Raggies Rest. Water temp was a balmy 17 degrees for winter, with viz between 5 and 10m. Depth varied between 8 and 12m.
Sunday was a very interesting day. We had another full boat and only launched later during the day because there were some refresher pool sessions that were done during the morning. Lots of the usual suspects were there like Lucy and Bertus, and we had a couple of visitors from PE.
True to the adventure and discovery spirit of African Waters Scuba, we dived a spot about 600m further out to sea from Discovery Channel, and baptized it Raggies Rest. Before we arrived, we found the NSRI guys doing some exercises on the beach. When we launched the boat, it was dead low tide. The main beach has this dreadful little sandbank that makes it hard to get the boat deep enough and also causes even the smallest swell to suddenly turn into a huge closeout wave. As we waited for Jacques to park the Landy, we decided to push the boat a little deeper to get out of the impact zone. Ironically, as we pushed a little deeper, the bottom just caved away mere meters from where we stood at first. In fact, it was too deep even for Bertus to stand. In the process of being hammered by the beach break, some of the divers were washed backwards, separating them from the boat into the shallow waters. When Jacques came, everybody got on the boat and they skipped into the safe zone behind the surf. The remaining divers then had to swim a little deeper because it was either that or beach the boat and relaunch. When it was the right time and they were deep enough, Jacques raced closer next to them with the boat and helping hands from the divers on board picked them up quickly before another dangerous wave could stand up. Some were rattled by the experience, and some were excited by the unpredictability of the ocean and conditions. When you get situations like this, it´s good to know you are in the hands of the experienced crew of African Waters Scuba! (The NSRI guys were keeping a watchful eye all the time.)
Paul, the photographer, has been amping to see raggies ever since he started diving, but somehow they just alluded him on every dive. This is his first hand account of his first underwater encounter with raggies:
"Neville and I bailed a couple of minutes behind the group due to getting on later and having to get our camera gear out. I followed the buoy line and the group was swimming in a narrow gully. I felt a little claustrophobic and clumsy, bumping into everybody, so I swam ahead past the DM who was holding the line. While I was still setting aperture and double checking my settings, I looked up and there in front of me was a HUGE raggie. Funny thing was, I did not realize what I saw at first, but recall noticing it had an old fishing line hanging from a hook in it´s pectoral fin, and it had some brown spots. When I looked around and to my left, I counted 5 sharks in total, with three large ones and two smaller ones.
I frantically took photos, but realized my aperture was set on 22 which was way too dark for long distances. As I made adjustments, I managed to take two photos which were light enough to make out one of the raggies. At one point the surge almost washed me into the big raggie, and I back paddled a bit with my hands. (Try doing that with a water housing!) By that time the rest of the diving group arrived the raggies got spooked either by me and my camera, or by the hoard of approaching bubble blasters. I always wondered how my response would be when I see a shark on a dive, with nothing between us but water molecules. I thought I may be scared, but in fact I felt very calm, content and utterly amazed. Stoked comes to mind as well. I also felt privileged for being able to experience it, and when the raggies vanished into the blue, I wanted to swim after them.
When they were gone, it was almost as if I woke up from a dream. Most of the other divers did not see them. Only the DM and two guys from PE saw them. At least I got photographic evidence and witnesses, because some of the group could not believe that I really saw the raggies! Towards the end of the dive I lost the group for a moment when they were in the gully next to me. At that point, most of them were low on air, but I still had more than 100 bar left, and four of us extended our dives. I found myself on a very shallow part of the reef with lots of fish and ended up swimming in circles around one piece of reef, taking photos of the shoals until my strobe battery was flat. WOW. What a dive. I am definitely going back to THAT reef!"
Here are some photos taken by Paul of the dive: