24 Octobre 2012
Dive site : Ali Baba canyon (Garaue pass) - Fakarava
Date : Wednesday, 14 September 2011, 04:00pm
Editor : Mary anne - TOPDIVE
Divemaster : Fanny BONNEMAINS
Companions : 2 french women, Ken & Maya
This afternoon, we had our much awaited Fakarava drift dive ! You haven’t been to the Tuamotus without doing at least 1 drift dive and Fakarava would be the best place to do it.
This was going to be our first drift dive. I was to be joined by 2 French ladies ; 1 advanced diver and another intermediate plus Ken and Maya rounded off our dive group. Fanny conducted the initial briefing was conducted in French for the French divers at the dive center and another one in English on the boat. This dive seemed more technical than the first one and was recommended for more advanced divers. Buoyancy control was key to the success (and enjoyment) of every drift dive.
After another 25 minute boat ride to the entrance of the pass, we descended in the deep blue of the pass. The big blue always leaves me rather uneasy due to the absence of reference points. We finned for around 10 minutes in the blue, with only Fanny to guide us till we reached the bottom edge of the pass step at around 95 feet. We were informed that the strong current usually kicked in much deeper. Sure enough, the current started to pick up to nearly 3 knots so we stuck to the bottom and hung on to the coral (dead coral of course). Being at the edge of the drop off and right smack in the middle of the pass opens up countless possibilities for pelagic and wildlife sightings. As we hung on in the 3 knot current, we were supposed to stare out from the edge of the reef looking out into the blue void and not to move one inch. It felt like we were watching a giant big blue TV screen and waiting for an image to appear. The difference was that was that this was all real and we were living the experience. The anticipation of seeing something was exhilarating in itself…staring out into the big blue with the current raging !
Since we were all experienced divers, tackling the current was a piece of cake. As we watched and waited, the wildlife show unfolded ! An enormous surgeonfish shoal loomed in the distance. We noticed around us that we were the only ones “watching” the show. Several blacktipped sharks, Napoleons, tuna, runners and chevron barracudas were hovering stationary as if they were waiting for something. I supposed that this was the usual current behaviour.
After about 10 minutes of this current gazing, we made our way up to the shallow depths following the contours of the pass mouth. Fakarava has the widest pass in French Polynesia, measuring more than a kilometre. So I would say that we were just at one part of this expanse at slack tide. As we bottom crawled against the current, our goal was to get up a bit further on the side to have a longer “runway” for our drift towards the Ali baba canyons at around 60 feet. Soon it would be time to “let loose” and fly ! Ready, set, go ! There is no better adrenalin rush than a fast-paced roller coaster ride of a drift dive !
We drifted all through the canyons flying over the rich montipora and pocillopora gardens; passing by little micro communities of reef fish nestled in the rich coral gardens: parrotfish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, and more enormous Napoleons! We saw schools of barracudas in the distant blue and as we settled into the Ali Baba canyon. Ali Baba is like an undersea indention into Garuae pass that harbors a multitude of species that seek momentary refuge from the currents. In the furrow were unimaginably large shoals of fish – notably a deep red shoal of Glasseye priacanthe fish and an enormous shoal of Yellow mimic goatfish. Hundreds and hundreds of these fish just invaded our marine space filling the canyon. They were oblivious to our existence and were soon lost in the clouds of red and yellow !
Also in the seascape we immediately sighted 2 nurse sharks taking their nap on the sandy bottom. Our presence from our current “flight” seemed to have awakened them, so they quickly scampered away.
As all good things come to an end, we started to ascend from our safety stop. The dive was over but we all looked at each other speechless. I realized that I had probably experienced one of the best dives in my life ! Later, on the boat, I found out that the feeling was mutual among my other dive buddies !
On the boat trip back to the divecenter, we witnessed a rare sighting of a Mobula ascending to feed on the near the surface. A Mobula, a rare devil ray that looks similar to a manta ray but with a rather brownish green in color.
Then, ensued a scene like from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Hundreds of birds filled the sky, ducking and diving for food, were in a sort of “feeding” frenzy brought on by the schools of fish that were skimming the lagoon surface in the waters around the boat.
I didn’t know what to make of that afternoon. First the awesome dive, then the rare Mobula, then this scene from “Birds”. Fakarava simply had left us spellbound !
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