Once again we were to be off diving over the next couple of days. For the first day we were going to be diving the wrecks of a Japanese supply fleet that was attacked by the US (on 24 September, 1944), whilst they were hiding out in the islands around Coron. However, we had woken up a tad late so had to break into our ‘fast’ need-to-get-there-in-a-hurry walk, which really does not compute in SE Asia at all, you get the strangest of looks especially from tuk tuk guys. We managed to get there in good time and were soon kitted out by the awaiting staff. Whilst the dive gear was being transported to the dive boat using a small dinghy, the boat hand on the transfer boat seemingly had forgotten an oar and then the engine on his wee boat died so we had to watch him try paddling furiously with one paddle back to us laughing our heads off on the shore. A most auspicious start to the day methinks!
Our first dive of the first day was to be the Sangat wreck. The length of the boat is about 40m long it is thought to be a small gunboat or a submarine hunter, which should be easy enough to dive as, at its shallowest, it is only about 3m below the surface. The visibility on the dive was not the greatest though at about 5-10m but we managed to penetrate the cargo bay on the way in and went over the top whilst drifting back to the dive boat. During the dive we saw some – big Lionfish, Crocodile fish, Batfish and some Jacks as well all milling about the wreck. There were also quite a few corals but due to the visibility they were not really at their most colourful.
The second dive – the Olympia Maru – was a different kettle of fish as it was a much bigger wreck and a freighter that sits upright in the water. The dive visibility here though was much much worse than on the first dive and penetration of the wreck was only really manageable because the dive master knew his way about the place even in the dark. It took us all our time just to see the person in front’s fins. Liz especially was not very happy about the poor viz and let him know, so we had to end the penetration of the hull early. Whilst we were inside the wreck though we did manage to see the boiler house complete with firebricks and the boiler itself and on the way in and out, the sealife we saw included a Striped Squid, Ghost Pipefish and on the way out Jellyfish.
Our last dive of the day was on the East Tangat Gunboat though here though the visibility was actually not that bad. However, it was a bit too late for Liz though as she was still a bit shook up after the last dive (with good reason) so she stayed outside the wreck with a guy called Jin whilst I went in to have a look round along with the Divemaster. Quite a bit of light came in through the portholes, so here you could see the periscope and what looked like the ship’s quarters. Outside the wreck too it was quite interesting as there was selection of both hard and soft corals and as well as the usual suspects we saw a most strange undulating Black and White Flatworm and on the way back to the surface a very large Jellyfish.
So today’s day of diving had been a bit of a mixed bag really with our favourite sighting probably being the Flatworm and on the other hand us having quite mixed feelings about the wrecks themselves. Our fellow diver Jin who had looked after Liz on dive three we started off by feeling he was a bit self obsessed as in between dives he was doing sit ups and press ups on the upper deck but as we talked to him later and it turned out he was a really nice bloke and a top diver too. Jin was feeling a bit ‘dived out’ as he had recently been on a technical diving course so had been diving really deep and this was dive after dive after dive. We spent a bit of time with him back at the dive bar and we all watched the Sun go down which was a truly beautiful sight.
As we had not particularly enjoyed the first day’s diving as much as we would have liked we asked if the second day could be a bit more ‘non-wreck’ this time. As good as their word day two was entirely different and the first dive of the day was, for us, to be an entirely different type of dive. We were to go to Barracuda lake, this prove quite a difficult entry into the water as first we had to swim to the island and take our diving gear over a small limestone rock ‘wall’ which would then lead us to the area of the lake. The big difference with this dive was that the dive would take place through a thermocline. The top 4m of the lake is warm fresh (brackish) water and then you see the water shimmer as the temperature ramps up incredibly to anywhere between 28 to 35ºC. Even without a dive suit on this was almost too hot for me but I stuck it out which was a good thing too as, although we did not see the large Barracuda the lake is famous for, we still saw shrimp, gobies and catfish that inhabit the lake. The dive was a really interesting one but actually quite exhausting as the climbing took its toll on the legs.
The second dive was not too far from the entrance to Barracuda lake at a couple of rocky outcrops called interestingly enough ‘Twin Peaks’ which was an all round nice fish and coral dive. Here we saw a lot of good hard and soft corals along with the resident anemones and a couple of nudibranch – one a very vivid blue colour – and parrotfish as well. Some of the corals seemed so delicate and almost flimsy it was amazing that it all looked in such good condition. There were loads of little fish in amongst the corals but I spent a lot of time filming Liz in order to show her how much she had improved since we had started as she looked in so much more control. Oblivious, Liz spent some of her time playing with the Nemos (Anemone Fish) who, especially when they have young, can get awful angry when disturbed or threatened.
The last dive we visited was Siete Picados (Seven Islands) and we saw one of our favourites (even though it was only a small ‘un), the turtle as well as some more Parrotfish, Lionfish, a baby Sweetlips and a Stingray as well. So all in all, and after the setback of yesterday, today proved a much more fruitful day of diving, nothing spectacular but plenty to see.
After the dives we went for a beer with Suanne and Jake, an Australian couple, that we had got chatting to on the dive. The bar we visited seemed to be part of the dive shop premises. We had a really good laugh with them as they seem to have a very similar sense of humour even though I could not understand a single word they said (lol)!