Brief relief on a reef in Tenerife
The summer of 2011 had not been kind to the diver folk of Scotland so it was with heady anticipation that we waited for the minibus to pick us up on the overcast morning at 7.00 pm. The minibus soon turned up and we made our way to the airport picking up others on the way. At the airport we were confronted with a scene reminiscent of the fall of Saigon, however Kevin skilfully and accidentally advanced the party past an entire queue of other passengers and we were quickly through EasyJet check in! Amazingly, everyone has his/her tickets, passports and other essentials (probably thanks to Christine) and there were no problems! The four hour flight passed peacefully for the most part due to the calming influence of Stella artois. However the turbulence which grew as we stooped upon Tenerife making some of us (OK me) wish we could reach for more! The island is fantastically impressive with the huge Mount Teide reaching 3718 metres into the sky, but even as we passed over the coast in the descending Airbus we could see that volcanic shores were shredding huge waves, so the prospect of the usual superb visibility receded!
At the hugely expanded airport, we were waved languidly past by a series of very bored security people and out into the baking heat of the island. The prearranged bus (aptly named the “Lony bus”) took us past the hedonistic meccas of Los Christianos, Los Americanas and possibly the well named Puerto Colón, to Playa Paraiso and the dive centre. The Barakuda dive centre is German owned and operates to a very high standard. Safety is taken seriously the equipment is well maintained (except the VW vans). The usual forms were duly completed and our certification checked, and all necessary equipment issued (BCDs weight belts, see below). The issue of our nationalities (Scottish, English, German and French) was settled too! We were then shown to our apartments which were conveniently located right across the road from the dive centre. A quick visit to the supermarket about 5 minutes walk got us a few items for the stay and as the sun plummeted out of sight the way it does at these latitudes, we prepared ourselves for an early start (after a few of the local brews called “Dorada”). Next morning the weather had generally calmed, but the bay was still a little lively. As we gathered at the dive centre the plan for the first dive was revealed. After the two well used VW vans were (over)loaded with gear and the dive group, we were off anticlockwise up the TF-1 or “autopista” (which sounds about right), to the first site at Las Eros. The Canarians are a gregarious species and they seem to like to drive right next to each other too. Having survived the autopista, the vans were parked in a dusty car park opposite the beach and kit unloaded. Another group of divers were also there but otherwise the site was ours. Kitting up in wetsuits is always a doddle but leaves you with a strangely unencumbered feeling and concerned that something was missing! We gathered at the waters edge like ugly (except Karen & Marie) goslings, waiting for instructions from our guides Yan and Mirko. The semicircular beach at the centre of Las Eros village and is protected by a breakwater to the North. The sand has accumulated from the breakdown of a variety of volcanic lavas and ash making it a grey colour with a course sharp texture, like all the natural beaches on the island. Fins were attached (correctly!) and we made our way toward the breakwater. The signal to descend was given and with the gurgling gasp of the BCDs, the sea floor slowly approached. The first business of the dive was to complete a series of basic tests and after these were preformed with ease, we were off! Although the visibility was much greater than we are used to it was poor by the usual standards of Tenerife at 20 metres (I always have difficulties with estimating viz). The concrete blocks of the breakwater quickly faded into the blue haze as we finned along to be replaced by increasingly impressive topography. Divers from another group came past causing mild confusion and because my mask was fogging up I took photos of them too! (I’ll pass them on Kevin!!). Damselfish, lizardfish, trumpetfish and cuttlefish were in some abundance but no rays were to be seen. Larger fish were seen seaward but keeping their distance. At the 120 atm point, the group retraced our route back to the beach to be greeted by the non-diving contingent (lead by Christine and Caroline) who had been relaxing in a cafe. The second dive was on old favourite of mine as I had dived it a few times. Adabes beach gets its name from the Island grouper (Adabes is the Spanish name which means “Abbot”), and is a perfect dive site being shallow with easy access and an interesting but not spectacular underwater vistas (further out there are very spectacular drop offs indeed!). We had lunch at a café next to a dive centre (Easy Blue World) who were able to free Kev’s sticking din fitting and our guides Yan and Mirko proved proficient waiters in addition to their more professional roles. Kitting up in the car park was helped by the presence of concrete benches and we waddled off to the sea distracted (in dramatically contrasting manners) by the clothing derangement of some of the other beach users! Adabes beach features flat sandy sea floor with sea grass beds and a flat extensive reef from the left reaching out into deeper water. The highlight of this dive was the unusual sight of a sea slug Aplysia fasciata found by the guides, out in the open water swimming along (see video). There was an abundance of parrot fish, the colourful females out dazzling the drab grey males crunching away amongst the rocks.
