Part 3 of Liveaboard Series – Aug 13, 2016 – Big Brother Island
“Sharks!” one of my fellow divers comes into the dining salon excitedly, “If you want to see sharks, there are some swimming around the bow of the ship!”
We rush outside where we heard, “Four!” There were four Oceanic White Tip sharks (carcharhinus longimanus) at 3.5m long each, lit up by the strong torches of the divers’ underwater flashlights. “Let’s go snorkeling!” someone joked. More seriously, we all agreed that we really hoped they would stick around until our dives tomorrow. “I hope they wait for us!”
I realized I was in very special company, both in terms of the wildlife as well as the people. As for the people, they are all incredibly skilled and enthusiastic divers. With a respectable 67 dives under my belt before this liveaboard oceanic safari, I was still the diving baby on board in the company of divers with almost 500 dives…and we are on this specific route because we want to dive with sharks. So, when we see sharks in the water, we are excited to jump in with them instead of running to the shore. An older German lady enthusiastically told me how she came face to face with an Oceanic White Tip earlier today in the dive. “It was only 2 meters from my face!” she said, speaking about a 3.5m long shark. “Awesome!” I said, “I saw one today too in my dive but it was quite far away. I hope I see one closer tomorrow!” She didn’t think I was crazy.
Today, our dives were at Big Brother, a speck of rock in the middle of the Red Sea with a lighthouse on top, a table reef all around and then a steep drop off to a sandy bottom below. We did three dives today, as we will do everyday for the 6 diving days of this 8 day liveaboard ocean safari. The first dive dropped down to a plateau with two pinacles which was a cleaning station for the open ocean Thresher shark. Thresher sharks are distinctive because they have a long, whiplike top of their tail which concentrates schooling fishes and then stuns them. Instead, we saw a Grey Reef Shark and and a Whitetip Reef shark, smaller than the oceanic version but still respectable 1.7m long shark with a very sleek body. ….This was the first dive…
The next two dives, we went Numida, a British ship from the turn of the century that was supposed to run from Britain to India but sank in its inaugural year on July 19, 1901. It is right at the tip of the island, resting nose straight down on the steep slope. Unlike most of the diving that I’ve done and what they generally teach during certification, we flipped off the zodiac into the wavy water and was supposed to descend immediately. This was because of the strong current as well as the rough surface of the water. We quickly checked that our buddy was present and ok at 5m and then down to the shipwreck, posthaste. The shipwreck is almost vertical so it was a straight dive down on the top of the ship to 35m when we entered the ship through a broken skylight. The ship has been here for more than a century so there is a lot of coral growing on it. It was completely dark inside except for our torches and the blue light filtering in from skylights and portholes. There is something about exploring wrecks that give this exhilarating sense of adventure and discovery. The last time someone walked on this ship was over a century ago. Swimming through the coral encrusted beams and poles of the boats out into the open blue is a magical experience. To top this off, there was a Thresher shark as we came out of the boat and started to dive along the reef wall. Soon we also saw a couple Grey sharks as well.
The third dive was back at Numidia but this time, we came up on the outside instead of the inside. There was a big Napoleon Wrasse, a fish that is probably the same size as me and then we spotted an Oceanic Whitetip, or “Longimanus” as we affectionately call it. As we continued the dive, there would be a school of tuna…. and then sharks! Then, the moment of realization that the tuna was running away from the feeding sharks. We saw about five Grey sharks, a couple that circled our diving group from a distance. In total today, we swam with 12 different sharks of four different species, Oceanic Whitetip, Whitetip Reef, Grey Reef and Thresher! Big Brother is a pretty special dive site with deep dives in search for sharks, swim through wrecks, and a gorgeous wall with lots of beautiful soft corals and teaming with life with especially vivid colours at the top 5-10m!