As we started our last diving day end of October 2016 the weather had just
turned from low to high season and the see was flat. While i always enjoy
macro photography I promised my better second half I would put my wide angel
lens on for the last dive.
We were on the Marco - Polo for our last dive day. We were not at the "usual"
boy but dropped right above the wreck. We let our colleague divers on the
boat go first and after 10 min we also dropped in.
Magic happened with no other divers, a perfect late son and a great dive
group with Nick, Natka and Alexander Schepens.
The ovate bodies of the members of this nudibranch family are covered with dorsal tubercles and ridges. the rhinophores and the gills are retractable and mostly white with dark brown to black lines. Members of this genus are oval in shape with the mantle overlaying the foot. They feed normally on sponges creating often a nice background for underwater photographers. There are a lot of species already named but if anything there are still quite some of them out there not named at all. Do you want to take on the challenge and eternalise your name with one of these beauties baring your name ?
All my pictures are taken in Phuket and Similan Islands. Friends informed me that they also got some nice shots from Indonesia so more beauty to come …
During old years day, december 31th of 2015 we had a hec of a diving day in the ” Northern part of the Similans”. During the day we had likely the strongest “current” dive out of my 450 + dive history. We jumped at the Koh Tachai pinnacle without being at the mooring line. And while we jumped close to the mooring line a mooring line has never been further away. We were swimmng against the current to finally reach the line. It was like running a 100 meter sprint that turned into a 400 m steeple chase. 60 Bar later we had protection down there behind the rocks. When we came up the wind blow stronger and Nelson , the Marco Polo tourleader, decided to go straight to Surin so that we could try on new years day to get to the famous Richelieu Rock.
Jan 1th 2016…..04.00 am (did we sleep already…?) the captain is leaving the protected bay in Surin to make way to Richelieu. An hour later we are back on the bay. The waves are simply too big and while we could get there diving would be not safe. So we celebrate our first dive of the year in Surin. Guess whom we meet under the water…our good friend Ricardo from the Giamani is wishing us with a perfect side mount trim “happy new-year” under the water…..
Later that day the wind is calming down and we make our way to Richelieu Rock. Our dive there turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. 20 min in the dive this nudibranch Cuthona Sibogae is welcoming us in his house together with his/her partner.
They are moderately large aeolid nudibranch in which the cerata are arranged in about eight fan-like clusters on each side of the body. The cerata are cylindrical, tapering at the tip to a rounded point. The general body colouration is pale lilac purple. The oral tentacles and the upper half of the slender smooth rhinophores are a reddish purple. The cerata are similar in colour to the body except for a bright golden yellow tip and a band just below the yellow tip which ranges from deep reddish purple to deep purple. Many of the smaller outer cerata in each row are golden yellow with nno purplish basal region. It grows to 35mm in length. It is usually found associated with its food, an orange hydroid, Sertularella quadridens.
Thanks to Alexander and the entire Marco-Polo crew under leadership of Nelson and Anita for showing is this wonderful Nudibranch. Enjoy.
2016 is of to a strong start. Since December 29th 2015 I had the pleasure, the honour and the fatherly duty to spent time with my son Alexander in Similans and Phuket ….mostly under the water. This small blog is merely a teaser as I have to catch a plane early tomorrow morning.
We had a fantastic trip to the Similans and did some great dives in Phuket including the Tinn Lizzy in Nai Yang….a bit like Nudi Garden in the part of the world. In net I will be writing some blogs on Nudis and other “macro” stuff but we saw also some “big stuf” like the giant leopard shark that was waiting for us at Anemone reef.
Enjoy a small sneak preview and we will be back shortly.
Almaty…it is snowing this morning. Yesterday one thought it would soon be spring with 16 degrees over lunch. Today we ‘ll go skiing. One more busy workweek ahead and then we start packing for our christmas holidays in Belgium – Thailand and Almaty. Last year we spent Christmas time in Borneo. In last post I shared with you our Turtle Tomb dive.
Today I want to share with you some pictures of another dive-site in Sipadan called Barracuda point. A 3 min boat ride from the Island at the edge of the submerged reef is a great adventurous dive site called Barracuda Point…..because guess what …very often you encounter …indeed Barracuda’s.