The second day was spent at Los Abrigos, a small town at the southern end of the airport in the inaptly named Costa del Silencio! Access to the narrow beach was by a rough track off the main road which the lunar lander would have struggled to pass, but the VWs were slowly coaxed into position leaving us a short but painful hurple down a steep path to the water in our bootees. Someone had at some time in the past bothered to construct a set of concrete steps at the base of the beach and these were welcome indeed. This was the dive of the trip (for me)! The visibility was better than the previous day too which helped. Going North from the bay we encountered huge cliffs and steep sandy slopes out of which poked hundreds of garden eels, each of their hockey stick shaped heads alternatively pointing into the current (what little there was) and toward any approaching diver. The eels are very wary and when approached, incrementally slide down their mucus stabilized burrows until they vanished completely. There were large number of octopus and cuttlefish also amongst the rocks and the spectacular nudibranch Hypselodoris picta. During the dive Steve Taylor found half a bikini top! (It didn’t fit). After a sandwich at a café in the town we returned to the site for the second dive of the day. Steve T was one of the first on the beach apparently keen to find the owner of the partial bikini. This time we went south (right) out of the same bay and into a series of caves. Unfortunately the tide was low and this combined with the swell made our time in the caves a bit uncomfortable, especially for those with expensive cameras to look after. The caves did feature very large grey sponges and some smaller bright yellow ones ( I haven’t been able to identify either yet).
Day three’s dive was at the popular wreck in the bay of Tabaiba. This wreck was the tugboat El Ratón (Spanish for “the mouse”) which was it was sunk deliberately in 2006 for divers. Although its at a maximum of 31 metres the wreck is an easy dive reached from the shore via a steel ladder. The group then followed the guides down the old pipe to the wreck. The dive was relatively uneventful except that a weight removed itself from the confines of Derick’s BCD. Fortunately Brian caught the weight mid-water and after what looked to external observers like an unseemly struggle, Brian and Dave managed to replace the errant weight, sending Derick transiently toward the seafloor! After looking around the wreck for about 20 minutes it was time to retrace our route slowly back up the pipe but spreading out on the sand. Here once again shy garden eels disappeared before our eyes and cameras but other fish such as tub gurnard, red mullet and the ubiquitous lizard fish were to be seen. After a light lunch and a long episode trying to pay our bills with the confused owner (yes €1.2 and €2.8 really does add up to €4, with or without a calculator!). The second dive only differed in that we took another route to and from the wreck. A lengthy stop around 6 m was made all the more enjoyable by a shoal of sardines at the surface and a single young barracuda trying its luck with them. Cuttlefish were also on view amongst the rocks as were the usual Sally Ann crabs and Atlantic Blennies at this depth.
