I seemed to have got over my travel tiredness after a couple of good nights’ sleep and was awake early. Not even a ripple on the sea, it was like glass.
The silence was finally broken by a pelican hitting the water in a dive. It seemed that the sea had suddenly woken up. Once something decides it’s time for breakfast, it all kicks off and nobody wants to miss out.
We ourselves decided that a spot of fishing for the day would not go amiss. It proved to be a good way to ease myself back into diving gently, at a nice leisurely depth, something I’d not really had the opportunity to do a lot in the past few months. We motored up the coast to a headland called Punta el Mechudo.
Aharon instructed me on the rules we were going to dive by, and how far away from the boat we would be fishing, just in case we had any unwanted visitors lurking around trying to muscle in on our catch.
I had chance to have a good look around and see just some of the many fish lurking among the rocks. Large schools of Parrot fish grazed in formation across the bottom, and other fish that showed themselves included Pargo, Cabria (particularly good eating) and various Snapper, Tangs, Morey, Trigger fish, small blue Chromis and Sergeant Majors (mostly pointed out by my companions, although I’d recognised a few).
Once we had taken what we needed for the table we headed for home.
On the way back to camp we were fortunate enough to come across a large pod of striped dolphins travelling in the same direction. It was broken up into smaller groups, spread over a large area, and you could hear them chattering away to each other, a sound I was familiar with but had never heard first hand. Although a brief experience, ll one of many that made my stay memorable.
A monofin training day ! After my last performance I was not overly optimistic, but I was there to learn and was keen to get it right. It was overcast most of the day, which was actually quite a relief from the heat of the sun.
To do line work from the boat, it’s just a short distance straight out from the camp. For some reason I felt a lot more comfortable with the monofin on today and the technique seemed to come a bit easier. Aharon and MT seemed happy enough to let me carry on with it. I took that as a good sign.
After doing a few constant weight dives I felt happy enough to have a go at some variable weight dives, and so we moved out over deeper water.
As this was the first time I’d done any proper variable weight dives to any kind of depth I was quite excited, which did not really help me concentrate on what I was doing. I didn’t let it stop me from having the best fun I’ve had diving for a long time. I was smiling all of the way down and almost laughing on the way back up, flooding my mask and getting water up my nose. I broke the surface in a splutter of laughing and trying to catch my breath!
Variable weight is such an enjoyable way to dive. I enjoy doing constant ballast but the acceleration you get attached to a weight is a fantastic feeling. Just zooming down into the blue with a hiss in your ears. I particularly enjoyed watching the horizon appear out of the gloom upside down as you approached the bottom. All very new experiences but fantastic fun.
Aharon did not quite seem to share my enthusiasm for doing variable weight dives. The deeper I went the more line he had to haul back up into the boat!
The sea was flat calm again in the morning with a layer of cloud giving a half- lit, eerie feel to the place. I awoke early and saw a pod of dolphins frolicking just offshore, near the boat, catching breakfast I presume.
It was decided that today we, too, should get some more food, as the last of the fish had been finished off the previous night.
We set off in the late morning and as soon as we were in open water it started looking like it might be a busy day. There were more than the usual numbers of manta rays leaping out of the water, and a lot of bird activity.
After about 15 minutes into the journey Aharon yelled from the back of the boat. He had spotted something jumping, off in the distance. We followed where his finger was pointing and a few seconds later spotted a large Humpback Whale splashing back down into the water, and another one, and another! They were a long way off but were unmistakeable as one after another breached and crashed back down. They were heading East out to deeper water past Isla San Francisco. We were planning on heading out past this island and Los Islotes, three small islands between Isla San Jose and the mainland.
I was in the process of getting the camera out when Aharon stopped the engine and indicated off to our left. I had never been close to a humpback whale, and there was nothing to scale it against, but there, I’d guesst a few hundred metres away, in shallow water, were three. The smallest breached a couple of times and rolled to have a look at us. It was a small calf and looked to be having a lot of fun. Aharon and MT judged by its size and the fact that they were in such shallow water that it was probably very young. All three were there, a cow, calf, and a bull. This was one of those experiences that should be on everyone’s wish list. It’s certainly been on mine for a long time and is one that will not be forgotten in a hurry. The cow breached shortly after the calf and then sounded, disappearing from view with the characteristic fluke sliding quietly under the water.
During all of this time I’d sat in the boat, camera in hand, slack- jawed, having taken not one picture. I came to my senses just in time to catch the large bull sounding, and that was the last we were going to see of them. It looked like they wanted a bit of privacy and slipped away past the back of the boat towards deeper water. What a thing to see! That made my day and I’d seen what I really hoped to during my stay. I wasn’t really bothered that I didn’t catch it on film, as it was well and truly committed to memory.
We didn’t have that much luck with the fishing further up the coast, but such is the way in the sea, so we headed back to Punta el Mechudo to see if we would do any better.
As we motored back between the islands we slowed down to have a look at the seals lounging around the lighthouse, and then continued on our way.
With both day and night sessions moving along nicely, we reached the point in the course which covers safety and rescue. I had the feeling that today’s session was going to be hard work, with nothing but bi-fins going into the boat.
Once the boat was loaded we motored a short distance straight out from camp and dropped the anchor and variable line. The rescue exercises had me puffing and panting, especially trying to retrieve my weight belt, put it on, and return to the surface. Swimming with only one bi-fin was no walk in the park either! Doing these exercises certainly brings home the seriousness of personal and buddy rescue, even in a controlled situation.
Midday and early afternoon were spent in the shade going back through the theory I’d learned that morning, and after a light lunch it was firewood collecting time. I saw my first scorpion whilst collecting wood. This one was no bigger than my thumb to the first knuckle, and wasted no time scuttling away to find sanctuary when I lifted up its home and disturbed it.
With the rest of the day then freed up, I helped Aharon measure and sort out a 70m line to be used as a fixed line and left out at sea. After measuring it out I took the opportunity to watch and learn how to tie eye splices, and splice two ropes together. It is great to be able to spend time with such people, with a lifetime wealth of knowledge and skills,and happy to pass them on.