Saturday: Boat or shore dives in the morning (early); night dive at Simon’s Town jetty at 7.00 pm
Its been a while since I have seen Muizenberg this clean, not that I go there all that often, but I do think we are going to have really good visibility in False Bay by Saturday and plan to start really early. At this point I have yet to decide on whether to shore dive or boat dive but will make that decision early tomorrow, so please text me your preference.
Diversnight takes place on Saturday evening. We will be diving off the jetty in Simon’s Town (note change of location), meeting at 7.00 pm. We need to be in the water at the hour of 8.16 pm (2016!) for our efforts to count towards the official Diversnight aims of, uh, night diving around the world at the same time. There’s a facebook event here, and the official event page here.
Please let me know by 5 pm tomorrow if you’re coming so that I can give the jettymaster the approximate number of divers to expect. If you need any gear, you need to tell me by tomorrow as well please.
The days are getting longer and the daytime temperatures are slowly creeping upwards… Well, on some days. Saturday looks like a better bet for False Bay with Hout Bay being an option on Sunday. The water colour off Dungeons has improved slightly today.
Tomorrow I am shore diving students at Long Beach at 10.00 am. On Saturday we will do an early False Bay double tank dive at 7.00 am. Let me know if you’d like to get wet.
As part of First Thursdays, you can attend the opening of the Birdlife Oceans of Life photographic exhibition at the South African Museum on the evening of Thursday 6 October. There’s information here (facebook) – this year’s exhibition includes a retrospective of the last few years’ best images.
Diversnight is on Saturday 7 November, so start charging your torches!
Earlier this month we returned from our second ever dive trip to Ponta do Ouro. (It was my third time there – on my first trip, in 2009, I wasn’t qualified to dive yet, and met my future husband, where he was diving and skippering five times a day and living in a reed hut. I still sometimes feel guilty for having a part in him leaving this little piece of paradise.) We flew to Durban. A shuttle transported us to the Kosi Bay border post, where we were met by Mike of Blowing Bubbles Diving. Mike drove us and our luggage over the dunes into town, and dropped us at Planet Scuba, where we would stay for the week.
Planet Scuba is situated on top of the hill that overlooks Ponta’s central square. Since my last visit (I think), a pharmacy has opened on the corner (pictured above), and later in the trip we purchased a much needed decongestant there (for a fairly princely sum, but beggars can’t be choosers).
Every morning we would walk down the steps to the road that leads to the beach, and head towards the point to meet up with the boat for diving. After diving, we would either walk back or get a ride on the back of the Blowing Bubbles bakkie. We breakfasted between dives, and then returned to the beach. The dives in Ponta do Ouro are boat dives, and the skippers launch the boat off the beach through the waves. There was almost no swell while we were there, so the surf launches were quite tame!
We dived for five days, most of us doing ten dives in total. We contemplated a dolphin trip with Dolphin Encountours, but reports were that boats were only seeing one or two dolphins, if any, and the trips cost more than a dive so we carried on diving instead. We were so, so lucky to see a huge pod of dolphins at the end of our last dive, near Ponta Malongane. On our first dive that day we had seen big schools of baitfish near the surface, and the dolphins had probably come to the area for feeding. We weren’t allowed to get into the water with them, but they swam past the boat for ages, and we heard them breathing as they passed by. Tony and I stuck our cameras over the side of the boat, and it turned out there were many more dolphins underwater than we could see on the surface.
The pace of life was very mellow. We dived, ate, slept, and repeated various iterations of that sequence. We admired the community of friendly dogs down at the beach. We enjoyed hungry cats and condensed milk milkshakes at Neptune’s, with a view over the Motel do Mar (where we stayed on our last trip) to the beach. We had a healthy and delicious lunch at Mango above the Dolphin Centre, and got thoroughly soaked by a tropical rainstorm on the way back to Planet Scuba. Christo, Esther and Laurine sampled the “chemical s***storm in a glass” (I quote Esther) that is Ponta do Ouro’s famous R&R (rum and raspberry). Strangely, none of them wanted any more…
The diving was excellent. The water temperature was 23 degrees, and we had (apparently mediocre for Ponta) visibility of about 10 metres, sometimes more. This was very acceptable to us as Capetonians. The reefs are teeming with life, and all of us saw something new. Laurine was enchanted by a turtle, Tony spent most of his dives upside down with his head in crevices in the reef, Christo directed all of us to exciting discoveries with his torch and pigsticker (a metal kebab stick slash pointer that must have a different name but I don’t know it), and Esther maintained her sense of wonder and calm as she brought up the rear of our little group on most dives. On one of the dives a very strong current gave us opportunities to use our SMBs, which was an excellent learning experience and a reminder of how important a safety sausage is, no matter where you are diving.
