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Dive Club Trip Report – Oyster Diving Club – Part 3 (Watch Video)

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Oyster Diving Club

OYSTER DIVING CLUB – BEST OF WRECKS RED SEA LIVEABOARD, OCTOBER 2014 – PART 3

(Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Day 5

The boat engines roared in to action at a knackering 4.30am this morning, not ideal when you’re in the cabin next to the engine room.

Today we spent the day at Abu Nuhas, a reef system close to the main shipping lanes to/from the Suez Canal. This means it was an excellent trap to catch out a few Captains who’d let their guard down. Along the reef lays 4 famous wrecks:

  • Chrisoula – the tiles wreck sank in 1978
  • Giannis D – the wood wreck sank 1983
  • Kimon K – the lentil wreck sank 1978
  • Carnatic – the wine wreck sank 1869

Wreck 1 of the day – The Chrisoula K

Chrisoula K Facts:

Built 1953 in Lubeck, Germany

Dimensions – 101m x 14m

Max speed 13.5 kn

Route – Italy to Jeddah

Cargo – 3,700 tonnes of Italian floor tiles

In 1978 it hit the reef at full speed

The wreck lies relatively intact on the reef wall. The bow starts around 4m with the stern at around 26m.

There were loads of interesting places to penetrate the wreck, such as the cargo holds that still contain its cargo of floor tiles, the kitchen, and a machine room where you can still see the tools in their correct positions.

The engine room could be seen through a large door, but it is not advisable to enter as it’s pitch black in there (and a few divers have lost their lives in the past having stirred up the silt).

The coral has now started to cover the upper part of the wreck which meant there were some families of clownfish brightening up the place and other critters such as a wort slug.

Wreck 2 of the day – Carnatic

Carnatic Facts:

Steamship

Launched in 1862

Dimensions – 90m long x 12m wide

Route – Suez to Bombay

Sank – 1869

176 crew and 34 passengers

5 passengers and 26 crew didn’t survive

Cargo – copper, cotton and £40,000 in gold coins (that quite a bit in today’s money) First salvage operation in the world and unfortunately recovered most of the coins (no one know what happened to the rest…)

Our Captain managed to moor our boat right on top of the wreck and with no current it made for a very easy descent. The hull remains relatively intact with a lattice frame work still in place over the top. This made for a very large and airy swim-thru. Inside was a timid school of batfish that made a lovely contrast against the blue water coming through the openings.

Another swim-thru was through the old boiler room and on the exit was a huge moray eel. Despite keeping a close eye open we didn’t manage to find the missing gold.

Weather watch for today: hot, hot, hot with high levels of UV.

Wreck 3 of the day – Giannis D

Giannis D Facts:

Maiden voyage 1969

Dimensions – 100m x 16m

Route – Croatia to Yemen

Cargo – Teak and mahogany

19/04/83 struck the reef

The wood floated and was collected by the local fishermen as its high quality timber and was used to build the first diving liveaboard. The liveaboard itself later became a wreck near Hurghada.

One of the most famous wrecks in the Red Sea – yet it was the first time any of us had done it.

This wreck lay in two main parts. The stern is still relatively intact and provided us with a fantastic swim through. Entering though the main bridge we swam in and down in to the engine room. A large room with a lot of the original wiring, signs and engines are still in place. As we swam through the wreck the different hues of blue would have been an artist’s dream. Returning to the outside of the ship we swam around the stern past the rudder and prop. Despite it being a relatively new wreck, many different types of hard and soft corals are starting to appear, which does make you appreciate exactly how long it takes for coral to grow.

Swimming down the wreck you could see the main portion of the wreck was pretty disintegrated with only a few dozen planks from its cargo remaining. The bow was also slightly beaten up as this was the main point of impact, but still provided for some spectacular photos.

There is a night dive tonight on Dolphin House, near Hurghada – I hope everyone enjoys it!

Tomorrow is our last day of diving, so will be tinged with a touch of sadness.

Day 6

Our final day of diving, and probably the final blog entry (unless something out of the ordinary happens during our night out in Hurghada later).

