AFTER AN EVENTFUL WEEK at St John’s, with its alluring cave systems and frequent Napoleon wrasse encounters, we said our goodbyes to half the group.
Diver with a Napoleon wrasse.
One day later, with a fresh batch of excited guests all happily installed, check-out dives completed and gin supplies replenished, it was time for the 12-hour night crossing to the Brothers, something I wouldn’t choose to do again in a hurry
With very strong winds and rolling seas it was probably one of the worst sea journeys I have ever experienced on a dive-trip.
Two sets wooden doors in our cabin banged loudly all night long; you had to cling to the sides of your bunk to avoid being thrown to the floor, and you knew that any attempt to get out of bed to rectify the position would set off the nausea to which many of us would inevitably succumb.
Combine that scenario with the customary gippy tummy, consistent with almost any Red Sea trip, having given priority to my stomach while kneeling face-down over the toilet…
I will say no more!
How our captain and crew managed to moor the boat safely, in the dark at 3am amid the lashing waves and howling wind, with six rope-lines to be secured to submerged moorings, remains a mystery to me and a credit to them.
Although the journey did take its toll on the number of willing divers that first morning, those who did manage to surface at 5.30am were well rewarded by a very close encounter with a huge thresher shark. Of course, that group did not include me.
However, I felt sufficiently recovered by late morning to embark on the second dive of the day. We had already seen two oceanic sharks circling the boat from above decks. Once we had slipped in, with absolutely no current, clear blue water and sparkling sunshine, we had the kind of encounter you only dream about.
No fewer than three oceanics, each with their delightful entourage of pilotfish (pity they were blue and not yellow, but you can’t have everything, can you?).
For the entire dive, they continued to cruise among us.
Nobody even had to move for that perfect shot from almost any angle; all we had to do was wait until it was our turn for the fly-past.
It took me back to more than 20 years to my first visit to Elphinstone with my dive-club. Still spooked by the legacy of the film Jaws, I had been very nervous about the possibility of an encounter with a “dangerous” oceanic whitetip called Sid, into whose territory we were about to descend.
The dive-guides had told us all to wait, fully kitted, on the back of the boat while they checked out the site to make sure it was safe. After 20 minutes they still hadn’t returned, and we, or rather I, took an executive decision to jump in.
You can only imagine the shock I felt to find Sid immediately beneath the boat.
Our helpless guides were waiting on the seabed and we had no choice but to descend as quickly as possible and join them, where we remained for the rest of the dive.
I can remember, within the confines of our small plateau, finding a cluster of baby nurse sharks under a large, low-lying table coral and a couple of stonefish
I would not otherwise have noticed.
Sid didn’t go away; other groups of divers came and went but at some point we all had to come up and, of course, we are all still here to tell the tale.