Annual diving in overseas, Simon's town, Cape Town, South Africa in 2017, looking for fur seals

In 2017, I planned to watch seals in South Africa. The species living there is belong to the family of fur seal. Fur seal and true seal are two difference families. Fur seal has external ear,  and true seal spends more time in water. This species are named South African fur seal.

This species is not aggressive as I might swim with them as close as inch and could see their facial hair clearly. They are the most curious sea mammal, because they always come to check us when we approach their area. This behavior doesn't happen on dolphins and whales.

South Africa fur seal

I booked a hotel, which is near the pier, was built over hundred years and bought by a Chinese several years ago. It is a two-storey building with only ten guest rooms.
Central Hotel Guest HouseOpens in new window

I met three Chinese in this trip,  the owner of this hotel, a dive master and a tourist guide who immigrated from Macau.

Diving in South Africa is challenging because its water temperature has only 14 degree Celsius in winter. In such low water temperature, there is lack of enthusiastic diver as me to visit, therefore I had to charter a boat and DM for diving. I dived four days and another 2 cage dives, while I had booked three, because the last one was cancelled due to weather condition. I made 12 dives in four days.

South African spiny lobster
Nearer Cape Hope, where was a challenging sailing route in the pass. Therefore, there had been making many wrecks. I visited several of them in this trip, although
most of the dives were seal watching.

South Africa is quite famous in abalone exportation, but I did not see any live abalone underwater.
I only saw their shells covered a large area in some dive sites.
Lobsters in South Africa have quite special behavior, which stand on the rock instead of hidden underneath of it.

After I had finished 4 days dive, I did cage diving for watching white sharks. The operator I joined was very poor. Firstly, they forgot to bring surface air supply on the first day, which I had ordered when I booked and I reminded them one day before at the pier. Secondly, they told me and my hotel's front desk that they would pick me up from my hotel, but they failed to do.
Beside the poor cage diving operator, South Africa is not a good place for white shark watching, because their cages are being floated on the sea and tightened to the boat. At a result, the cage swings and makes the guests hard to take a good video or photos. Mexico has a better arrangement, that their cages submerge several meters below the surface, as the movie 47 Meters Down shown.

Beside their teeth, shark's eye can be used to distinguish difference species.
White shark's eye is dark black, whale shark's eye ball can be sucked into its cavity and tiger shark's eyelid can flap repeatedly.

African penguin

Chick with his parent
African penguin is another major and famous local animals in Simon's Town. The most dense population is around the Boulders beach, where is built a protected zone, but visitors can also watch them very close. They built many shelters, their homes, on the middle of hill, where I watched many chicks.

African penguin can easily be identified by their pink eyes' shadow.

Although the beach has entrance fee, you may see many penguins along the non ticketing path. The left hand side's picture was taken there.

When my agent had received the message of cancelling of cage diving, he arranged a land trip for substituting.
I went to Cape of Good Hope where is the most south of western point of the African continent. Unlucky, it was a raining day. At a result, none of the wild animals shown up there. The guide said there are a lot of Chacma Baboons and zebras, which may be seen occasionally.
Chacma Baboons

I could not spot both of them in the national park. But when we had been returning to Cape Town, lucky, I saw a group Baboons which were crossing a road. I then realized that the size of this species is so small, whose size is similar to the monkeys that are living at Shek Lai Pui Reservoir, Hong Kong.


The best hard coral in Hong Kong - Tung Ping Chau 東平洲

I heard for a long time that Tung Ping Chau has an abundance hard coral near its pier.
Tung Ping Chau is one of the most remote diving sites in Hong Kong. It is not often that the diving operators in Hong Kong offer this diving site.