Having started our journey back towards Hurghada we did our first of two dives this morning at Shab el Ert, or more commonly known at home as Dolphin House. There are three Dolphin Houses in the Red Sea and I’ve never encountered Dolphins in any of them, so expectations were low.

I buddied up with Melvin and Philippe, the French-American (he’s actually Canadian but we’ve had a great time calling him a yank all week). Philippe decided to lead this dive. The dive itself, in Red Sea terms, was not that spectacular – a sandy bottom with coral bommies and lots of little fish. As predicted, there were no dolphins. The highlight of the dive is that myself and Melvin had to tell Philippe that he was leading us in the wrong direction and therefore using various hand gestures we made him aware that the ‘beer fine’ rule was being enforced.

We were about the last people back on the boat and just as we were taking our kit off a pod of Dolphins typically appeared right where we had just been diving. I calmly asked one of the boat guys “quick, quick, grab the zodiac”. Mel and I grabbed our fins and masks and leapt in to the zodiac like a couple of Olympic hurdlers wired on Red Bull.

We lost sight of the Dolphins but our boat driver shouted “JUMP”, so without question we rolled back in to the water. Right in front of us less than 10 yards/meters away were about a dozen Dolphins slowly and calmly swimming right past us. With the cameras rolling we spent several minutes gathering evidence to show the guys back on the boat.

Today’s weather for Mrs G: SCORCHIO

Last dive of the trip – El Mina

This wreck was an ex-Russian frigate that was sold to Egypt. During the Egyptian v Israeli conflict, an Israeli Phantom jet fighter bombed the navy vessel and sank it close to Hurghada Port in about 30m of water. Apart from a large hole where the bomb hit, the wreck is relatively intact and rests on its port side. You can still see the gun turrets, propellers, bow etc. Marine life was fairly interesting even though the coral hasn’t taken hold properly.

Myself, Mel and Phillipe navigated our way over to a nearby trawler. Although not as fascinating to look at, the marine life was! There were thousands of glass fish being stalked by chunky lionfish and crocodilefish.

With our equipment rinsed and drying in the sun we are making plans for a final farewell to this wonderful part of the world. Tomorrow we get to lounge by the pool before our afternoon transfer to the airport. It’s been a great trip and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the company of the Danepack and other guests on the boat. As usual, blue o two have provided us with a first class service and we look forward to returning to the ‘Best of the Red Sea – Shark Special’ next November on board Blue Horizon. If you would like to join us the please email me at mark@oysterdiving.com.

Here’s a video of our trip:

www.oysterdiving.com

Having worked as a Dive Instructor in the Virgin Islands, Thailand and Egypt, Mark returned to the UK in 2006 when he founded Oyster Diving. His principle aims for the new diving centre would be to appeal to the more discerning customer by offering the best facilities, having an integrated travel agency so customers can complete their dives abroad as well as in the UK. In 2010 Mark won Sport Diver magazines' 'Best Diving Instructor'. For more information on Oyster Diving, visit www.oysterdiving.com.

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Western Ecology Tour Expedition Report – Pembrokeshire

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Whilst the team were in Pembrokeshire, we were supporting Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners, a charity run by divers who are passionate on keeping their local dive sites clean. They have been running clean ups since 2005 and were the first underwater clean up group. The team and I were guided by Lloyd Jones and David Kennard, who have been running the operation for several years now. NARC work alongside the local community as they help locate pollution and rubbish that needs to be cleared, a lot of these reports come from local fisherman who lose their gear and take a note of the location to tell the team later. NARC use equipment to aid their team and to maximise their efficiency, from cutting equipment, lift bags, and boat crews to help them in removing as much rubbish as possible. NARC also take a great stance on education and take the time to not only carry out these clean ups but to also educate the local community and public on the importance of clearing debris off our beaches and to pick up any trash you may see whilst diving.

