Old as Dirt

Sometimes a dive site isn’t about the creatures. Sometimes it’s about the place.

The day before, we’d gone south with Bonnie and Frank. Saw a veritable assemblage of characters. Rays and turtles, blue parrotfish and a tall, green moray.

For the last day of pick-up truck, we were set to head up to the north of the island. The hilly, red track part. Our friends, Janine and Mark led the trip. Janine and Mark came to the island from the States over a year ago. They surprised themselves then by buying a holiday apartment. The pandemic struck before they were due to return and they’ve been making the most of their time since. There are still no direct flights back to the States.

Janine and Mark get to their dives by scooter. Tanks on the scooter floor, dive gear in rucksacks on their backs. This way they can slowly zip around the whole island – past the cacti bushes and the cacti trees, in their cozzies. Did I mention it’s one scooter? One scooter between them with two sets of dive gear. It’s a cool feat.

We’ve been getting slowly better at shore diving this week. Inclines up and down to the water’s edge, slippery rocks, crashing waves. All these things can be tricky, walking with dive tanks on your back. It’s definitely not the same as rolling off from the back of Edna or giant-striding from Quest.

Janine and Mark like the dive site in the north called Tailor Made. We followed them to where dirt track turned into rocky beach road. We parked up and surveyed the site. This place could have been the mix of the worst kinds of entry, but the weather was relatively calm yesterday. It was good to go.

We had to find a channel through the shallow coral to head out to the deeper reef. Piles of rocks on the beach have been built for this purpose; to tell the diver where the safe channels are.

We followed each other through the shallow reef gap – and emerged in huge coral country. First, you swim over the huge chunks of dead staghorn and elkhorns to get there. I can’t help but notice their skeletons.

It seems staghorn and elkhorn corals have borne the brunt of an almost extinction. Based on their location in the shallow reefs here. Storms, climate change and disease seem to be their main enemies. These factors aren’t going away either – yet people are still trying to re-build them.

It amazes me in this minuscule moment in our history that there are bands of people – and by that I mean everywhere – willing to work to save parts of our natural world. It blows me away. Trying to save creatures such as the white rhino, orangutan and the Atlantic right whale. These creatures and their habitats may not be save-able in the end. People know it – and they’re fighting for it anyway, for little personal gain.

We dropped down onto the deeper reef. Found huge pillars of hard corals, themselves growing over past mountainous reefs. It was an underwater church – a spectacular terrain, except made of living structures. As old as dirt. I couldn’t stop looking at the whole thing.

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