On 17th September, I dove there. We took one and half hour to travel there from Wu Kai Sha Pier. I planned to have three dives on that day. Before I entered to sea, the captain showed a map, which has an area marked as special region. Then I went there first to explore what special it was. This area is a sandy bottom with some sea anemones and clown fishes. I don't understand what the meaning of special is.
Then I turned to my target in second dive. When I saw the area of hard coral garden, I have rated that it is the best hard coral living area in Hong Kong. Many different hard coral species and even families grow together in very heathy condition and larger area. I was very enjoyable of this dive and didn't want to return.
When I have surfaced, they yelled me to return the boat at once. I wondered whether an accident happened. I asked them what happened to yell me. They said that they would change dive site because this dive site had nothing.
Oh my god, it was because they went to wrong area. I told them I saw the most beautiful hard coral area in Hong Kong, but it was too late. The boat was starting to travel and leaving Tung Ping Chau.
I was very angry that they even didn't do a little bit research about the dive site.
I was the only one who saw the beautiful hard coral.

I found that it was a so call instructor's suggestion.
We travelled in such long distance and time because of its beautiful hard coral. All this effort was wiped out by such a no sense hopeless instructor.

Platygyra carnosus

Favites pentagon


How much pressure will remain in tank when you can't breath from your regulator?當氣瓶沒氣時。

If you still remember what you have learned from your diving course, the intermediate pressure of the first stage is about 10bar. It means that a balance type first stage will supply 10 bar to second stage no matter how much air remains in the tank.
Will first stage supply air when tank pressure below 10 bar?
The answer is yes.
When tank pressure is below 10 bar, the piston will open freely.
At a result, the tank can be drawn to 0 bar.



星期日(2016年8月28日)在伙頭墳州(Bluff island, Hong Kong)潛水 ,下午看到一片紅。
而是一大群蝦在schooling. 數量至少過萬,球有5 至6米大.。 
泳姿是一直向前,而不是平時的shrimp 般向後彈。
可惜我部video 沒電.。 在斷電前影到的畫面.。
看書本說, krill是全球都有的,只是我未試過在熱帶水域看到,所以品種有待引證。


Sardine run 2016

因上年未能看到sardine, 是一條都看不到。所以今年再來一次,以完成看一次的心願。
重回一樣的lodge,建築物沒改,staff沒變,只是manager 變了,所以有些管理方式是攪了新意思。有些staff 還認得我上年來過。
而run sardine run 的operator, 絕大部分staff都一樣,而我來之前指定要求的boat keeper,真是預留了給我。他是非常有經驗,後來證實他真是名不虛傳。
Boat keeper-Emil
我是參加了今年的第三round sardine run. 只有2條快艇,我船只有5人,分別有3個香港人及2個法國人。我學了一句非常易學的法文-sardine.
原來英文,中文,法文都是讀sardine. 我是在他們說法文時發現。


Lodge 與沙灘間的河

今年天空的雀非常少,所以今年沒了插水的壯觀情景。dolphin 數量都是少了。頭幾天,快艇南北穿梭,都找不到游得淺的sardine.去到尾2那天,終於在一海灣找到一群sardine, 不過未吸引到大群dolphin or bird 來hunting.

我今年並沒帶SCUBA , 只帶了spare air,今次有用了,看到有一群dolphin在游泳,我立即帶spare air下水,這樣可以在極近距離和dolphin 游了一會。如我想摸牠們,可以由頭摸到尾。
common bottlenose dolphin
到了最後一天接近中午,都是未找到sardine,他們在昨天的海灣下潛,要不是SCUBA unit便是白帶了。
他們潛完後,Emil 突然立即開船,本來以為是返回lodge,但他是直向南下,是相反方向。駛了10多20分鐘,在海面看到一群dolphin 在 hunting. 我們立即下水,看到sardine ball, dolphin and sharks 在hunting. 少量bird 有插水。

今年在lodge,每天都做一次massage. 這些masseur是當地的村民,他們本來是waitress,有客book時才變身為masseur.

