I looked upwards during today's descent and saw a turtle falling from the surface like a drifting leaf. Backlit by yellow sunbeams that flashed and shimmered in a kaleidoscopic effect, the turtle looked straight at me and then turned with the flick of a fin and swam off towards our target reef. It was going to be a good dive.
What makes a dive fantastic? The water conditions play a huge role. The ocean today was flat and glassy, moving gently like a sheet hung in the breeze. With only a mild current, the visibility must have been in excess of one hundred feet. When the water is so clear, sunlight penetrates further and the reef and ocean light up. The reef's colors become vibrant and fish flash silver even at forty feet. A diver in this environment swims through a world glowing with bright turquoise light. I became so distracted by twisting rainbows of sunlight projected on the sand that I almost forgot to look at the reef.
When I did tear my eyes way from the hypnotizing light effects on the floor, I noticed that the reef was full of action. Half Moon Bay Reef has beautiful coral, but there are days that the wildlife seems to be hiding. Not today! Blue chromis, a purple-blue schooling fish, hung above us in a huge group for almost the entire dive. Every so often, an individual would playfully nose dive in front of the divers. A small, densely packed cloud of indigo-colored blue tangs rolled in a churning group over the coral. They were snatching up bites of algae and cleaning the reef. The movement was controlled and predictable until a grouper lurking behind a nearby coral head dashed out in an attack. The blue tangs instantly polarized, coordinating a quick, lateral movement and foiling the grouper's plans.
Even my clients were phenomenal! The group consisted of a first-time diver and two of her friends. The new diver took to the water as if she had been diving her whole life, grinning from ear to ear and accidentally making "thumbs up" signs every time she saw something interesting and then immediately correcting herself. It was cute. The divers listened to the briefing and stayed together underwater, making it easy for me to spend more time searching for exciting creatures and less time herding stray divers. As a result, I was able to spot two turtles and a stingray from a great distance, which of course we swam over to investigate.
I always love diving. I am one of those people who can go sit in a swimming pool with scuba gear on and be happy blowing bubbles in four feet of water. Nothing unusually special happened today. We didn't see a hammerhead shark or a huge school of eagle rays. The dive was wonderful because simple factors such as visibility, wildlife, and good company combined, and a magical fifty minutes of underwater bliss was the result!
Speak up! What makes a dive great?
Image copyright istockphoto.com, richcarey