By day four, our performance around the dive centre ceased (to some extent) to draw despairing stares from our minders and the seas too had calmed around the bay. Plans were made to dive the local site, Playa Paraiso. The group were split according to possession of cameras in the hope that progress around the sites would be better balanced. Those with cameras went left along the east reef while those unencumbered went right. The reefs had not quite recovered from the swells as the weeds and sessile animals were still covered in fine sand. This is a very nice easy dive with stepped edges of rock reaching down to a sandy sea floor. Here too the ravages of the sea were apparent as the gravely sand had been piled in large dunes. The sediments were very disturbed and there was none of the usual grazers sifting through the upper layers seeking either the algae or the animals that prey on it. So no rays but a few disappointed looking wide eyed flounders poked dismally through the mess. The groups swapped sides for the second dive and we descended near the table rock to be greeted by a sea rabbit (Aplysia dactylomela)and a cuttlefish right next to it. The retinas of the latter are probably still bleached by the barrage of flashes discharged in its direction! Octopi were also discovered and in the fissures of the reef shrimp and other crustaceans were discovered. The best find of this dive was a tiger moray eel foraging under an overhang but fully exposed during daylight hours. The party were then lead up the reef and back to the breakwater. As the surge of the dying swell rocked us in the water over the large boulders that make up the breakwater, cold pounced and penetrated my 3mm £24 Lidl’s wetsuit for the first and last time during the stay. The short fin back to the beach brought no relief and even out of the water it stayed. Back at the apartment I decided a night dive was not advisable for me as I suspected mild heat stroke (but my flatmates uttered words such as “woose”)! The night dive was another success and enjoyed by all who took part. Large rocks were used as a substitute and the dive got under way. From the cliffs above Caroline, Hille and I could see the torches and the flashes from the cameras lighting up the sea in electric blue. Some people came from the surrounding hotels to see what was happening. The general excitement did not however transfer to the fishermen who did not appreciate the divers “chasing off their quarry”, and new Spanish words were learned!
For many people the dive on the fifth day was the highlight of the trip. The dive with the Green turtles in the bay at Puertito was a pleasure indeed! These turtles have grown used to the presence of divers and as they have been fed boiled fish by other diving groups, they actively seek out divers. We were under strict instructions not to touch the turtles for fear of passing on human infections to them but also for our own protection. These beasts are slightly myopic and their beaks are sharp and strong! Divers from other groups touched and stroked them but we of course restrained ourselves. The turtles none the less moved gracefully around us and they were particular attracted to Yan who was carrying a plastic bag for rubbish. After an hour we struggled through the surf back up the beach. The last dive (for some) was later the same day at the port of Poris de Abona near Adabes and Las Eras. The jump entry by Kev (and Steve Younger to a lesser extent!) persuaded the people angling to head home and wet a few towels on the beach. The rest of us entered more gracefully via the steps! On decent the floor was sandy rubble with wide eyed flat fish and lizard fish amongst the short brown algae. As we followed the guides north east the seafloor steepened and soon large rocks were visible on our left. Octopi occupied every neuk and cuttlefish scurried away before us. A familiar cloud of damsel fish pecked at the plankton above us. The rocks got larger until huge cliffs could be seen in the blue gloom. Again the large nudibranch Hypselodoris picta were out grazing on sponges and a ribbon of their eggs were found stuck by their edge to the rock.
A very large last supper was enjoyed by all at the Argentinean restaurant “Churrasqueria Rodeo” at Fañabé. In a manner reminiscent of the hero in “Airplane” having flashbacks of “El Macho Grande” Alan rather heroically, stepped forward to selflessly volunteer to drive one of the needed vehicles to the restaurant, and back!! Having eaten half a cow even Kevin conceded that he had had enough and so we left. Perhaps it was the Spanish driving or more likely thoughts had collectively drifted toward home and the collapsing euro and governments in Greece and Italy, but as the VW screeched to a halt one last time for us, there was a haste to exchange euros for the more dependable (but short lived) currency of beer at the ghastly, yet welcome Britannia Bar!!
Back at the airport large prophylactic beers were consumed to ward off turbulence and a rapid tailwind helped us on our way. The plane arrived 40 minutes early but strangely our luggage seems not to as we had a long wait to pick it up. Our happy group disbanded and our part of the diaspora was deposited back home in a taxi: absolutely knackered!
So a huge thanks to the ever capable Rolly Wiegand for organising a very successful trip! What about Jamaica for next year? Did I mention that I was there recently?
The participates were Alan and Karen Lissimore, Brian and Christine Lyell, Sutherland and Caroline Maciver, Rolly Wiegand and Hille Wüllner-Otten, Steve Taylor, Kevin Watson, Derick Scott and David Simpson ( all Pentland SAC). From Napier SAC Steve Younger and Marie Diais,