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Diary of Henry Marriner

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 1 Mar 2010

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We went snorkelling along a reef in the bay this afternoon; just to give us a quick taster of what’s to come. There are so many fish! I jumped off the boat in reverse and immediately plummeted through a huge shoal of convict surgeonfish. I saw Trumpet fish, Moorish Idols, several poisonous Scorpion fish, and spent a good two minutes swimming at arms length from an adolescent critically endangered Hawksbill turtle. 

This whole place looks like a postcard, the shore is fringed with palm trees and the beach is white sand looking across 500 yards of water before Chole Island, a tiny spit of sand and trees out in the bay. Bath time in the evenings consists of getting into the Indian Ocean (which is warm) and relaxing back in the fading light, looking up at enormous fruit bats flying over the outlines of giant palm trees. By no means is the campsite glamorous, but if you enjoy the views and the incredible wildlife, then this becomes the most beautiful place to be.

Following day……
Up early with a 05:30 start and off to find and hopefully swim with Whale Sharks, please, please, please, please…

Absolutely Epic! Today we swam with the largest fish in the sea, not one, not two, but eight different encounters. Six different sharks ranging in size between two metres (two pups) right up to the mother they were swimming with at twelve metres, and everything in-between.

We were called to the sides of the boat, ready for entry, although we were already practically hanging off the boat. One of the staff actually ‘fell’ in before the call, not wanting to miss her chance to swim with the beasties, but in her defence none of us knew just how many times we would be getting in and out of the water today…it turns out a lot.

It was manic as we all entered into the water, at least two of the girls landed on me in the haste to get in. It was a splashing fury as everyone tried to keep up and just general mad confusion to fight the waves. But as soon as you took a breath and lowered your head under the surface, it became the calmest experience of my life. We weren’t on SCUBA so you had to choose your deep breaths carefully, but as I descended to around four metres the sound of the splashing died out and the large cartilaginous mass swimming next to me seemed to slow down, as I was no longer fighting the waves.

I spent some time swimming beside him, then adjusted my position and spread out my arms so that I was gliding on top just in front of the dorsal. At this point I became aware of a fellow volunteer swimming next to me on one side, and then one of the other guys duck dived down and joined me on the other. The hardest part of all was reminding yourself that you weren’t using SCUBA, so on several occasions I breathed in deep, only to inhale a large amount of salty water, choke and gag, then to find myself five or six metres down with a very large Caudal fin coming towards me at literally face-breaking speed.

After several hours of continuously stumbling upon these magnificent giants of the sea we had to accept that if we kept getting in one of us would soon drown from exhaustion. So we returned to dry land for a Steak and chips, and an ice cold Fanta. Not a bad day really.

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