“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
If there was ever a day to remember diving, then this was to be one of those days.
We had moved over night and we woke like Groundhog Day to a blazing sun and our boat moored next to a beautiful reef, Fury Shoals. A quick coffee, a dive brief and we were in the water by 7.00 AM.
The reefs here at Fury Schoals must be some of the best in the world, the hard coral blocks are breathtaking.
Stunning hard coral blocks.
The reef we are diving this morning has everything, swim throughs, cavern system, and the most amazing corals that are staggering to the eye. Schools of fish hang motionless like a child's mobile hanging from the ceiling, even as you approach the fish, they gently part and let you through the shoal, closing in behind you as you pass.
Schooling Yellowtail Snapper.
After our early morning dive was completed, we returned to the boat, I removed the camera from its underwater housing and placed on charge and we went into breakfast.
The Elite moored up in the most beautiful lagoon, the water was crystal clear and a lone yatch was moored in the distance.
Then suddenly we noticed a pod of dolphins playing in the lagoon, no time to grab my main camera, we just literally grabbed fins, mask, snorkel and I had a little compact underwater camera with me and we jumped in the zodiac to catch up with the dolphins.
The pod was big, possibly numbering 50 dolphins, I jumped from the zodiac and there I was swimming amongst the most beautiful wild dolphins.
Swimming with wild and free dolphins in their own environment is one of the most magical experiences you can have with nature, it's a incredible feeling to be in the water with them. To be able to interact with them on their own terms, to be part of their environment is a fantastic experience.
The Dolphins are swimming beside us, twisting and turning in the water like a top gun jet fighter.
They appear next to me and then they dive down to the ocean floor and then spin back up to the surface, they are playful and inquisitive, everything you imagine wild dolphins to be. They swim just below me, turning their heads to look at me and making eye contact, probably thinking how inept I am in the water trying to keep up with them.
A dolphin breaks free of the group and comes right beside me, I could touch it if I wanted, but I just watch as it circles me. It is clicking and whistling and I can feel the force of it's dorsal fin as cuts through the water as it passes me so close.
It quickly disappears out of sight and I think I am alone again. Then a group of thirty or more dolphins come back into view below me, like a pack of horses charging over the horizon and rushing towards you.
The group split and they corkscrew towards me, spinning and twisting, whistles and clicks fill my ears as they communicate, they branch off in all directions, like a firework exploding.
It's difficult trying to capture them on my little compact camera, I was really wishing I had my main diving camera with me for this.
We swam with the dolphins for over an hour, to be honest, as much as it was thrilling it was equally exhausting.
Trying to keep up with them when they are at their slowest pace is impossible, the agility and speed they move at with in the water is like that of an aquatic ‘red arrows’ display.
The dolphins were clearly having fun, one minute you would think they have gone and then suddenly they would appear beside you approaching at speed before twisting below you.
This was such a thrill. I have experienced dolphins on other dives but not in such a perfect environment as this, clear blue water and a white sandy seabed. Where else would you want to be playing with wild and free dolphins ?
I could of stayed all day but our boat was about to move on so it was time to reluctantly return.
We only had 45 minutes before we were back in our diving gear and back out to another dive site.
From the surface you could see the coral pinnacles sitting a metre below the water, it looks just absolutely stunning. We jump from the back of the boat and into the blue, the suns rays penetrating to the white Sandy sea bed 20 metres below me.
The pinnacles of coral are like a maze, you can get lost in them as you turn left and right making your way through the most incredible underwater landscape.
On the top of each coral block, golden orange Anthias explode upwards into a royal blue watery sky, Lion fish hang below in the current and beautiful lemon yellow butterfly fish weave around you as you become part of their world briefly.
Seventy minutes soon pass and once more it's time to leave, if I could get a new cylinder of air and get straight back in again, I would.
It's lunchtime on the boat and as Elite continues North, the talk around the dinner table are the dolphins.
We arrive for our third dive and as with the two previous dives at Fury Shoals, it's a beautiful and immaculate dive site.
The advantage of diving on a ‘live-a-board’ is that the reefs we dive are remote and out of reach of the day diving boats that return to port each night. So this makes the reef more pristine as unfortunately I believe consistent diving on a reef every day by possibly hundreds of divers has a negative impact on the health of the reef.
Schooling banner fish and blue spotted sting rays are here, moray eels and also a white-tipped shark swam over my head as I explored the reef. We drained as much time as we could on the reef and our diving day was finished.
As Elite continued on her journey, we showered and relaxed for the day. On route North we passed a small deserted island and the captain stopped Elite. We disembarked onto the Zodiac and we visited the island. It was nice to be back on terra firma again.
The beach was talcum powder white sand with crystal clear water, hundreds of hermit crabs scuttled along the beach and sea birds flew back and forth above our heads. We watched the sun set in the west below the desert mountains again and a full moon shone down on us as darkness fell.
Day 5 was one to remember, a truly fabulous day.
This is our final day of diving and over night we have returned to Elphinstone. The dive brief would be at 5.30 and to be honest, I was absolutely whacked out.
As mentioned earlier Elphinstone is great later on in the year when it is visited by Oceanic white-tipped sharks, but we were out of season so I decided to sit this dive out.
Sitting on the sun deck having a coffee and just watching the small fish dancing in the Rays of the sun at the side of the boat, I thought I was imagining it when an oceanic white-tip cruised past the boat. It's huge pectoral fins demonstrating it's a true wanderer of the open ocean. Then a second appeared.
Within a few minutes we were in diving gear and in the water with my camera. I love Oceanic White-tips, they are an exciting shark to be in the water with and very inquistive of divers.
Unfortunately, this shark didn't want to hang out with me, it came in once to have a look and saw nothing of interest and moved on.
It was also our time to move on and continue North towards Port Ghalib. Here we would be diving locally, just from the shore line. The reef here was still full of life, right from the shore you could dive and be amongst some of the most beautiful marine wildlife.
A porcupine fish swims past, it's big beautiful blue eyes staring back at its own reflection from the cameras dome port.
The usual clown fish nestle into the anemones as you investigate the reef.
A blue spotted stingray stirs up the sandy seabed in search of prey.
Our time being underwater is coming to an end as we make our way back to the boat after our final dive of the week.
My last visitor is a small hawksbill turtle that drifts by on the gentle current.
It dives directly below me and makes his way along the reef and out of sight. The perfect end to an amazing weeks diving.