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Monday, 10 September 2012

Running with the Devil

The weekend was exceptionally hectic with more time spent underwater than at the surface with Lighthouse Point on Saturday morning to catch the turtles and seahorses rampaging over the reef before zipping over to the East End to test some new equipment.

Whilst there we encountered the lone dolphin that's been making the headlines on the island the last few weeks due to it's aggressive behavior. We'd just got back on the dock and it was playing around at the surface a couple of feet from us. It's quite distinctive as it has scars on its back by it's dorsal fin.

There's various theories as to why it's been acting the way it has, but the DoE is asking people to steer clear as it "poses considerable danger". Several stupid people have already ignored that advice and have been injured. However this is a story for another day.

On Sunday we decided to check out Eden Rock on the waterfront by the harbor as they boasted some good diving and we thought we'd check them out. They open at 8.30am on Sundays, so we actually had the luxury of a late start for a change compared to our usual in the water for 7am.

Everything is well laid out with benches, picnic tables, lockers and easy access. No ropes to lower camera rigs but you can get your buddy to do that if you trust them enough. Two ladders for access, the larger, wider one on the right is preferable for those not wearing boots as it has a sandy-ish bottom free of urchins. And definitely no giant stride entries unless you're very vertically challenged!

Three buoys at the surface mark the area comprising of two sites, Devils Grotto and Eden Rock. Head out for buoy three at a bearing of 330 which will take you to the middle of the main finger. Its worth getting down and under right at the start as there's so much stuff to see in the shallows, you might miss something special like the octopus, barracuda, mantis shrimps, bristle worms and tarpons. And at only a couple of metres, you use very little air.

After about a 5-6 minute swim the hard pan starts breaking up and the depth starts dropping off. If you follow the finger round with it on your left hand side eventually you'll be facing back towards shore and you'll see the entrance for the Church Window at 14.9 metres, which will provide you with some excellent photo opportunities with shoals of huge tarpons cruising around hunting for the silversides.
Monsterous tarpons guard the entrance to the Church Window
The terrain is exceptionally rugged and there are numerous swimthroughs and tunnels which are easily missed if you aren't looking for them. Some of them are very narrow and I think we'll be coming back here quite a few times to make sure we explore everywhere and with stripped down kit to make sure we fit through some of the very low and very narrow tunnels. Wings and big camera rigs aren't conducive to navigating confined spaces!
Entry through the window
We spent a while playing through the tunnel systems and checking out some of the darker ledges to see what may be hiding in the shadows, with spiny lobsters, shrimp and the occasional drumfish to be seen.
Sprightly juvenile drumfish pauses for the camera
There's also plenty of barrel sponges, whips and soft coral formations pulsing with vibrant colours enliven the scenery and catch the eye.
Colours everywhere you look
We had a nice big great barracuda shadow us for the last leg of the dive and he was a monster. No fear at all about approaching divers to check them out.
Our toothy companion quietly appraises us
With 76 minutes run time on the clock we ended up at the three concrete marker blocks close to buoy two before heading back into the shallows and a well deserved surface interval. It can get very busy at the centre, especially if cruise ships are in because its so close to the harbour, you can get everyone arriving to snorkel and dive which can make it a bit chaotic. Thankfully there were no ships in but it was still busy with snorkellers, divers and loud children.
Eden Rock dive centre
For Eden Rock dive site, head out from the shore for buoy two at bearing of about 30, you'll eventually get to the plaque indicating its a marine park and not to muck about with the wildlife. You have been warned.
No taking, touching, feeding, molesting, gloves or knives. You have been warned.
Following the sandy gully straight out from the plaque will gain you depth and you can simply keep the smaller coral finger to you right and you'll pick up the first of many entrances in the rock, come are dead ends and fully enclosed as well as pretty tight, so unless your comfortable in confined spaces, stick to the bigger wide open swimthroughs. The Sitting Wall entrance at around 14 metres is a nice wide open area to explore and plenty of options for getting in and out with light in most parts.

Worth also keeping an eye out for the roving shoals of blue tangs that hover round the exits as they make a spectacular photo op as you come out of the tunnels.
The blue tang clan
The odd turtle was foraging around in the distance and the large brain coral at about 3 metres depth halfway between the shore and buoy two houses one of the few octopus to adorn the site. Unfortunately he wasn't home as we went past but there were quite a few bristle worms mooching about in the sand.
A worm, bristling with vitality
As well as a fine selection of arrow crabs to frustrate the keen photographer with their non co-operation to stay still infront of the lens.Patience and bubbles of steel paid off in the end.
Posing perfectly for once
I was also delighted and incredibly excited to catch a flicker of movement in the sand, which upon closer inspection proved to be a pair of eyes belonging to a mantis shrimp. This one was about 2-3mm in size and he wasn't willing to come any further out of his lair but now I know they are here, I'll definitely be on a mission to find one out and about.
The eyes have it. Such a tiny little thing.
We hit the surface at 92 minutes and about to head up the ladder when got a nice surprise of three huge tarpons flitting between our legs as they chased their next meal. I didn't kget a shot as the rig was all shut down but is was definable a nice way to finish a dive. There's regular reports of anywhere up to 60 cuttlefish that can hang around the ladders, but no such luck today.

With friendly staff, a good layout and some excellent diving, Eden Rock Dive Centre is definitely well worth a visit as long as you can time it right to avoid the mad crowds.