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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dive 7: Mala / Charco del Palo (right) - 2/5/2009

This dive site has the added charm of having access at the resort town of Charco del Palo near Mala, which is a naturist resort. So, if the weather is nice, you have to mind your eyes to avoid the naked Germans wandering around. If the weather isn’t so nice, like the morning we arrived, you just have to not look so carefully. My eyes were the fortunate ones. Brian’s on the other hand looked toward the porches. Neither of us understands the appeal of naturism. I think 25C and 30kph winds is not nearly warm enough to be running around without any clothes. Brian thinks that it requires far too much additional sun cream with unpleasant consequences if forgotten.

The entry at Mala is challenging. Steps lead down to rocks where two ladders lead out of the water and a single handrail has been installed to aid with entry. Giant stride entry is the easiest way in and a rope provides a barrier hand hold while everyone gets in and organised. Both surge and surf are likely. As we walked down the stairs in full gear, I watched waves wash over the entry about once per minute. The challenge of the morning was going to getting gloved, masked and finned without getting pummelled. I let Alan and Brian go first.

Instructor Simon went both first and last. Geared up, he stood at the entry point making sure each of us got organised and into the water safely. Just before I heaved myself in, he reminded me to put lots of air in my BCD. I had none. Well timed. The giant stride entry was no problem and I clung to the rope barrier beside Brian, waiting for Simon to join us. Once everybody was in, we descended quickly to about 6 or 7m and swam away from the exit ladders. The surge kicked us side to side as we swam away, which kept my heart rate and breathing rate up for a while. I wondered if I would finish with less air than Brian, who tends to go through air quite quickly.

With some time to get used to it, I learned to slow down and hold my position in the surge/current and then use it to glide forward. We swam over the sandy bottom and many lava outflows. As we moved beyond the entry point and worked our way deeper, the surge pretty much disappeared. On this dive, there weren’t as many little fish to swim with as some of the other dives. I wondered if they preferred not to be kicked around by so much surge. The lava rocks were sea urchin resorts, which seemed to follow the same organisational scheme as the towns of Costa Teguise and Playa del Carmen. Obvious mental note followed to not step on or put a hand down on a rock without looking. We descended to about 20m gradually but kept a safe 2 or 3 metres from the bottom. Soon we saw the first of many stingrays . One laid so happily in the sand that I thought it was an angel shark, but the shark shaped footprint wasn’t so obvious. Until google showed us the difference, Brian thought they were manta rays. But no, they were stingrays, hover-swimming like martian spaceships of cartoon legend. We must have seen at least a dozen stingrays of various sizes. Alan got a few photos that I hoped would turn out. We worked our way back gradually toward the ladders swimming over more sea urchin resorts that seemed to be missing only the vend-a-loungers.

At a depth of about 6m, Simon led us into a small cave in one of the lava outflows that is good for seeing some of the more rare wildlife. We swam into the cave, Simon then me then Brian and finally Alan. As with the previous dive, Alan was still struggling with buoyancy and swimming level(ish) so he kicked up a hell of a (sand) houlie. Simon shined his light into the crevices and we saw a number of fish that I didn’t recognise. In the second crevice, a moray eel showed its face briefly and then mooned Alan as he tried to take a photo.

On the way out of the cave, we had the option of a swim through to the inside or a swim around. With the increase in surge again and my tank nearly empty, I didn’t feel confident in my buoyancy control enough for the 1m or so clearance at the start. I didn’t want to scrape along or kick/shove rocks on the way through, so I opted for around. Brian and Alan swam through.

It wasn’t long until we reached the exit ladders. As the usual least amount of air remaining, Brian got to go first. Alan let some air out of his BCD and was able to sink to the bottom easily. I got caught in the surge and pulled upward. Dumping the air out of my BCD didn’t help. Swimming down didn’t help. As Brian climbed upward, I threw myself at the ladder and clung to the bottom rung as the surge picked my back end up far too easily. I remember looking slightly enviously at Alan wishing I had stuck to 6kg instead of 5kg on my weight belt.

Once Brian was clear (enough), Simon sent me up the ladder. About halfway(?) up, I made the mistake of looking at the waves crashing against the rocks, which very easily tore the regulator from my mouth. Frothy saltwater waves don’t taste all that good. I reached the top of the ladder and Brian asked me if I was ok. I said no as I slithered onto the rock and made space for Alan. Brian scolded me, reminding me that ok and happy are not the same question. I apologised as I sat onto a nearby rock to wait for Alan and Simon to get out safely.

The long slog back to the car was uphill like all the rest. On the way back to the van, Simon pointed out another swim through that was possible in milder conditions. It had to be milder conditions because there was no exit route even though the swim through ended at the shore. Divers had to swim back out and around to exit. Another day, another dive. The conditions weren’t in any rush to improve for us.

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