Dive sites (Sodwana): Deep Sponges

I think our dive on Deep Sponges was among my favourites of the five I did in Sodwana. It was to 30 metres, and Tami and Sophie were doing their deep skills for their Advanced course. I descended right on top of a pincushion starfish the size of a birthday cake!

Giant pincushion starfish at Deep Sponges
Giant pincushion starfish at Deep Sponges

There was quite a strong current when we reached the bottom, and the rest of us tried to hang around in one spot while the girls filled in their slates. Once they were done, we set off – swimming into the current! This was exhausting and the water at depth feels like honey… Very hard work. Tony had a word with Divemaster Dean, and we turned around and did a fantastic drift dive in the opposite direction.

Another enormous starfish at Deep Sponges
Another enormous starfish at Deep Sponges - this one had nice green tips on his legs

Deep Sponges is on Two Mile Reef, and characterised by (surprise!) many different sponge formations. Within minutes of starting our dive we spotted a whitetip reef shark swimming past about 20 metres away. This was my first shark sighting (apart from sevengill cowsharks, catsharks, nurse sharks, gully sharks and shysharks!) and I was thrilled. He didn’t seem to care about us at all, and I wanted to chase him so that we could spend more time together. Story of my life… hehe!

Sponge at Deep Sponges
Sponge at Deep Sponges

I also saw two hawksbill turtles (or the same one, passing by twice). They look so relaxed in the water, crusing along in perfect solitude. This dive site is amazing because it is both deep and a reef, so you have the gorgeous detailed reef life as well as a good chance of spotting pelagic species passing by on their journeys through the open ocean. The reef fish were far more curious and confident than those we saw on the shallower dives, possibly because they are bothered by fewer divers.

Soft coral at Deep Sponges
Soft coral at Deep Sponges

My photos from this dive aren’t very good – I think because the current was quite strong, and because I don’t have strobes to illuminate the depths. They just don’t do the experience justice. Because the visibility was so good – almost top to bottom – there was a tremendous sense of space, but also all this magnificent life begging for some macro shots. I haven’t done enough deep dives with the camera (two!) to figure out what works. But I am quite proud of the picture of the soft coral above.

Safety stop at Deep Sponges
Tony (on the right) and the Silver Fox (on the left) help Giraffe and Mariaan, who had descended unexpectedly while arranging some alternate air source breathing

I hardly finned during the dive because we were drifting with the current, which was great, and in all the dive was very relaxing. I had plenty of air – surfaced with the Divemaster and Tony, which was awesome! Felt very proud of myself and got a handshake from Tony at the safety stop. We did a nice long safety stop punctuated by one or two dramatic incidents which were nicely handled by Dean, Tony and the Silver Fox (who is also a Divemaster). Almost everyone seemed to breathe off someone’s octo at one time or another.

Breathing off octos
Tami taking Dean's octo, and Tony telling Justin, who was finishing breathing from (I think) the Silver Fox's octo behind Tami, to continue his ascent

Dive date: 9 October 2010

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 22 degrees

Maximum depth: 31 metres

Visibility: 20 metres

Dive duration: 37 minutes