這masseur除了是waitress外,還是業餘女子足球隊成員,曾經到Cape Town比賽。



Tigger shark teeth虎鯊牙

Lemon shark
其實鯊魚在水肺潛水員面前,也只是像一頭玩具狗,那些鯊魚很enjoy 給掃頭。
當我們面對tigger shark,全神補捉牠美妙的泳姿時,我們把其他reef sharks 只是當成海底奇兵的Nemo,由牠在我們腳邊刷過。


西貢滘西洲Black cardinal fish 滿口魚卵

2條在滘西洲的Balck cardinal fish,似乎是2夫婦,其中一條口中含了魚卵。


火石洲(Basalt Island) 的海葵林及flying gurnard

很少機會到火石洲潛,今次發現水下有一大片海葵林,生長仍很健康,所以週圍有很多小丑魚。還有小Oriental flying gurnard,這魚有一對很漂亮的pectoral fin.


南非沙甸大集合South Africa Sardine run


Mbotyi River Lodge

到Dubran後,需最少5小時車程才到酒店。酒店Mbotyi River Lodge大概落成了8年,每間房也是向海。雖然有泳池,但實在太小,只撥2下手己到對岸。
在南非看sardine run,都是用橡皮艇的,要從沙灘推下水。


雖然今年未能看到sardine,但水面的雀群飛插入水,Humpback whale向我們揮手,擺尾,大群dolphins(at least over thousand)在水面及淺水遊逆。
大部分時間都是用snorkel,所以再去的話,預備一個mini bottle,可以和dolphins一起近距離游泳。
通常我們早上看sardine run,大概下午一時多便回酒店,下午會去附近遊覽。其中一天還可乘10分鐘小型飛機。

看了七天sardine後,去了Cape Town看Great White Sharks,觀鯊點離市區很遠,要2個小時車程。不過在南非看Great White sharks是非常不值得。因operator沒從客戶角度考慮。他們把籠固定在船邊,這樣除了因浪令籠搖擺外,船因風吹更加擺動劇烈。不單看也困難,莫說要影。今次去了2天,第一天有3條,第二天只剩一條,而且只是不足2m長的小鯊。要研究有那些地方可更好看。




驟眼看,好像珊瑚出現白化。但細心看其實不是白化。那是coral polyps 縮成一團。
看以下短片,便知過程怎發生,未段coral polyps亦逐漸重開。



在第二次出海試衫時,遇到一對couple,他們用半technical equipment.原來他們也有用乾衣。當然當天沒有用。他們很大方的和我分享了一些用乾衣的心得,很有用。



The Bahamas 是全球第二個立法保護鯊魚的國家。
我們由West Palm Beach 出發向東骯行到The Bahamas 北面的Tiger Beach.
Map: Tiger beach, The Bahamas
我所看到的鯊有:Tiger shark, Lemon shark, Nurse shark, Caribbean reef shark
著有介紹鯊魚的書:Shark Close up

Lemon shark

Giant Grouper

除了鯊魚外,也有些Giant Groupers 來執死雞。牠們最喜歡被掃下巴。

Tiger shark
Tiger shark size compare with a man



Thanks God, 幸好他終可逃脫。




20131130 HK Sharp Island

Diving at Sharp Island, Hong Kong on 20131130.
saw Octopus, U-mark sandperch, Pederson cleaner Shrimp, Commensal Shrimp, False stonefish and Fingered dragonet.

Sea anenome was eating fish海葵正在享用一尾鮮魚。


diving with whale sharks in Cendrawasih Bay, Indonesia

Cendrawasih Bay是位於印尼東面Papau 島中, 這名稱的來由是因島上一種雄性有火紅色長尾雀鳥的名稱(Red bird of Paradise - Paradisaea rubra F: Paradisaeidae)。

飛到了目的地Manokwari 的機場,Sea Horse的接機者說我好彩了,因機場幾天的示威才剛平息。

上船後,設施較網頁的相是殘了很多,不過服務是及得上之前住過最好Mike Ball 的 Spoil Sport.

