DEEPER DOWN AND FURTHER under the rocky overhangs, the bright red of cardinalfish glowed under my torch. These fish are easily overlooked, blending in and looking decidedly drab until illuminated.
On that note a good torch, with a wide beam, is essential to see the life here in “true colour”. Wherever the sun can’t reach, the rocks are covered in yellow
and orange polyps and cup corals, growing within a jumble of blue and vivid red sponges. The colours can be breathtaking.
It was good to have an enjoyable dive after a long journey and some poor weather, and as we ate chocolate cake and biscuits along with hot sweet tea, I suspected that I might enjoy myself after all.
Nautilus seem to have a good thing going – a decent ratio of guides to divers (a dozen or so guests seemed to be the norm) was welcome, as was the guides’ willingness to help you kit up.
Again, I thought about how hard dive-guides work. After looking after a boatful of divers on a morning, they had courses and try-dives in the afternoon, along with all the other daily duties of a busy dive-centre.
The next dive saw us back at Spargi, and how different it was. In between passing clouds the sun was bursting through, and the shoals of bream were glinting silver. Cow bream were grazing on the turf of algae, living up to their name, and shoals of damsels flocked constantly around us.
Nudis were present again, in great number and quite large. Purple nudibranchs looked like explosions of tentacles. Small but delicately marked triplefin fish rested on their fins.
A jumble of shells around a crack would indicate an octopus, hiding within its garden.
This dive would be a little shallower, so we missed the grouper, but the macro life was helping me out, and as we spent some time with a dahlia anemone I managed to get some shots of an animal with which I’ve always struggled – the anemone shrimp. Often tucked well into the anemone’s tentacles and almost too small for my ageing eyes, these are challenging, and while I’m not saying I managed, it was the best I’d ever done.
The weather continued to improve, albeit slowly. To be fair this isn’t normal for Sardinia, with rain and storms usually confined to the winter months and not the autumn, when the waters should be almost at their best.
Despite this aseasonality, the following day’s dives would be my favourite. We had travelled to the eastern coast of Isola de Caprera, to a site where seahorses had been spotted. I crossed my fingers.
I’ve only ever seen one seahorse before, in a seagrass bed, and that’s what I was expecting on this dive.
So when my guide started scanning a sponge- and polyp-encrusted rock wall, I wondered what was going on.