Saturday, October 02, 2010

Intro to Hong Kong Diving

Yesterday, I did my first couple of dives in Hong Kong. I had been introduced by HK-based GUE instructor Graham Blackmore to one of his recent Fundamentals students, Catheryn. Catheryn introduced me to her diving club, the very active South China Diving Club. SCDC is a BSAC club that has been active in HK for years. They also apparently do a lot of drinking and social events but I have not been able to join them due to work.

Finally, I was able to join SCDC on a dive as yesterday was a public holiday due to National Day. We met at 9am at Aberdeen Boat Club in the southwest of HK. We had about 10 divers on a large boat that could fit a lot more, so it was a comfortable ride. The winds were blowing quite strongly from the northeast, so we motored to a sheltered spot on the western side of Beaufort Island, a 45 min boat ride from ABC.

My expectations were pretty low as everyone I had spoken to had warned me of the poor vis (sometimes down to 1m) and lack of marine life. But I was optimistic given that I have enjoyed diving in some pretty inhospitable places, such as Pulau Hantu, quarries, and rivers.

I left the camera at home as it was my maiden dive trip in HK and wanted to spend the time evaluating the conditions. It turned out to be the right decision as vis was too poor to get any decent shots.

After a briefing and setting up our gear, the teams splashed in. We dove in 2 flights, with one flight keeping a lookout on the boat while the other flight was in the water. After about an hour, the first flight returned and it was time to go. I was buddied up with Wing, a trimix diver who has been diving for many years. But today we would be doing some easy, shallow dives. Our first dive was to the north of the mooring point, with a max depth of around 16m. When we descended, we were greeted by murky green water and around 4m of vis. Good thing I brought my HID light! The bottom was rubbly and barren until about 13m, where there were lots of car-sized boulders covered in beautiful orange sponges. We mostly hung around the 11-13m depth where most of the soft corals were. The macro life was surprisingly good, and we saw several crabs, a couple of wire coral goby (my favorite!), and 2 cowries. The highlight was seeing a very cute white baby cuttlefish the size of my pinkie finger nail.

We had a short surface interval and lunch on the boat before diving again. This time, we headed south from the mooring. Funnily enough, there were no orange sponges at all and the bottom was covered in smaller rocks and nasty sea urchins. The visibility had deteriorated to 3m and the current had picked up a little. After a few minutes of not seeing anything interesting, I feared that we might have headed the wrong way... until we started to notice lots of peppermint shrimp (another of my favorites!) hiding beneath many of the rocks. Slowly, we began to notice more and more macro life - 3 morays, 3 banded coral shrimp (including the largest one I have ever seen with a 1 inch diameter body), crabs, hermit crabs, a tiny nudibranch egg ribbon, and lots of wire coral gobies. The dive turned into quite a prolific one and a test of our powers of observation. As anyone who likes macro life can attest to, this is the best kind of dive!

Back on the boat, we packed up and headed back to shore, arriving back at ABC at 5pm. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the dives. I was heartened by the fact that everyone said that the vis is about as bad as it gets in HK. I really look forward to diving some of the better vis spots. It's a real pleasure to do some decent dives in my back yard, all within a day's work.

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