish). Also lots and lots of Moorish idol, beautiful.
Everyone liked the site so we decided to do the second dive in the same place. This dive was incredible. A combination of being in total control of my body, breathing and equipment, and seeing the greatest abundance of marine life so much in one dive made it truly spectacular. The groupers, trevally and other fish let me swim into their midst, into a circular tornado of silver, yellow, blue and green. I hurt my hand on some corals but couldn’t care less.
On the way down, on this and the previous dive, we dropped ‘into the blue’ which is a quick, straight descent into deep water. The sea at this time in the morning is a full, rich blue and looking up at the other five divers it looks like a perfect, serene sky dive. At 25 metres it was the deepest dive of the trip, and a requirement for the advanced course. Almost an hour passed in an instant and I was immediately looking forward to the next dive.
After an hour’s wait we do our third dive at Crystal Rock nearby. Just as we had dropped down we saw 4-5 sharks in the blue just off the reef. Rather than being the standard white tip reef sharks, these were slightly larger grey reef sharks. That was about as interesting as this dive got, the others saw cool small stuff but I had issues with buoyancy and was mostly trying not to get too tired. Quite a lot of swimming into the current on this dive as well, which quickly ate up my enthusiasm. There were lots of other divers at this site as well, in short – a congested reef.
After lunch and siesta (everyone fell into a deep sleep) we did a fourth dive at 4pm, the final one for the day. This very nearly killed my enthusiasm for diving…
I’ve mentioned the renowned currents at Komodo. At this dive site two opposing reefs on two islands come very close to each other, and in the middle of them there is a deep drop – the site has been named the Cauldron. We dropped down by the reef wall a few hundred metres before. I hear a ‘clink clink clink’ on a tank and Stuart is pointing out into the blue. There, we see a shadow of a manta ray swimming past on the marine highway.
As we got close the current picked up and pulled us towards the cauldron. My arms and legs were flailing all over the place and I found myself at the front of the group, scary when you’re being pushed towards a dangerous place. When we got there Fabi quickly found us some dead coral to hold on to, next to a soup of fish hanging out between the reefs. The current here is unbelievable. It’s like a storm and I felt truly afraid as I tried to hunker down in the coral, desperately trying to hold on. I knelt and held on with both hands, letting all the air out of my BCD, but the current still pushed me up. At this point I didn’t give a damn about damaging the live coral. I held on to anything I can see, cutting my hands as I went.
In the briefing we were told to one by one let go and fly through a gap next to the cauldron – the reason for the site's nickname, the 'Shot Gun'. Fabi saw that I was scared and took my hand and we flew through together. But I crashed into the coral (and Ismail) on my way and was worried I wouldn’t be able to stop afterwards. Once we turned to face the current we were able to stop the movement, but unfortunately the others didn’t follow. For a moment we didn’t know what was going on. Fabi kept his cool and we realised that the others had surfaced in other locations and were ok. Experienced divers think this place is good fun, but from now on I think I will be less of a daredevil.
After this we have chill time and a nice dinner. It’s been a full, exhausting day and we all go to sleep at 9am. Tomorrow – Manta Point, 7am.