|This dive site is just off the headland where Eric Clapton has built a new house. As the dive is around an impressive rock, the size of a city block, rock fans can pay their respects both before and after submerging. The rock pinnacle is just awash, lying 3 feet below the surface, and when the swells build they break over it. The site is normally dived in the morning, before the waves build, or at night when the sea state has calmed again.|
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Our pre-dive brief told us that we would dive clockwise round the rock. Surface conditions are such that we descend immediately we enter the water and find ourselves on a rocky bottom in 45 feet. Small gorgonian bushes, barrel sponges and blue tangs brighten the rocky base as we swim toward the first crevice.
In this part of the dive large rocks create a winding path, which we navigate carefully as the surge alternately pulls and pushes us. The surge frustrates the stoplight parrotfish nibbling at the rocks coating. One moment they are in position to crop a juicy meal, the next they are whisked away.
Through a gulley, at 65 feet, is the best view of the dive, but we are a bit spoiled for choice. Looking forward, the slope of the pinnacle framed in the overhead light is covered in gorgonians. This hoary visage has to compete with the view up to the surface, where Bermuda chub, jacks and yellowtail snappers are slowly circling in search of prey. Dusk is not far off and many fish are vulnerable at this time, as the suns slanting rays expose them to predators.
On the other side of the gulley is a ledge running at 70 feet, which then turns to sand scattered with boulders. We drop to the base of the pinnacle at 105 feet and peer into the many crevices and slots. Small bushes of black coral hang gracefully from the wall, whereas the large barrel sponges seem to be perched rather precariously on the vertical surface.
Small patches of great star coral are dotted around the rocks, almost apologetically in the face of this monolithic structure. They contribute much of the colour to the dive. Interestingly almost all of the patches are red. This does not denote a particular coral species because it is not the coral that is colourful; it is the zooxanthellae (tiny algae) which live in the coral that contribute the colour. Coral without zooxanthellae is white and quite transparent.
The wall of the pinnacle as we pass round to the west is draped with deepwater sea fans shivering in the swell. Equally twitchy are the shy blackbar soldierfish sheltering under the overhang around the base of the pinnacle. Black Margates dislike crowds and prefer an overhang to themselves.
Back to the dive boat, the seas are beginning to flatten out. Another hour and it will be perfect for a night dive, but well be sipping sundowners by then.
Thanks to John at Aquanaut Diving Center.