潛水的小艇上水位設計很好,基本上等同大船般,可full gear上船,而且又夠闊,就算8人也很夠位放相機。而大船的上落位設在船旁,這位置較用船尾好,因船的擺動較少,容易上落。有些細節亦很貼心,如為每名人客配置一相機袋,在有太陽時更會蓋上布,以免太陽晒傷相機。我的相機之前便試過結太陽burnt了video finder 的LCD。


珊瑚也算健康,不過因始終是困在bay 內,群魚不多,亦和Raja Ampat 差太遠。

到9月11日,去到今個trip 的重點項目 -- 去bagan 看 whale sharks. 在四天內每天潛3至4個潛。可以用SCUBA diving 和whale sharks一起游泳,跟牠們一起潛下 20m,因和牠們經常是零距離,都計不到給whale sharks 撞了多少次。

4天之中,whale sharks數目越來越多,最後一天同時有7條,其中一條長超過5m。

不過最後一天來了一條嘴唇給魚勾扯爛了的whale shark,而且一直有鉛墜著,令傷口久久不癒。幸好今次有一團友幫牠cut 了,起碼現在只留勾在肉上。



其中一位Finland 團友


Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, The Philippine liveaboard diving trip in 2006

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park 是在菲律賓 Sulu Sea中間,一年只有幾個月有潛水船經營。
這地方自1988年起已劃為海洋保護區,所以在這裡可看到東南亞十分罕見的reef sharks.



今天是過去2個月帶試潛感覺最好的一次。次次出海的潛水船都不同。今天早上搭文華的的船,他們gear up area 的設計,以香港來說,應是第一的。空間以這樣size的船來說是夠闊落。上水位很易除Gear pass 上船。唯一未夠好的是樽是夠鎖死在椅上,不易因浪而令樽掉下,但背起樽時是十分難起身,這要先把樽放上椅上才穿BC. 像我之前乘Mike Ball的Spoil Sport是設計到坐下及起身都不用就位,樽就是很Fit的lock在椅上。
另一人十分標緻,她說她的家人全都懂潛水,只有她一人是不懂。所以她是有興趣正式學,只是她朋友是有些恐懼,她在水下,2次把regulator 吐了,而喝了點水。


Diving in Komodo National Park

Diving in Komodo National Park and visit wild Komodo dragon

2013 年1月到了Komodo National Park 住船潛水及到島上近距離觀看Komodo dragon. 先談水底世界,因上年已去過Raja Ampat, 比較上來,Komodo 的珊瑚健康情況是較差,有部份dive sites 的珊瑚白化甚至已變灰。最特別的一個dive site Taka Makasar High Way是一個有幾個足球場大,地形較平的地方。只是8至10米深,水底主要是碎石,死珊瑚,貝殼等東西。這亦是其中一個Manta ray 的cleaning station.不過因為面積太大,牠們不會驟在一起,所以不能看到多尾同時的出現。

Komodo dragon 是現存在世上,體形最大的蜥蜴類生物。主要是住在印尼的2個相鄰小島上。即Komodo Island 及 Rinca Island.
我們是趁船泊在Rinca Island南面時,到沙灘看野生的dragon,不過可能一直有這些潛水船給牠們食物,所以牠們見到船便由森林出來海邊等食物。雖然有法例禁止餵食,但山高皇帝遠,亦沒人遵守。
在最後一天船程才登島正式觀察。2個島都設有步行俓及rangers 負責講解。在Rinca Island上唯一的resort附近是有7,8隻躺在地上。經驗話給我知,這裡應是有人餵食,牠們才會聚在這裡。而我們在森林內行了個多小時,一隻也沒看過。按rangers 所說那時是wet season,牠們容易找到水喝,不必要聚在河流附近使人容易找到,不過到dry season時,島上是非常熱的。