The first day was spent working with NARC and diving a local dive site in the evening. The first dive was at Hobbs Point, and we were given a full briefing about what to expect on the dive and the kinds of rubbish that needed to be lifted from the site. The team were told that there were 12 Oil Drums, Nets, fishing line and a whole assortment of other rubbish, on this dive we were all equipped with net bags for smaller chunks, as well as Lift Bags for lifting the bigger pieces. There were several RIBs on standby to pick up what came up on the Bags and who also waited for our team to surface and bring us back to the dock. We were only working mere feet from the dock, but this was an active shipping lane with a Ferry actually just in from Ireland, unloading no more than 300 metres down.

Dave gave the go ahead to descend and the visibility was no more than 0.5 metres with some of us struggling to see our own hands in front of our faces, let alone seeing our feet or even our buddies. Therefor the work was done through a combination of touch communication, very close signalling and using torches to keep people together. Andy descended and dropped straight into a shopping trolley which he sent up along with nets, other members such as Lloyd, descended onto the Oil Drums with four of the twelve being lifted. There was a lot of rubbish present at this site unfortunately, with it being as easy to find as simply putting your fingertips into the mud and pulling up handfuls of discarded fishing line and lead weights. In total we managed to lift Four Oil Drums, one Scooter, one Shopping Trolley, and four Nets with one of them containing three fish which were saved and released. We also managed to retrieve bags and handfuls of fishing line and lead weights. At this point the team at NARC were due back at this site five weeks later with their goal to retrieve the rest of the oil drums and other large pieces of debris.

The second dive of day one was at Martins Haven, a dive site situated inside the Skomer Island Marine Reserve, during the briefing we were told about what to expect at the dive site and were also told that if we were to remove any Lobsters and Scallops at the site, it would incur huge fines along with the confiscation of our dive gear. The site was truly breathtaking, with large kelp beds that flattened out on to Sand flats that were covered in huge Scallops, some reaching 6 inches in width! There were large Spider Crabs who littered the bottom searching for food and a mate. The turning point of the dive was when the team came across a Pink Sea Fan, something that looked as if it belonged on one of the worlds tropical reefs rather than in the UK’s frigid waters. On the way back in we came across beautiful walls lined with kelp, anemones and barnacles, with copious amounts of Moon and Purple Jellyfish sitting in the surface water.

The final day of the expedition was a single dive at Stackpole Quay, a shallow site with easy access to the water. The crew parked at a National Trust Car Park and kitted up before walking 100m to the shore, some members of the team, including myself, were yet to see a single Catshark during the expedition and we were hoping to see some before the trip came to an end. This dive definitely didn’t disappoint, with many Small-spotted Catshark’s resting amongst the gulley’s and Kelp, some of us counted upwards of 15 Sharks on this single dive. Other sights on this dive were large shoals of Sand Eel and Sprat, young pollock and huge male Spider Crabs which had managed to gather up a number of females and whom fiercely protected them from those who came in to close to take photos. The visibility on this dive was around 3 metres so caution was took to keep close to one another and to ensure that none of us became separated.

After the dive was done, we returned to the campsite for a debrief, not only the final day, but also from the trip, along with a final meal at a local pub.

Surprisingly for some of us, the trip was not quite over as when we arrived in Pembrokeshire, we heard about spaces being available on one of Celtic Deep’s trips, namely their snorkeling trips, on this trip you get taken out to snorkel with Puffins, Razorbills and potentially Seals. There were 2 spaces available on the Saturday and Sunday with 4 of us taking up the opportunity to go out and experience another unseen story and finish the expedition with a bang.

The boat left shore at 9am but everyone had to arrive at 8:30am for briefing before disembarking, the briefing was led by Richard and Nicki of Celtic Deep. Everyone was told about how the trip is to be structured and how to effectively swim with the Puffins and how to get in close to take photos, after the briefing it was a 40-minute steam out to Skomer Island, once moored up we all jumped in off the back the boat and began to slowly approach large amounts of Puffins, Guillemot’s and Razorbills. The birds were a little shy and aired on the side of caution even if they are naturally curious, thankfully one person in each buddy group had a puffin decoy on a string, painted and donated to Celtic Deep by David Millard. These decoys were larger than an actual Puffin, so this of course peeked the Puffins interest, however as the birds approached and a camera appeared from under the water this of course scared the birds away. Nicki and Richard mentioned that the birds were unfortunately a little more skittish than usual and judging by some of their images it shows that the birds do indeed come much closer.

