The boat leaves as dusk begins to fall and as the sun sets, we kit up in a fluster of haste, careful not to forget our torches, nervous because it’s unfamiliar to be going diving when everyone else is going out to dinner. We each have a torch and we are told not to switch them on before we hit the water, as they will spoil our night vision.
Menon gives a much longer dive briefing than normal and a lot of it is to do with the unfamiliar darkness we will be diving in. We will be diving Point Vacoas, a reef characterised by sand striped gullies and rich in towering ancient brain coral bomies. During the day it is coloured by delicate pink lilac and peach soft corals and filled with fish life.
He warns us to keep well above the reef until we have a feel for the surrounding darkness. There is a torch at the top of the buoy line and a torch at the bottom. We backward roll into pitch blackness, and switch on our lights. The boat’s navigation lights come on so we know where we are, where the bottom is, and where the boat is.
We sink through the crystal water towards the bottom, careful not to shine our torches in each other’s eyes. It’s easy to spot the others in the group, their torches are like light sabres on the white sand in the marine darkness.
As we reach the reef a hand, lit by a torch points, and there is a juvenile bar-tail moray hunting in the dark, his victim oblivious.
Morays are normally easily spotted during the day in Mauritius, but rarely do we see them outside their holes. They hunt by night.
As I filmed him a light caught an orange undulation, and a Spanish dancer wove his way down to the reef, caught in the spotlight of the whole group of torches.
He was at least 300mm long, and he undulated gracefully, flashing his exquisite colours. You never see them during the day, and I have no idea where they hide. I have often seen their egg ribbons, but I’ve never seen these huge nudibranchs during the day. Another rare nudi was a Berthalini, another huge nocturnal creature built along the same lines and almost as spectacular as the Spanish Dancer.
Someone taps his tank and one of the torches hovers on a large grey creature. I turn towards the sound, and there is a completely unfamiliar creature, silvery grey, box shaped, long spiked tail, about 600 mm long, flapping and hovering and turning in circles.
It’s a Cowfish, and according to the books, it’s not found in Mauritius. It’s found in Indonesia, but there it is looking a little embarrassed at being caught out in the wrong ocean. On honeymoon perhaps? We looked around but could not find his mate.
Another group of unfamiliar creatures was hiding in a crevice. The squat lobster is also not common in Mauritius, so it was wonderful to fine a pair of them hiding in a hole, edging their way tentatively out to find a midnight snack.
I get excited by anything unfamiliar, and that night I saw at least 5 creatures I have never seen in over 1500 dives worldwide. There was a slipper lobster, a finning marbled electric ray, a baby two spot lionfish, proudly spreading his colourful fins, a spot backed crab and a giant coral crab that must have been at lead 500mm across the shell.
Suddenly out of the darkness appeared an extraordinary spider like creature which we later identified as a decorator crab. He uses his sticky spit to attach shells, seaweed and small anemones to his back and legs, and looks like something out of a bad sci-fi movie.
After 50 minutes of dramatic exploration, it was time start ascending, torches firmly lit and pointing down. This time, we had to leave them switched on in case someone dropped one as they are huge and quite costly. We each carried a smaller pocket torch in case of failure, so night diving is always about being doubly safe.
When we got back to the dive centre, Lorenzo from the restaurant next door had prepared a Mauritian feast for us which he served at the dive centre and we sat around the de-briefing table at the Dive Centre drinking Phoenix beer and South African wine, identifying our finds and chatting. It was one of the best dives I have done in Mauritius and I hope to make it the first of many.
Words Jill Holloway
Pics Jill Holloway
Copyright Ocean Spirit
Jeff chats to… Louis Hagger, second place winner of the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition (Watch Video)
In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-large, chats to Louis Hagger, second place winner of the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition.The See you at the Sea Festival was an online film festival created by young people, for young people.
Louis’ film – Uncovering Cornwall’s Little Known Oceans – can be seen here:
Third in a series of six videos about the competition. Watch the first video HERE with Jenn Sandiford – Youth Engagement Officer with the Your Shore Beach Rangers Project and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust – to find out more about the Competition. Each day this week we will be sharing one video in which Jeff talks with the young contestants about their films and what inspired them.
For more information please visit:
DAN launches 2021 webinar series
Divers Alert Network (DAN) has launched a new series of live monthly webinars on its YouTube channel, DAN TV.
Throughout 2021, experts from DAN’s Research, Risk Mitigation, and Medical Services teams will give presentations on topics relevant to divers, dive pros and dive business owners as we look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and resume diving and traveling.
The 2021 series will begin this Thursday, January 21, at 7:00 p.m. EST, with a webinar by DAN Director of Risk Mitigation Francois Burman titled Emergency Planning: Who Is Responsible for Your Safety? The presentation will cover various mishaps that can occur during diving and travel as well as tips for anticipating, preparing for and successfully managing them.
Future webinars in the series will cover topics including fill station safety, ear barotrauma, DAN research updates, the latest information about COVID-19 and diving, and more. Attendees can look forward to lively 30- to 45-minute presentations followed by questions and discussion.
The webinars will be held on the third Thursday of each month. Keep an eye on the Events page of DAN.org
For more information about upcoming webinars follow DAN on:
Recorded presentations will remain on DAN’s YouTube Channel.
WIN an Envirus Everyday+ Mask from Sharkskin – 5 up for grabs!!!
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From 1-25 December, our good friends at PADI® will donate 10% of your PADI eLearning® purchase to support the Project AWARE® Dive Against...
WIN a Beuchat Air Light Bag!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Beuchat to give away an Air Light Bag!...
WIN a Bigblue AL-1200NP Dive Torch!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Liquid Sports to give away a Bigblue AL-1200NP Dive...
This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.
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. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.
Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!
Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email email@example.com to book your spot!More Less
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