Queenfish at Doodles, Ponta do Ouro (southern Mozambique)

Queenfish at Doodles
Queenfish at Doodles

Doodles is one of our favourite reefs to dive when we visit Ponta do Ouro. It is different every time, and there is often so much happening in midwater that you don’t know where to look. On one of our dives there during our recent dive trip to southern Mozambique, a school of talang queenfish swam past us at the edge of the reef.

This video starts out pretty dodgy – they were on the edge of what the visibility allowed us to see – but improves slightly towards the end. (The BBC wildlife unit isn’t going to be calling me any time soon.)

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkgmV5n5R1o&w=540″]

Queenfish have venomous dorsal and anal fins, according to The Reef Guide, which was an enormous help during our trip. They are large, fast gamefish and look as “in charge” as yellowtail and tuna do as they swim quickly by.

Turtles at Drop Zone, Ponta do Ouro (southern Mozambique)

One morning while we were in Ponta do Ouro, skipper Mike asked us what we wanted to see that day. Laurine had an answer ready: “A turtle!” So we went to Drop Zone.

Green turtle at Drop Zone
Green turtle at Drop Zone

We had not finished descending when Christo, spotter extraodinaire, noticed a turtle near the surface. We were going in opposite directions, though, so it remained in the distance. When we arrived on the reef, we almost immediately came upon another turtle being cleaned by a group of what I think are lined bristletooths, as well as a bright blue wrasse at the turtle’s right back flipper. The fish are nibbling algae off the turtle’s shell; this went on, peacefully, for some time, while we watched.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B8w7ipWhW4&w=540″]

We continued the dive, and met a second turtle, who was obligingly friendly and swam alongside us (Laurine in particular – I could see her self-actualising right there) for a while.

Later I returned to the same part of the reef where we’d met the first turtle. The spa session was pretty much over, so I took a little more video. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome or make the turtle feel uncomfortable, so I started trying to withdraw from the area. The turtle, however, had other ideas, and approached me head-on while I back-pedalled slowly. It wasn’t at all hostile (hostile turtle, anyone?) but maybe a little curious or maybe just trying to get somewhere and I was in the way.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29ZGTnUvyy8&w=540″]

Being able to observe these creatures in the water is the most amazing privilege. They can live to 80 years of age. I don’t know how old this one was, but based on its carapace length of about 50 centimetres, work done in California suggests that it is perhaps 5-10 years old.

Octopus at Doodles, Ponta do Ouro (southern Mozambique)

Octopus at Doodles
Octopus at Doodles

Here’s a very large octopus that we encountered a few minutes into the first dive we did of our recent Mozambique trip, to the ever-surprising reef called Doodles. He was standing about a metre out of a very small hole in the reef, looking scary. When he did withdraw into the reef, he couldn’t fit his whole body into the hole he’d chosen!

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92V4PnB87SM&w=540″]

Dog on a boat in Mozambique

Tony surfacing to see Dori and Mike on the boat
Tony surfacing to see Dori and Mike on the boat

There’s something beautifully incongruous about surfacing after a dive to be greeted by a dog on the pontoon of the boat. We had this privilege after a dive to Creche, a dive site near Ponta Malongane. Dori SeaDog, who officially belongs to Wayne and Petro (formerly of Simply Scuba) and unofficially belongs to the entire diving community of Ponta do Ouro, accompanied us on the boat to the dive site, and then waited on the boat with Mike for the divers to surface.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zBsAJl9z1w&w=540″]

Please enjoy this very short glimpse of Dori on the boat as we surfaced! On the way back to the beach she was spotted with one paw on the end of a lollipop stick, holding it against the deck of the boat, while she licked the lollipop on the other end.

Ponta do Ouro (Mozambique) 2015 trip report

Sunrise at Planet Scuba
Sunrise at Planet Scuba

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.

The new(ish) pharmacy at Ponta do Ouro
The new(ish) pharmacy at Ponta do Ouro

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!

Laurine and Esther descending
Laurine and Esther descending

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.

Batman takes the reel
Batman takes the reel

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.)

Newsletter: Winter blue

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Boat dives out of Simon’s Town, sites to be confirmed

Crescent-tail bigeyes at Creche
Crescent-tail bigeyes at Creche

Mozambique dive trip

We have just returned from a short dive trip to warmer waters. We had five days of really good conditions in Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique, with no swell and almost no wind. The water was 23 degrees most days and on every dive we were amazed by something. Watch the blog for a trip report in the next week or two, and some photos and video from the trip. There’s an album of pictures on facebook already.

A green sea turtle at Drop Zone
A green sea turtle at Drop Zone

Dive conditions and plans

The bay has been treated to winds from all directions in the past week, and there appears to be a huge volume of dirty water swilling around. Some places are really clean and inviting and others not so much.There is some rain in the forecast for Saturday afternoon and a fair amount of wind for Sunday.