After spending 2.5 hours in the water with the birds it was time for us wll to get out and warm up for an hour before heading to the next site at Skokholm Island, here everyone was told that there was a chance to swim with Grey Seals or as the Skipper Fen calls them, “Maggots”, due to how they move when out of the water and how they look from a distance. Everyone jumped in and the rule of thumb to stick by was to allow the animals to get confident with us all being there and then allow them to come you, after around 2 hours in the water and the animals popping up to have a look at us all at distance it was time to head back to the boat to head back to port. As everyone was exiting a young seal came and approached the group and even grabbed onto cameras with her paws resulting in some truly close shots.

In total the trip with Celtic Deep was truly amazing with some breath-taking encounters and the opportunity to experience something truly wild, the team were professional and incredibly knowledgeable allowing us to truly enjoy a British wildlife encounter unlike anything else.

Expedition WET Summary

In conclusion the UK is almost a hidden gem of diving, many people would argue that going abroad is better. But as our team experienced during the trip, there is some truly breath-taking diving and wildlife encounters to be had, the UK has Sharks, Seals and Nudibranchs that rival that of those overseas. With a wealth of Charities carrying out hard work, experts who lead them, and life that is truly special, it’s difficult to say what the UK doesn’t have to offer for keen Divers and Photographers alike even if you must look that little bit harder to find it.

Not only is diving just as good as places abroad but it’s also easy to access with all the sites described in this report being accessed by simply walking off the beach and taking the plunge. Not only is it easy to access but it’s also better for the environment and our planet by diving local sites rather than only diving abroad. The team may have done a lot of driving during the expedition but in terms of our carbon footprint, it is a mere drop in the Ocean in comparison to getting a flight.

Keep an eye out soon for Expedition WET’s Film, which is currently in production with Ollie Putnam & Andy Clark. It will show more about the projects that were supported, the team, and life that was found during the expedition.

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The Scuba Genies head to Bonaire! Part 2 of 2

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In the second of this two-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from the Come Dive with Us hosted trip to Bonaire in September 2021. Missed Part One? Read it here!

There is another dive we just must share with you and one that we can confidently call a ‘Dive of a Lifetime’. There were 12 of us in our group, and collectively we have logged in excess of 8000 dives in some very special places around the world. And every one of us was totally blown away by this dive! A fellow diver, by way of the Girls that Scuba FB group mentioned that if the timing was right, an ostracod dive was one not to miss. A link to an online article noted that 2 to 5 days after a full moon and 45 minutes after sunset, was the best time to observe the mating ritual of these tiny creatures. And only if they have not been exposed to light of any kind. That meant no streetlights and no torches. NO TORCHES!

We lucked out and were in Bonaire during a full moon and planned our Ostracod dive carefully. One the fifth night after the full moon we headed south to Red Beryl, a site we had previously been to and knew the terrain. We were in awe of the soft coral forest at the site, and this was the perfect environment for the ostracods. As the ‘show’ only lasts about 20 minutes, we entered the water while it was still light and left a beacon on the shore to help guide us after the dive. We gently finned out over the sand and hovered above the soft coral at around 8 metres as the dark crept in. Little sparks of light started to appear in ones and twos, and then just as we had hoped, chains of these tiny creature were all around us, in hundreds and then thousands! Everywhere you looked, the ostracods were rising to the surface, like underwater fireflies linked together flashing their bioluminescence one after the other, giving us nature’s most amazing firework show! The only way I can explain it is seeing thousands of Tinkerbells all at once! 20 minutes later, it was all over so we turned on our torches and headed slowly back to the shallows, happy to find a sleeping turtle, scorpion fish, more octopus and lots of little creatures.

As our holiday inevitably came to an end, we chose a site within minutes of Buddy’s called The Invisibles. A highly recommended dive site, we parked up alongside the beach, kitted up and walked down the rock beach and into the water. 95 minutes later, we walked back up the beach with memories of green turtles feeding, free-swimming moray, immense sponges and a plethora of anemones with their tenant critters – shrimp, crabs, and all things fascinating. And back in the sandy shallows we didn’t know where to look! A golden spotted snake eel, juvenile angel fish and a box crab that scuttled across the seabed before vanishing into the sand in a finger-click.