以往的人說,因為Komodo dragon 口中帶有60多種病菌,所以咬到獵物後,牠們會感染而死或倒下,而成了dragon的食糧。那些rangers 都仍是這樣介紹的。不過這說法已被科學推反了。科學家利用MRI 檢查,Komodo dragon 其實是有一毒囊,在咬獵物時隨口水滲入獵物身體內,這不像蛇等是有中空的牙注入毒液。牠們的所謂毒液,其實是類似抗凝血劑。

Komodo dragon 是否很危險?在2個主要有Komodo dragon 住的島上,有一個由 1987至 2012年的統計,總共有17人被咬,其中3人死亡。而每年到這地方參觀的遊客接近一萬人。


Coral Sea SCUBA Zoo

在澳洲東北面的Coral Sea,因遠離陸地,水非常清。能見度一般超過45M。Mike Ball在一沙地上建了一個SCUBA ZOO. 可以給潛水員安全觀賞餵鯊。雖然鯊魚極少襲擊水肺潛水員,但有2種情況是例外:1.是打魚;2.是餵鯊。
在片可看到,在未餵前,大家可選在籠外看,但到放食物時,便必須入籠內。不過工作人員仍是在外面。我們是參加12月初的一程船,在12月底的一程,片內穿海軍迷彩衣,好形的猛男(Black) 便給鯊魚咬了一口手臂。




於星期日(2013年5月12日),去了萬宜水庫的東霸潛水。很多弱波石上都有 Montipora Coral(薔薇珊瑚) 覆蓋。可能每年下潛人數不算多(因大風時不容易到達),看多數珊瑚都是健康及極少有受破壞的痕跡。
下午轉到Sharp Island,這處經常有較罕見的生物出沒,今次便看到 Longnose seahorse.


香港的Ocellated Waspfish

看到有人在Sharp Island 影到一條 Ocellated Waspfish, 這品種我在香港潛了這麼久也未見過。

翻查一本專記錄香港Reef fishes 的書(Andrew Cornish(雜誌說的梁詠琪前男友) 的Reef Fishes of Hong Kong),也沒提過這品種。


今天同一個16歲的 O 仔潛水

今天的氣溫23度,水溫22度。如常在星期日到西貢潛水,本來目的地是白腊仔,不過因風大而改在橋咀島(Sharp Island)潛。出發時,DM 說今天又有一單丁diver,又是如上次一樣是剛好學完O 仔,第一次在香港潛(不過較上2星期那O 仔好些少,因她至少是今年學,而不是2 年前學),更好的是,是在New Zealand學,這較在東南亞地區,學2,3天有牌的認真。而且New Zealand的水溫都比較低,能完成課程也不簡單。(不過我原來高估了New Zealand,最後發現她是不懂自己寫log book).
預備整裝,不懂穿weight,不過大致上懂裝BCD 及時regulator,這己好過上次的完全不懂。下水前我教她一更好的方法穿fin, 用丁字腳穿。Giant strike entry 基本是OK。下潛時可以垂直不會如上一個用屁股落那麼難看。到潛行時,浮量控制算合格,finning 是最好了,是懂伸直自由腳,有些少時間不自覺用手撥水。



Diving video of Raja Ampat 2012

General scene of Raja Ampat

The best place to watch Manta rays

Highlight sharks in Raja Ampat

Land scene and introduction of diving in Raja Ampat

Video trailer of Raja Ampat video


Komodo National Park diving in 2013 trailer

在巴里要等一晚才有機可去Labuan Bajo,一早check out後把行李放在大堂及吃早餐。
到吃完早餐後,發現行李不見了。即時去reception counter問我的行李去了那?原來他們以為那行李是另外2個客人,他們早我少許到機場,不過原來這2個客人,已跟他們說,那行李不是他們的。
巴里酒店﹣The Vira Bali Hotel