The air temperature was warm, the wind hardly blew, and for a while we could forget that at home in Cape Town it was cold, frequently dark, and overflowing with commitments and obligations. We returned the way we had come, but feeling a little more ready to cope with the rest of the Cape winter. We’ll be back in a couple of years, Ponta!
(I’ll share some little videos and more photos from the trip over the next couple of weeks.)
Here’s a short video I took during an amazing night dive on a mysterious, very broken up vessel called the barge wreck, just off Bluff Point at Big Gubal Island. There were a lot of divers in the water that evening and their torchlight illuminated different parts of the barge at different times.
There is a barge wreck at Bluff Point on Big Gubal Island in the Red sea, where we did an amazing, fast drift dive along the side of the lagoon. During that dive we did stop in briefly at the barge wreck (its origin and identity is unknown), but it was on a night dive the previous evening that we actually spent a significant amount of time exploring the barge.
It’s supposed to be one of the best night dive sites in the Red Sea, and we were amazed by the amount of life on and around the wreckage. We saw multiple large moray eels, huge basket stars, enormous urchins, and a crazy variety of other life. We jumped off the back of our liveaboard, swam under a neighbouring liveaboard, and found the barge wreck just off its starboard side. It was teeming with divers from our boat and the other liveaboard, but there was so much to see over such a spread out area that it didn’t matter too much.
My favourite thing was the basket stars, of which there were many. We saw some huge ones, with diameter nearly as big as my arm span, and some small, palm-sized ones. They are not the lovely blue-grey colour of the ones we see in Cape Town, but the intricate design of their many arms is the same.
We also saw a number of moray eels. Our dive guide told us that two big ones live on the barge wreck, named George and Georgina. The ones I saw and photographed were extremely large. As with the night dive we did at the Alternatives, the water was very still and very clear, so torch light actually shone an appreciable distance. This kind of night diving is so easy and wonderful that I think it might have spoiled me for night diving in Cape Town!
My Sony DSC-TX5 has served me remarkably well, but after three years I was starting to itch for something with a bit more scope for manual control. The TX5 has an underwater mode: you switch it on, turn on the flash, and you’re good to go. It also has a rugged Sony-built housing that is almost neutrally buoyant with the camera inside, can be held and operated with one hand, and supports the addition of an external strobe (which I did). All these things make it incredibly user friendly and eminently suitable for a busy diver who might be doing other things (like grabbing onto other divers who are being wayward, or being a good buddy) and need both hands now and then.
I did a lot of reading and asking, and ended up settling on another Sony camera (my third, and the fourth for our family), the Sony DSC-RX100. It’s a tiny, pocket-sized camera that has many manual control options (aperture and shutter priority modes, manual and program mode, and some built in automatic modes) but isn’t a DSLR. It has received the most effusive reviews that I’ve ever read for an electronic device. Here’s Wired, and here’s the New York Times. Digital Photography Review also said nice things. It has a giant 20.2 megapixel sensor and a fast Carl Zeiss lens capable of a magnificent 3.6x zoom. You can read up about those things elsewhere. It takes HD video, and you can shoot stills at the same time. What sold me on the camera was its reported excellent performance in low light environments (a feature of several of the Sony models I’ve owned), which I figured would make it excellent for Cape Town diving.
There are a couple of options for an underwater housing for the DSC-RX100, but unfortunately nothing made by Sony. I settled on the Ikelite housing because there’s a local Ikelite presence, and because it wasn’t insanely expensive. The housing unfortunately has the hydrodynamics of a house brick and mine needed its clips replaced after less than thirty dives, but the camera is nice enough that I was willing to put up with having a perspex sea-anchor attached to myself in order to get it into the water. Toting the housing around has also thrown my buoyancy for a loop, so I’m having to consciously adjust some things to get my air consumption back where it was in the good old days. (I’ve decided that my next camera will probably have a manufacturer-built housing, or I won’t buy it.)