In summary, the diving here was very special – it truly lives up to its reputation of being one of the best destinations to visit, and in fact, over-delivered when it came to our expectations from the Caribbean. To mix it up, in addition to shore diving we also scheduled 4 days of boat diving right from the dock at Buddy’s. We were able to explore all around Klein Bonaire and reach some of the more difficult shore-entry sites including Karpata and 1,000 Steps. We would recommend this highly if only to get away from a daily dose of sand in your boots!

Buddy’s is a full-service dive operation, offering quality accommodation, good food, and the dive centre is as slick an operation as we have ever seen or experienced. The drive-thru tank station is genius for shore diving, the house reef is easily accessed, and the boat diving from the dock on one of their 5 purpose-built dive boats is organised perfectly. Catering for newbies all the way through to technical and rebreather divers, Buddy’s delivers it all, and very well. The staff are fun, highly professional, and the whole set-up is geared to making a dive trip work without any fuss. Even the shop is very well stocked with kit, spares, forgotten stuff and replacements for broken things!

Importantly, Buddy’s is also a supporter and enforcer of the Marine Park protection rules – the whole of the island is surrounded by a protected marine reserve, so no touching, no gloves, no pointy-sticks. Turtle nesting and coral regeneration programmes are evident, and given the fantastic health of the reefs, the protection initiatives and regulations work.

Would we go back? Without any hesitation, and repeatedly!

Bonaire delivered the goods. Great diving, great accommodation and freedom to dive wherever and whenever you want – especially with the tanks on the house reef available 24/7. A perfect destination for dive clubs and groups as the 3–bedroom apartments really work.

Bonaire is exceptional value for money. There are very few places on this planet where you can dive so much for so little in a great marine environment.

Key Facts:

  • Getting there: Flights with KLM to Bonaire depart from any major UK airport via Amsterdam. From London Heathrow it was a 12-hour total flight time. An extra 23kg bag also costs less than £90 return if booked in advance.
  • Air temperature: Tropical – average daily temperature throughout the year is 31’, reasonable rainfall (passes quickly) and the sea breezes are most welcome!
  • Water temperature: 28-30°C. A 1-3mm full suit is recommended to protect from scratches and stings and to keep the sand out.
  • Visa requirement: No tourist visa was required, but under COVID there are protocols in place. See https://www.bonairecrisis.com/en/travel-to-bonaire/ for the current requirements.
  • Currency: US Dollar with ATMs easily found, and all major credit cards are accepted.
  • Electricity: 120V with American 3- and 2-pin plugs. Our US/UK converters worked without issue

Accommodation: You mention Bonaire and Buddy Dive Resort is the first place people mention. Only 10 minutes from the airport makes for a super simple transfer. Multiple room types, all with kitted out kitchens and air-conditioned bedrooms. Two pools, two restaurants, full-service dive shop and staff always around to answer questions or lend a hand.

Diving: With both world class shore and boat diving available, warm and clear water, abundant marine life, coral and sponges like you’ve never seen, what more could you ask for?

Price Guide: Expect from £1500 per person based on two sharing for 7 nights with bed and breakfast. Unlimited shore and house reef diving, Nitrox and car rental all included. Return flights and transfers also included.

Additional costs:

  • STINAPA Marine Park passes: $45 per calendar year. We purchased ours online prior to departure and carried a copy in the vehicle when shore diving.
  • Buddy Dive Vehicle Insurance: $19 per day of vehicle rental for one named driver for the duration of your stay. For an extra $5 you can name another driver for a day. This was added to the room bill, and we split the cost with the rest of our apartment.

Our Advice: Stay longer…. 10 days would be the perfect amount of time in our opinion to get the most out of the shore and boat diving. And with numerous flights during the week to choose from, any duration can easily be arranged.


Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.

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Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 04 – 11 November 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1275 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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