Trans Nusa airline
幸好行李失而復得,要不是沒了自已的儀器及video housing 就算claim 到保險都麻煩。

到了機場不久,才知班機要delay,  最後這班機遲了 4 小時。這是螺旋槳的小型機,應所有飛Labuan Bajo的機都是這種小型機。

Labuan Bajo的機場是極之簡陋,行李是以人手搬運及拖車拉,當然不會設有行李輸送帶了。

Grand Komodo office
在Grand Komodo 於 Labuan Bajo 的office 停留一會,因要付us$27 National Park fee (不明為何不算到團費一起?) ,他們說不設美金找續,我要到 town 把大紙打散。

登船後,才知這旅程總共有6人,對於一艘可住12 人的船來說也算鬆動。其餘團友是2 pairs 瑞士人及 1個德國人。所以他們通常是以德語溝通,不過那德國人說,他們的德語有重 accent, 他有時也聽不到。

我們每天有4次下潛,3個是 day dive, 1次是 night dive. 潛點都是在Komodo National Park範圍,環繞 Komodo Island 及 Rinca Island 2個島。
Common Lionfish

Giant Frogfish
整體來說,Komodo 的生態健康程度不及上年去過的Raja Ampat. 而且因dive sites 都靠近大島,水的清徹度也差點。幸好這2島的人口都極少,所以人為破壞主要是我們這些船。


其中有一dive site (High way, Taka Makasar)的地形是較特別,這是一片很大(~ 300m) 的碎石及碎珊瑚的平地,間中會看到Manta rays游過。

為了安排在8月的另一個trip,所以選了 1月來Komodo ,這並不是最好的時間。這幾個月是雨季,風不算大,所以對潛水的影響不很大,只是由島沖下的suspended particle 是較多,不過因是雨季,Komodo dragon不用找水喝。所以我基本上沒看到完全野生的dragon。看到dragon 的2 個點,基本上是有人用食物吸引他們去的。在Rinca Island 南面的沙灘,我們船的crews,是帶了麵包來給牠們吃。

Tawny Nurse shark
Komodo dragon
在最後一天上Rinca Island 的 national park, (這些dragon,主要是住在這2個島,而且大家的數目也接近,現存的Komodo dragon 大概有6千隻)

Komodo dragon

帶相機或video 是要另收費,現在的電話都有攝錄功能,但電話是不用收費。Video 收費是 印尼盾150000(~US$15)。
據那些ranger說,這些dragon是島上的頂層捕獵者,島上的猴,水牛,鹿甚至是baby dragon 都是他們的食物,牠們只需咬到獵物一口,獵物便會慢慢衰弱,之後牠便可吃了。Ranger說:那是因他們口水有60種細菌感染獵物。不過據最近蕭若元在網台引述的資料,那是由於dragon 本身分泌的毒液,因牠不像蛇是由牙注射,而是混合在口水中,所以以前的研究忽略了。

這便是雨季與 dry season的分別,因dry season牠們都要集中在有水源的地方,是較易在純野外地方看到牠們。不過在dry season 陛地氣溫是超過35度。
Ragner說他也有同事試過給 dragon 咬,所以牠們都隨身帶一支有丫的長樹幹,只要放近dragon,牠們便懂避開。
不過看由 1987年以來的統計,只有 14人被咬,而其中只有3人死亡。



Under the Sea IMAX 3D 海底世界 IMAX 3D

現在在機場IMAX播的一套電影,介紹有一句“把水母當作防護安全帽的搬運蟹”。我在剛去過的Komodo已看過了。那水母是upsidedown jellyfish.

Movie of Under the Sea IMAX 3D showed at UA IMAX @ airport
Story Line :
The new IMAX 3D adventure, "Under the Sea" transports viewers to some of the most exotic and isolated undersea locations on Earth, allowing them to experience face-to-face encounters with some of the most mysterious and stunning creatures of the sea such as Carrier Crab making use of jellyfish as its protective headgear, etc. IMAX 3D puts the audience in the movie. The film offers a uniquely inspirational and entertaining way for audience to explore coral reef creatures; witness their feeding, symbiosis, growth and reproduction; as well as examines the impact of global climate change on marine life and their ecological environment.