we followed the mooring-line down to the top of the wreck. Vis was more like it, at around 15m, and we felt hardly any current. A large school of rainbow runners came up to meet us before we reached the colourful deck, encrusted with corals, big gorgonian fans and soft corals. Fish were everywhere.
Randy took Adam on a tour of the wreck while Mateusz and I concentrated on the smaller life on the raised bow, mast and wheelhouse.
Many beautiful-looking but dangerously prickly fireworms hung on the seafan branches; a few crawled over the deck. Damselfish and cleaner wrasse darted about, and tiny blenny faces poked comically out of almost every hole. A curious white-spotted filefish, battered and missing most of its “file”, following us around the deck for some time.
After 35 minutes, we headed up the line. At 5m a knot denoted the safety-stop depth. A movement caught my eye – hiding in the knot was a miniscule slender filefish.
Back on board, Adam asked Randy about the giant fish under the stern. I kicked myself for not following them as Randy explained that they were cobia, and big ones at that.
Back in Mount Irvine Bay we cooled off in the shallows, while Shomari ran to the small beach bar to check on World Cup developments. A second, very lazy bimble followed at Mount Irvine Wall, at the edge of the northern end of the bay.
Interesting rock formations and swim-throughs made from rock boulders and coral blocks on the sandy seabed led us o discover many chunky angelfish, grouper, orange and white-spotted filefish, a big but shy porcupinefish, pretty sharpnose puffers, painted lobsters and a white reef octopus buried into a cut in the wall.
Randy spotted a humungous king crab under a small overhang, followed by something very rare to see, especially in daylight – a shortnose, red-lipped batfish.
As I went in to take a photo of the aesthetically challenged creature, a slight movement beneath me made me jump.
A perfectly camouflaged stonefish was warning me of its proximity.
Where the edge of the rock met the sand, dancing movements similar to those made by juvenile drums caught my eye. Tiny 2cm fish with long dorsal fins like ribbons seemed to be around every corner. It took an online search later to discover that they were juvenile high-hats. Another first for me!
With a mean depth of 13m we managed an 81-minute dive before, reluctantly, we returned to the surface.
Dinner couldn’t come soon enough, as we enjoyed a delicious coconut shrimp and fish of the day at the restaurant by the hotel pool. For a small hotel, the food far exceeded our expectations.
With Sonia and Adam touring the island next day we had the boat to ourselves. We wanted to go back to Mount Irvine and explore two sites. Again we had macro lenses on, so were looking for long shallow dives.
Mount Irvine Extension was a continuation of the previous day’s second dive. Being low tide,we felt a slight surge as we explored a small bay, formed by the rocks above, and continued through canyons and overhangs.
A young, curious hawksbill turtle came close to check us out. The 15m seabed had formed into strange, uniform sand bumps I haven’t seen before. As we swam over a large rock, on the sand below was a huge southern sting ray with its tail missing. Its wingspan was more than 1.5m.
dutchman’s reef, just off the beach, was our second dive, named after a coral-encrusted cannon found there and originally thought to be Dutch, though in fact French. Another king crab, a giant green moray and lots of grey and French angelfish were found around boulders covered mainly with brain coral and plating hard coral, sea-fans and soft corals. A neon blue jawfish lay in the sand.
Sting ray at Cove Reef.
Two relaxing dives adding up to 150 minutes left our memory cards nearly full.
We were happy to dive the Maverick again, for Sonia’s benefit, this time with wide-angle to go in search of cobia.
The wind was now whipping the sea into small white-capped waves and the skies were more overcast. After a bumpy ride Shomari and Randy managed to find the small mooring buoy quickly.
The visibility was a little lower than before, and we couldn’t quite make out the sand from the deck. Fish flocked around the rails, and the whole hull was covered in tubastraea sun coral, a riot of bright orange and pink.
We rounded the stern and followed Randy down to the seabed to peer under the cargo-holds, collapsed by storms.
The cobia weren’t there but, surprising us greatly, we saw another shortnose red-lipped batfish, perched on its hand-like fins.
Back at the wheelhouse we peered through portholes and windows, watching the marine life going about its business. One window was almost completely covered in gorgonian sea-fans. As we ascended, I showed Sonia the tiny filefish in the rope knot.
Back at Mount Irvine Wall there was a little more surge, but we found the original shortnose batfish again and explored a cavern.
A French angelfish approached Mateusz with, attached to one side, a remora that was clearly bothering it. Again and again it rubbed up against his camera and metal pointer to try to dislodge its unwelcome guest, unfortunately without success. There was little we could do to help.
Our last two nights in the south were to be spent at Plantation Beach Villas in Black Rock, a little further up the Caribbean coast from Crown Point and a 20-minute drive from the dive-centre. The location is said to be perfect for viewing nesting hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles from January to September.
The local SOS turtle organisation can alert you if any turtles are spotted laying their eggs, which they do at night.
Sean, the manager, showed us around a three-bedroom, three-bathroom villa built in plantation style with a large lymin’ deck, perfect for parties.
He had arranged for villa attendant Betty to make us one of Tobago’s best-known dishes, pelau, a delicious combination of rice, beans and chicken.
Our last day diving in the south was to be Adam’s too, so we were surprised to see a smiling Sonia at the dive-centre. Adam had gifted his last diving day to her to spend quality time with Ocean – and also to watch a crucial England match.