When we jumped we got in the middle of big school of Jackfish who were near the surface. As the dive continued below us at 23-28 meter we saw quite some white-tip sharks, and in the blue on left shoulder also a few bigger grey reef sharks…..as we approached the last 20 min of the dive we entered a “high current” type of street and there they were Thousands of 1 to 1.25 m barracuda’s …graciously swimming in the current. As we approached them they started circling and formed a true tornado to maximise the oxygen in their gills…. another unforgettable diving experience. A must for advanced divers.
Does the world lie on the back of a gigantic turtle? We don’t know, but we can tell you that Sipadan just might be the centre of the turtle universe. Sea turtles are an endangered species worldwide but this is one of the very few places where close encounters are guaranteed on every dive.
It was the sea turtles that first put the island on the map when it became part of Sabah’s turtle egg native reserve in 1964. Later a 1989 Jacques Cousteau documentary called Ghost of the Sea Turtles launched Sipadan into legendary renown. The late oceanographer described it: “I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art.” Till this day, divers speak of Sipadan as among the best diving spots on Earth, featuring many unique highlights.
The island was formed by corals growing atop an extinct undersea volcano over thousands of years. Sipadan is pretty much a column of rock rising 600m (2000 feet) from the sea floor, poking out of the ocean 10km (6.2 miles) south of the continental shelf. Enveloped in strong, nutrient-rich currents in the middle of the Indo-Pacific basin, many thousands of species converge here in this ecological city of wonders.
Turtle Cavern – Turtle Cave – Turtle Tomb
When you walk from the Island away to the drop off on the right and 20 metres underwater is the mysterious Turtle Cavern which leads to the Turtle Cave with the Turtle Tomb. The picture above is featuring Alexander schepens and our Cave dive instructor Jimmy when we exited the cave and entered the cavern….clear signs are warning not properly trained and equipped divers not proceed further.
Diving through the mysterious cave system is an unforgettable experience, and by many accounts likely second only to the”cenotes” of Mexico. Once you entered the cavern on the left side you will find the entrance to the cave. A narrow corridor of about 25 meters leads then into the major chamber of the Turtle Tomb and all the connecting chambers, shelfs and tunnels. This is nothing for the fainthearted as the dead ends are many on the way to the tomb nearly 200m from the entrance where turtle skulls and bones litter the bottom.
The cave is one of the most beautiful coral caves that can be found anywhere.
Unlike at limestone caves no stalagmites have formed here but the colours at the walls do indicate different water levels over time. The white sandy bottom and bright coloured ceiling enhance rather than absorb the light of the torches. The shelfs are home to the caves occupants, most notably flashlight fish, moray eels, spiny cave lobster, shrimp and large snapper that often take advantage of a divers light to get their prey.
Skeletons have been found of turtles that had lost their way and drowned inside, earning the cave its name and a folk belief that this was the final resting place of turtles. Proper training and equipment are required to fully explore this cave system, without which you could suffer the same fate. But swimming just a few meters into the cavern is for most divers already thrilling enough, if only for the majestic view of the deep blue sea out from inside.
We went for you inside…….with the proper equipment.
Laying careful and correct safety lines while getting in….finning frog style to avoid that the very very fine dust is kicked up from the bottom blinding not only the view for photographing but also blinding our view on our way out.
Once inside the tomb there are 10’s of turtle skeletons. Older ones and very recently died turtles which bodies are still decomposing. As we progressed through our dive we started thinking…..but the only skeletons we see are from adult turtles. True or not but at least we did not find bones from young turtles….so while it is obvious that also turtles would get lost here maybe there is more to the story and the popular belief that turtles come here to die.
On the way out of the Tomb and after you exit through the narrow corridor almost into the cavern there is a 25 m deep hole on the left side. Once you enter and decent you find a skeleton of a Dolphin who also came here and died….while seemingly he could have easily found the way out ….?
For Alexander and myself it was indeed an unforgettable experience which we will always treasure….the darkness is so dark, the clarity of the water so clear, the silence so silent…..and the spirits of the turtles so present.
Enjoy the below photo gallery and please contact us for any further info as you plan your next diving holiday.