Anyway. After much debate I also splurged on the Ikelite W-30 wide angle lens, which cost more than the housing and which has been my only recent Ikelite purchase that has worked flawlessly and hasn’t needed replacement or repair, probably because it has no electronic or mechanical parts. It’s magnificent. It screws onto the outside of the housing, and is a wet lens, which means that upon getting into the water you have to make sure that all the air gets out and water fills the space between the lens and the housing, otherwise you get a line across the middle of your photos. Same goes for when you get out of the water – the lens has to drain before you can use it on land.
My most sustained use of the camera so far has been on our Red Sea trip last October – you can see all the underwater photos on flickr in my wreck dives set, reef dives set, and night dives set. I am still using it mostly on the automatic and very simple manual settings, but I expect that playing with the camera on land (which I haven’t had time to do much of) will make me more confident with it underwater. The buttons on the housing are very hard to use with gloves on or cold fingers, and they are extremely close together, which means you have to learn what each one does (or carry a cheat sheet on dives) in order to change settings underwater. Despite these complaints, you can access all the camera’s controls via the housing, which is more than can be said for other housings.
The camera flash is immensely powerful. The housing comes with a diffuser (for photography without an external strobe) and a shield to completely block the flash from the front when the strobe is on. I use the latter when I attach my AF-35 Autoflash, which works like a charm. I have tried using the flash on the camera while underwater, but you have to be quite far away from your subject to avoid blowing out the image.
Apart from the clip issue on the housing, I’ve been very happy with the camera so far and am looking forward to doing some more underwater macro photography, since the DSC-RX100 focuses much closer than the DSC-TX5 (and indeed any other camera we own). I’m also enjoying its very easy to use video function, as you may have noticed from the proliferation of videos on the blog since April 2013! I’ve added a video light that has come in handy for photography on night dives, but that’s another story…
Wind, walkers and waves will mean we are diving on Saturday in False Bay starting real early, i.e. 7.00 am at the Yacht club. We plan to dive Atlantis and the Brunswick.
On Sunday there will be way too much traffic and road closures to make an early start possible and I don’t think the wind will allow anything later in the day. I am really keen to do a double tank dive to Justin’s Caves or to dive North and South Paw, but will make that call on Saturday afternoon once we have a better idea of the wind (which looks iffy) and the viz.
The last week has been spent driving instead of diving as all our cylinders were due for their annual medical examination. We did cancel last weekend’s dives due to the wind being a little stronger than I like to launch and dive in, but the guys that did go out reported really good conditions.
We are just home from a really good night dive and all in all we were 19 divers. We dived below and around the jetty in Simon’s Town and had passable viz and a great deal of jellyfish to contend with. Thanks to all those folks from far and wide (including OMSAC!) that joined the fun. The aim with Diversnight International is to have as many divers in the water at 2013 as possible, world wide, and then to eat cake. The numbers since this event started are:
2005: 351 divers in Norway.
2006: 889 divers in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
2007: 1859 divers in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and also Svalbard.
2008: 2183 divers in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Egypt, Indonesia, France, Spain, Faroe Islands and Belgium
2009: 2749 divers, 218 divesites and 20 countries
2010: 1700 divers, 175 dive sites and 22 countries
2011: 2577 divers, 196 dive sites and 24 countries
2012: 2322 divers, 231 dive sites and 25 countries
If you think the water is cold here, you should feel it in Scandinavia in November, where this event started!
Congratulations to Bianca, who won two boat dives in the Diversnight lucky draw this evening! Also congratulations to Esti who has won a Nitrox Specialty course in the October boat divers’ lucky draw.
We will have another draw for boat divers in November and one in December. To enter, come for a boat dive. You’ll win a Nitrox course, or, if you’re already Nitrox certified, you’ll win two boat dives!
Sometimes I have students and former students who want to sell some gear secondhand. If you’re looking for gear, let me know and I might be able to put you in touch with someone. The details of the transaction are up to you! At the moment I know someone with a Suunto D6i dive computer and a regulator set for sale. If you’re interested drop me a mail and I’ll hook you up.
