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Diving: What's the fuss all about

After a few days relaxing at the beach is time to go Diving! Ready for a beautiful day at Sail Rock?  An amazing couple of dives to enjoy Koh Phangan even more!

Scuba gear is on, buddy check done, the sea is calm and blue… Three, two, one, big step!

A little surface swim and it’s time to descend.

Quick look around and there it is: 30 meters below the sea bottom, to the right endless blue and to the left sail Rock: corals, schools of fish, pinnacles here and there and a full tank to explore it all!

There is a little current today, just enough to push the divers along and make them drift over coral garden weightlessly: a big school of Fusiliers is moving in the blue, it’s bewildering how coordinated they are: 50-80 or even more fish all moving together, same direction, same pace, without ever getting into each other way, not even when they all of a sudden group up and quickly swim away, closer to the rock, closer to each other. They are running away from some predator: out there in the blue Talang Queen Fish and Golden Trevallies are hunting: they cruise around the rock and at moments they charge, their faces almost showing the effort they’re putting into their hunt!

Moray Eel chilling in a Barrel Sponge!

Moray Eel chilling in a Barrel Sponge!

Swimming further on the camel humps, three pinnacles on the southern side of the rock, are covered by Anemones, Mushroom and Brain Corals, Staghorn Corals and tube sponges. Poking out of the Anemones are some little Saddleback Anemone fish, they hide between the tentacles, protected by their poison but still shy and scared when a diver goes too close. In the corals little crabs hide away from light and predators and sometimes a Moray Eel will be getting cosy in the Barrel Sponges. Everywhere around Butterfly fish, Angelfish and countless species of different Wrasses gather up in couples or little schools, munching on algae and corals, building their nests or just swimming from place to place.

Close to the bottom Giant Groupers sit lazily, waiting for a prey to come by, well concealed thanks to their colours they set up perfect ambushes! The smaller Blue lined and Hexagon Groupers stay still as well, in between corals along the reef.

In the blue, over East Pinnacle, a big school of Big Eye Trevallies awaits, and as the divers swim into it they start scattering, circling the visitors. It’s breath-taking to watch them, once again they move as if they were following a plan: “OK guys, you go down a bit, we’ll go left, you go right and we regroup… Right there!”

On the way back to the rock: Barracudas! A school of Chevron runs around 20 m deep, their characteristic black vertical lines, pointy teeth and faces make them look powerful and fearful but they are not the least interested in the divers, and they carry on. Just a little bit further along a group of big Yellowtail Barracudas sits in the current, facing it and making it look like the easiest thing in the world to just stay there.

Indian Threadfish also know as Diamond Trevally.

Indian Threadfish also know as Diamond Trevally.

Bat Fish

Schooling Batfish at Sail Rock.

Tanks start running low now, time to begin going back up. A passage into the chimney, a nice vertical swim through that goes from 18 to 6m, prepares the divers to the safety stop. Last few looks at the reef and its busy life exploring the shallower areas: Glass Cleaner shrimps wait in the cracks for fish to come through for a good wash, a couple of Pipe Fish move in there as well and yet another school, of Batfish this time, swims in the blue.

Back at the surface everybody is smiling and talking about the awesome dive they just had.. Luckily there is only lunch now to separate them from another tour in the water!

No whale shark was spotted today, but sometimes they do come around and show how graceful a giant fish can be, it could be just a few seconds before it disappears again in the ocean, or it may  stay close to the reef for a whole dive, playing with the bubbles or cruising along, it’s big mouth open to eat as much plankton as it can, surrounded by other smaller fish, feeding on whatever it’s left on its skin, or that just catching a ride!

On the way back to Koh Phangan people chat about their travels and dives, take a nap or listen to music relaxing in the sun.

I like to think that the general quietness, characterizing every journey back from a dive, is somehow connected to the fact that we have just spent some time in a world in which we do not belong and do not fully understand, but how spectacular is to know that we can plunge in there for a few hours here and there, to catch a glimpse of all its beauty?

people boat

PIDS team and students on the way back to Koh Phangan.

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