I am planning to launch on Saturday but will make a call on where during the course of the day tomorrow as I will take the boat out tomorrow for a good look around. If you’d like to be on board for Saturday’s dives, let me know by email or text message and I’ll keep you in the loop.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Warmer waters

Hi divers

We had some really good diving last weekend and ended the weekend with a quick dive under Simon’s Town jetty to examine the pilings for STADCO. Thanks to Jerrel for the photo!

Under the jetty
Under the jetty

We are off to Mozambique this weekend and therefore have no plans for the next two weekends. It is a dive trip so we will focus on that and not so much on interwebbing. If you need to get in touch, email or send a text message. Newsletters will resume in a fortnight.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Best of the best

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Launching at 9.30 am for Atlantis and 12.00 pm for the SAS Pietermaritzburg from  Simon’s Town jetty

The last two weeks have been really good for diving in False Bay and we have had the best conditions all year so far. Summer winds have gone, the winter has yet to bite and the visibility has been exceptional. Last weekend we had a fantastic dive in 15 metre visibility on the SAS Pietermaritzburg, and then a trip out to Whittle Rock, where the divers encountered cowsharks and gully sharks. This is perhaps where some of them have been hiding since Easter!

Conditions seem set to stay this way for at least the next week and the day time temperatures are set to stay above 17-18 degrees.  There is some swell about but it is nowhere near the levels that get surfers hot under the collar and makes dive boat skippers sweat.

The weekend is looking pretty good and we plan to launch on Sunday. Due to the sun being a little slow at getting out of bed these days, we will do our first launch a little later in the morning for the next few months.

We will dive Atlantis and the SAS Pietermaritzburg on Sunday. Text or email me if you want to be on board.

Whittle Rock on Saturday
Whittle Rock on Saturday

Mozambique trip

We are putting the final touches to this trip, and we might be able to make a plan if you feel up for the hardship of diving in  warmer water and sunning yourself on the beach every afternoon! Drop me an email if you want information.

Permits blah blah!

There have been several permit check of late so if you do not have a permit to dive in an MPA go and get one at the post office. We do have temporary permits on the boat if you do not have one but they cost R45 and are only valid for 30 days…

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: All the good stuff

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Launching from Simon’s Town to dive the pillars just off Ark Rock at 9.00 and Tivoli Pinnacles at 12.00

SMBs at Roman Rockac
SMBs at Roman Rock

Conditions report

We are having a great run of exceptional diving. The daytime temperatures are still above 20 degrees, the visibility is in the double digits and so is the water temperature. The viz has improved all week and is currently 15- 20 metres depending on who is looking. One of the divers on the boat today shot some video on the SAS Transvaal where you can see a huge amount of the wreck in the clean water. The second dive was to Roman Rock and it was even cleaner.

On Sunday we will launch from Simon’s Town at 9.00 and 12.00 and dive the pillars just off Ark Rock and then Tivoli Pinnacles. Text or email me if you want to dive.

Permits, permits, permits!

Don’t forget to bring your permit to dive in a marine protected area on the boat. If you don’t have one, you need to take your ID document and about R150 to the post office and ask for a “scuba diving permit”.

Mozambique trip

There are a couple of places left on our trip, which leaves on 28 June and returns 4 July. Consider joining us for some warm water coral reef diving – let me know if you want more information. Booking closes mid May, so think quick!

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Swim time

Hi divers

Weekend dives

Sunday: launching from Simon’s Town jetty at 8.00 for Outer Photographer’s Reef / 10.30 for Alpha Reef / 12.30 double tanker to Pyramid Rock for cowsharks

Dive report

We were able to get in the water twice over the Easter weekend: really early on Saturday in False Bay before the wind, and then again on Monday. Monday turned out to be a great day with very little wind. It was however cold, 9 -10 degrees, and we dived the BOS 400, Tafelberg Reef and the seals out of Hout Bay.

Saturday’s dives were interesting but perhaps not fun in the conventional sense of the word – we two back to back at Shark Alley so a film crew could visit the cowsharks. There was not a cowshark to be seen until the end of the second dive, when the divers encountered two dead sharks with what looked like extensive bite marks all down their bodies. We sent the pictures to one of the local scientists running the sevengill cowshark project in False Bay. She observed that the sharks had not been dead long (their eyes were intact, and these would be the first thing to be nibbled by fish), and that the absence of hooks and typical treatment by fishermen suggested that humans were not involved.

Monday launch in Hout Bay, with burned mountains behind us
Monday launch in Hout Bay, with burned mountains behind us

Weekend plans

This weekend shows great potential for good clean water almost everywhere. There is no swell forecast, and light winds. On Saturday we are supporting Ned Denison at the Robben Island Freedom Swim so there is no diving planned.

On Sunday we will launch from Simon’s Town jetty at 8.00 for Outer Photographer’s Reef, at 10.30 for Alpha Reef and at 12.30 we need to do something at Pyramid Rock so we will do a double tank dive in the afternoon.

On Monday we are supporting the Swim for Hope around Cape Point, so we are making up for all the windy days that have stopped us taking the boat out this summer.

Mozambique trip

We will need to close bookings for the trip at the end of April. There are three spots still available – let me know if you want more information. We’re away from 28 June until 4 July, traveling via Durban.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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