Imagine – one day soon – a perfect morning onboard Adelaar and your first dives after the pandemic.
The sun rises on the sea
Ann opens one eye, closes it again. Breathes in and smiles, pressing her head against her comfy pillow. No she’s not dreaming. Yes she is on beautiful Adelaar, on her very first diving day for more than 21 months. Now, both eyes open, she smells the nicely polished, carefully designed wood of her cozy cabin. Gently rocked by the waves all night long during the first crossing of the trip, she slept beautifully.
It is still dark outside. Coming out on the main deck, Ann encounters Adelaar’s steward – and his smile feels like sunshine before sunrise. He will prepare the Latte he already knows she likes so much, while she finds a comfortable spot to watch the sun come up.
The boat is now on anchor in a sheltered bay. A light breeze caresses her face. Neither engine, nor compressor are running. Not one other boat around. Only invisible birds are telling early morning stories affirming their territories on the nearby island’s trees. Ann starts to perceive the delicate dark blue indented hilltop line. The stars are about to disappear through daylight.
A moment later, the sun is now a few degrees above the horizon. Its heat is comforting like a long awaited kiss. A plate of sliced fruit magically appeared in front of Ann and provides her with the energy she needs for her first dive of the trip. Her dear friends joined her on the deck – all pumped up by the promises of last evening’s cruise director briefing. Today they are going to see sharks, big schools of fish and maybe Manta rays. It’s been so long since their last dive. Any encounter with the smallest fish will fill them with pure happiness anyway.
The first dive will be a mellow one in the nearby bay. All the guests have to gently get back into the water, familiarize themselves with some of their new gear, or refresh their dusty diver’s skills. Now is time for the dive team to go away with the dinghy to check this morning’s conditions of the site. Once they’re back, the cruise director gives the divers a detailed report before all gear up: great visibility, lukewarm temperature, mild current, and a school of fusiliers spotted at the entry point. The freshly drawn map on the white board shows the plan: we will jump where the current is slightly running, watch the fish action there for a while, then follow the reef on the right hand, slowly swimming towards the inside of the bay.
Time to gear up with the kind and efficient help of Adelaar’s top-notch crew. Good music is on the deck. Everyone has a contagious smile on their face. One can feel that guests and crew are over the moon to be back on the water. A short dinghy ride brings Ann & her mates to the entry spot. Mask on, regulator in. Three, two, one. And there it is: the unequalled sensation of the warm tropical water on your skin. Back in the Blue! Freed from gravity! Just this is enough to feel better than anytime for the last two years. Schooling batfish and a bunch of yellow snappers welcome the divers back into the ocean. Not really surprised to see us back. A black-tip reef shark marks a double loop by curiosity before leaving for a deeper territory.
Nice bommies covered with healthy hard coral and sea fans are scattered on a white sandy slope, here and there inhabited by the famously shy garden eels. The contrast with the clear blue water and the light sandy patches gives an intense aquarium effect. The dive is not deep but heads are dizzy of happiness. The coral garden in the shallows is astounding. Acropora tables, fields of staghorns, brain coral and great star coral boulders are all there to serve as shelter – and pantry – to all sorts of colorful reef fish and crustaceans. A turtle salutes us while taking off to the surface. Time flies at the speed of light, 50 bars and our explorers are already doing their safety stop in these pristine shallows.
The dinghy two-men crew followed Ann and her buddies along their dive at a distance from the surface. Ready to pick them up and bring them back to the boat – where the big breakfast is waiting for them. A short fresh water rinse, a few minutes in the sun to dry, maybe tan a bit, and it’s time to fuel in for the coming dive.
A la carte breakfast offers everything one could dream of: and pancakes, waffles, fried rice, noodles, fruit, nuts, muesli, home-made yogurt, all kind of eggs, bacon and veggies, anything is possible for Adelaar’s kitchen superb team. Name it, they will do it. Our divers enjoy their meal under the sun sail… embracing their newly barefoot and light-hearted life.
After a short digestive nap, the dinghy leaves again to check the current conditions of the best site in the area. The planning has been carefully designed according to the tides – and in about 30 minutes the conditions should be perfect to jump on this seamount. It will be the end of falling tide, meaning unending visibility and still enough current for great – sometimes spectacular – fish action, followed by slack tide where all the fish and sharks are travelling from North to South, switching sides before raising tide currents start. If you manage to catch that very moment it’s impressive how it works like clockwork.
No need to wake anyone up for the briefing. Every soul is on deck ready in their wetsuit, cameras and GoPros in hand, eager to jump again in the water. The briefing is clear, concise and full of hope of the most amazing encounters.
One by one, everyone embarks on the dinghy. Camera are safely handled and stored in a box, covered with a wet towel to protect them from the Sun. Five minutes ride, time to quickly gear up before the guide gives the signal and everyone rolls back into the water.
A short swim down allows the divers to reach the split of the current at the exact perfect spot you want to start the dive. A dozen white tip reef sharks share their hunting territory with a few Grey reefs, Napoleons, Giant Trevallies, Groupers, Barracudas, Dog-tooth tunas, Spanish mackerels, exceeding all expectations, everyone is there… and in numbers. Schooling big-eyes trevallies hover on one side, while on the other side their giant lonesome cousins target attacks into the massive school of blue-lined fusiliers provoking that always surprising explosive noise of a school of fish suddenly speeding in the opposite direction. Nobody knows where to look. Everywhere is fish action. Everywhere is color and movement.
Our divers feel invisible in this busy underwater town. Ann takes her camera out to capture the entropic choreography of fusiliers, the trampling of sharks, the curious looks of some big black snappers. A minute later a massive eagle ray appears next to a buddy team. Loyal master of the site, she flies above all of us. Greeting us with a slow routine-like dance, eyeing on us with insistence. The current slows down. It is time for slack… the migration organizes itself on the reef. First, the dark grey and light blue surgeons crawl back along the reef. Then, the Batfish gather and gently drift to the leeside.
We follow the flow, swimming up the slope to preserve enough bottom time along with a school of butterflies. Whip corals and bommies contrast with the straight lines of the South side topography of the site. A plateau decorated with table corals and sponges is home to a few baby sharks. No time for a break as we bump into a shy couple of octopi. In the shallows, the current starts again, together with the raising tide. For our safety stop we have to find shelter behind the rocks at the top of the site. Last chance to glimpse at the underwater crowds we missed too much. Computers clear, we all take off at the same time, following the buoy of the guide, we blow the last bubbles of this fantastic morning.
Heads breaching the surface, all eyes are shining and shouts of ecstasy are heard from the dinghy all the way to Adelaar.
Read the second part of this article here: La dolce vita onboard Adelaar…
Lorine, underwater dream technician