Sardine Run Day 4: Into the water

There was a glorious sunrise this morning, as we skirted out of the river mouth. The surf looked flat enough (to my very untrained eye) but watching the boat in front of us seemingly make a bit of a pig’s ear of their launch made me wonder if my eye needed more training. But Harvey negotiated it with little bother, leading me to believe a) he’s a good skipper and b) my eye is trained a little bit.

Whale watching

As soon as we got out of the surf, and headed north up the coast, I spotted humpbacks to the starboard side. We headed over towards them, and almost immediately, one breached in front of the boat, followed very quickly by another. The second came fully out of the water before smashing down creating a massive splash. It’s exhilarating to watch. Simply stunning, how such huge creaturs manage to power themselves out of the ocean and into the sky. No one knows why they do it, but apparently it’s just for the sheer fun of it. To be fair, I’d jump out of the water like that if I was a humpback.

We’re then treated to a show for an hour or so of beaches. It was beautiful; we didn’t want to leave. But We were heading 15 miles further north. So reluctantly we left the whales to their fun, and throttled on northwards.

To the north

As we headed north up the coast we caught sight of some birds circling up ahead, and some dolphins milling around with intent. Immediately my adrenaline starts pumping: it’s a bait ball, I think. There are a few boats already here and Harvey explains there’s an etiquette – boats that are here first get to drop divers first, so it doesn’t become a free for all, which makes perfect sense. But we kit up in anticipation, ready to go.

But as soon as we’ve so much as got weight belts on, the action has died down. Bait balls can come and go In a few minutes, and this one looks like it’s a small one. The adrenaline slows, and we continue north to Waterfall Bluff (famous on Nature’s Great Events for those who’ve seen it), and Cathedral Rock.

The Coastline here is simply stunning; its called the Wild Coast for a reason. The cliffs are sheer and the surf is mental. Mia tells us there are 7 waterfalls in the world that empty directly into the sea – 4 of them are on this coast line. Waterfall Bluff is one of them.

We stop off and I kit up into snorkel gear and get into the water to have a pee; at least I can say I’ve been in the water today. I looked down; the vis was really bad. I had a vision of a large shark creeping up on me from below. I got back on the boat rather quickly.

We followed the coast back south, as the wind picks up and the waves start growing. Keeping an eye out for any action, and we stumble across a big pod of dolphins. Although the waves were quite large, Harvey dropped us in. The dolphins immediately swarm all overus; some wanted to check us out, others were intent on getting to the food – wherever that was. I managed to get some good video shots, but overall i tried just to enjoy being in the water. Too often in the past I’ve focused on getting the right shot and not about the experience. I’ve ended up with neither. This time I strike a balance.

Back to the Lodge

After a couple of drops in with the dolphins, and the sight of a small, very quick school of anchovy (that unfortunately the dolphins don’t want to push into a bait ball) we call it a day and head back to the river mouth, through the surf, and back to the lodge.

The lodge itself, the Port St John River Lodge, is basic, but the beds are comfy and the shower is blazing hot. The wifi is rubbishly sporadic, but the food is great. And the cider is as cheap as the wine. That could be good or bad.

So it’s looking like an early night for me tonight. I’m learning the diving here is very similar to the UK: it’s tiring, strenuous, the sea can be choppy and sometimes you don’t get to see anything. And I’m needing a good sleep tonight if I’m going to get the most out of tomorrow.

So far, we’ve had whales from the surface, and dolphins under the surface, but not too much action in general. I’m thinking the sardines aren’t coming, which I think I’ll be okay with, as long as I get to dive with some humpbacks…. But as we all know, Mother Nature doesn’t work to a plan. Let’s see what she gives us tomorrow.

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