A scuba dive off Beacon Island

Trip Start Jan 20, 2008
Trip End Feb 10, 2008

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Flag of Seychelles Islands  ,
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I arranged for a taxi to pick me up at 7:30 this morning to take me to Beau Vallon on the northwest side of the island where there is a reputable dive center. Even though it's only about 12 miles away, it took more than half an hour to get there because of morning traffic. We drove through Victoria, my first view of the small capital city. At one key intersection there is a small version of the Big Ben clock tower on the Parliament building in London (actually Big Ben is the largest of the bells inside, but the name has passed on to the whole tower). The driver said that it was in honor of Queen Victoria. "But it is not big" he explained "so we call it Small Ben."  
When I arrived at Beau Vallon, one of the most famous beaches in the Seychelles, the surf was quite high. The winds had shifted yesterday and in stead of coming from the east as they usually do; there was a strong west wind, which exposed this beach to high surf. Waiting at the same beach area were two young American sailors on shore leave. There is a US navy ship in port at the moment. These two, from Virginia and Kansas, were waiting for two more mates to arrive so they could go deep sea fishing. We chatted for a few minutes while we waited. They were mixing drinks already, and apologized for it. "We're starting a little early" they told me "we've been at sea for 60 days; this is our first leave for that period." I asked if they were staying on their ship. "We are now" one said, "we got kicked out of the Coral Strand for horsing around." The other explained further, "I guess I have to take the blame for that, a friend of mine had just made chief and he was celebrating and decided we should all jump in the pool. He already had his swimsuit on, but I didn't. A couple of friends grabbed me, I had just enough time to throw my wallet to the side when they threw me in the pool. I came out of the pool in my jeans and looked up to see the General Manager standing there. They revoked our right to stay at the resort."
There was a liter of vodka, and one of rum for the four of them; this might be a day they'll never remember....
When the dive shop opened, I signed up for the morning dive. Because the winds had changed, we were going to dive on the other side of the island. There were ten of us diving including the dive master, a slender young Creole woman. It was an eclectic group. There were 2 young South African fellows, a Spanish couple, a British couple, a Frenchman, and two Americans: me and a big American sailor named Dan. We got our gear sorted out and rode in a van to the old port of Victoria. It was a small dive boat and there were swells of 6 to 9 feet (2-3 meters) so it was a rough and wet 15 minute ride out to the dive location at Beacon Island, one of the farthest of the small islands in front of Victoria. We anchored in the lee of the island and were organized, Dan and I would buddy.
This is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks and Dan said they spotted one from the naval ship a few days ago. The whale shark is the largest fish of all. It can grow to 15 meters (around 50 feet) in length and weigh 18 tons. The dive master explained that it's really just luck now. Up until a few years ago, during June to August there would be quite a number of them all at once. Now they are usually alone and they can show up any time anyplace around the island. I hoped that we would get lucky and see one on this dive.
As we went down to about 15 meters, there was a lot of back and forth movement of the water in places even below 10 meters. Visibility was not good, less than 10 meters. The water had been churned up by waves and it was overcast so it wasn't bright. It was a little disappointing, it was not what I'd expected, but they can't control the weather. I decided during the dive I'd rather not meet the whale shark. We wouldn't see him until we got right up to him or him to us, and while they don't eat anything our size (they filter plankton and small fish), they're still really big wild animals and can be dangerous if surprised.
There were lots of fish some quote large, angelfish, wrasses, parrotfish, two lionfish (they're beautiful but have venomous spines). We saw a huge lobster, one of the largest I'd encountered. The French diver later commented that he wished he seen it on his plate. There was quite a nice sea turtle too, but the culmination was the nearly 2 meter (six foot) white tipped shark we came across under a rock ledge right at the end of the dive. He was immobile and we could see him from quite close in. All that could be seen in poor visibility, I can only image what we would have seen had the water been clear.
I decided against going back this afternoon. Conditions just weren't very good. Tomorrow I hope to make a hop over to Praslin Island and maybe La Digue, and the next day I fly out, so I won't dive again on this trip.    I took a local bus back to Victoria, where I had lunch in town, a brochette of fresh snapper and tuna, and then strolled around to take some photos and shoot video. It's doesn't take long to make the grand tour of Victoria, it's quite small, but a pleasant enough place.
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