As the south-east monsoon now really starts to blow, diving during the month of May has possibly been the best yet in 2011.
May has blessed us with fantastic sightings and diving conditions: schools of fish in the hundreds, sharks and turtles cruising the reefs and a few friendly faces rarely seen here on North popping up too!
Our neighbouring island of Silhouette has proven a huge hit in recent weeks with the increasing winds bringing steadily flowing currents, allowing divers to drift their way over the pristine corals of the dive sites of Twin Anchors, Tree Caves and Cathedral. Warm and clear, the visibility has reached up to 30 metres with water temperatures staying at 30°C throughout May.
Visits to Cathedral in particular have been some of the underwater highlights of May with every dive offering schools of bump-head parrotfish, barracuda and yellow and gold fusiliers. The resident giant grouper, an incredible three metres in length, has been spotted in the same crevice in the granite boulders at 18 metres on each visit. An incredible creature to be in the water with, this enormous bony fish has been known on occasion to jump a step in the food chain and even feed on small sharks! A solitary fish rarely spotted far from his dwelling, he certainly won't be having too many visitors, except maybe the cleaner wrasse dropping in for an occasional grooming!
Closer to home, here on North the diving adventures haven't disappointed either, with our western reefs, Sprat City and Coral Gardens, teeming with life. Divers have enjoyed rarer sightings such as sponge crabs, oscillated snake eels, mantis shrimps and potato groupers as well as the more commonly seen creatures, the hawksbill turtles, reef sharks and giant morays.
May has also seen a rise in the numbers of blue-fin kingfish, commonly known as trevally, spotted on the reefs of North, with numbers expected to continue rising during this current monsoon season. Active hunters, and often seen at full speed on the reef, the blue-fin trevally feed mainly on crustaceans and squid with the mantis shrimp a favourite on their menu.
And finally, divers in the month of May have also been fortunate enough to encounter a bottlenose dolphin whilst diving on House Reef. Seen solitary and swimming in depths as shallow as three metres of water, the dolphin made a smooth pass of the divers before disappearing back into the blue. Despite its curious nature and friendliness towards humans, encounters with dolphins whilst on scuba are rare.
As we now edge closer to August, the dolphin's older cousin and the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark, will soon once again be gracing the waters of Silhouette and North with its presence. Frequently swimming at shallow depths where temperature and plankton levels are high, and always calm in the presence of observers, both snorkellers and scuba divers will be able to enjoy swimming alongside these gentle giants. Let's hope the coming months bring the arrival of the whale shark to North for all to enjoy!