Launching on Saturday and Sunday, at 9.30am and 12pm – conditions are dubious, so a final call on the status of the launches and their locations will be made first thing on each morning. Text or email me if you want to dive.
Red Sea trip
So, the Red Sea trip has come and gone and without a doubt I will miss the visibility the most. On a bad day we had 20 metre viz and on a good day easily 40. I won’t go into the dives that much as Clare will post details with pictures on the blog and facebook in the coming weeks. We did about 20 dives in total so there is a lot to cover. Every dive was done on Nitrox. Since it’s Halloween, the photos in this newsletter are from one of the night dives we did while we were in Egypt, at a wreck of a small barge located at Bluff Point.
Having been out of the Cape Town water for the last two weeks I have very little to contribute but I am keen to get in the water this weekend and shock my self into the reality of slightly cooler water.
As usual we are puppets on the strings of weather forecasts that all have oddities this weekend. Tomorrow and Saturday False Bay is supposed to have a south easterly swell and a south easterly wind. That means that Atlantic might work. It does not look too clean today but the south easter tomorrow might be enough to clean it up (but don’t hold your breath – one day of south easter is rarely sufficient).
On Sunday the swell is very westerly so that is good for False Bay, but will Saturday’s swell ruin it? Hard to tell. The plan therefore is two launches on Saturday and two on Sunday at 9.30 and 12 noon. Destination unknown, but irrespective of whether we dive False Bay, Hout Bay or Table Bay there are so many sites to choose from and we you can decide on the day. I will go and take a look at the sea really early and text whoever has booked by 7.30 as to the launch site.
It’s Diversnight on Thursday 7th (this coming Thursday) and we will dive the jetty in Simon’s Town as we did last year. We will meet in front of Bertha’s at about 7.00 -7.15pm, and aim to enter the water at around 8 pm. The whole idea is to have as many divers in the water at precisely 2013… Thirteen minutes past eight, around the world. Sign up (or get details) here.
If you need to rent a torch or gear, please let me know by Wednesday! And don’t forget that there will be a couple of lucky draw prizes, and cake!
Dates to diarise
DAN Day, Saturday 9 November – remember to book in advance if you want to attend.
We are still running our lucky draw boat dive/Nitrox course competition for passengers on our boat each month from October to December. October’s winner will be announced in next week’s newsletter, and on facebook. To be eligible to win a prize (of a Nitrox course, or two free boat dives if you’re already Nitrox certified), you just need to do a boat dive with us. Simple!
I took these two short video clips on a night dive at Long Beach on 20 July.
In the first clip, it’s still quite light. Dinho is breathing off his octo because it free flowed at the beginning of the dive.
The second clip, which was taken just a minute or two later, is much darker – the sun was setting at that very moment. At the end you can see Tony in his Batman hoodie. You can also glimpse Craig over the kelp on the wreck, with the buoy line, and Tamsyn in a wetsuit with blue detailing on the arms. We were eight all together for this dive, and the light shed by our torches and cyalumes is quite considerable.
For another glimpse of what night diving is like, you can check out another video here.
In the interest of planning ahead, here’s our annual Christmas gift guide. This is specially for the people whose idea of a good gift is “whatever’s available in a shop close to the mall entrance on 23 December!”
For the reader, you could check out our book reviews, arranged by topic:
Make sure you know the returns/exchanges policy of wherever you make your purchases. Some places can be difficult, and if the mask doesn’t fit it’s no good at all!
For lady divers
For the diving lady in your life (or your man friend with too much hair), what about some rich hair conditioner to apply before going in the water – suggestions here, otherwise try what I’m currently using: Aussie Moist Three Minute Miracle, which is available at Clicks. A pack of cheap, soft fabric elasticated hairbands is a good stocking filler.
Some high SPF, waterproof sunscreen, or a nice hooded towel for grown ups (available in one or two of the surf shops in Muizenberg) would also not go amiss.
Don’t forget to add a memory card for the lucky recipient’s camera if you plan to gift any of these! Contact Tony for prices.
If you take your own photos, you could print and frame a couple, or experiment with stretched canvas prints if that’s your thing. A digital photo frame pre-loaded with underwater images is also a lovely gift for a diving friend.
For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful: