Crescent 1 - Maui 0
Published on 2019-09-23 00:23:47
So last month we went on a trip to Maui to hike and dive. Hiking was awesome, the Waihe'e Ridge Trail is a challenging hike but we were lucky enough with a cool breeze and overcast skies and made it to the top in no times. Diving was... meh. Even the famed backside of Molokini was not that impressive. Sure the wall diving is quite nice, but there was not a lot of fish, just a couple of lone sharks and a few dragon nudis. Plus all my pics came out awful. The dive near the coast of the main island was OK, with an inquisitive turtle and a few reels, but really nothing like the lava tubes dives of the Big Island back in May.
Needless to say that once back home I was ready to resume shore diving, but conditions still sucked.
Until this week end.
On Friday, there were reports out that visibility was in the 20ft range (those are good conditions for us!) and I quickly packed my gear on Friday and I was ready to beat the crowd of beach goers the next day. Our dive club had its beach clean up on Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach. We've adopted that beach 25 years ago and our members had been cleaning it since then. That's why, despite a late start, I was at Crescent by 8:30am, ready to go, with two tanks in my trunk in case the conditions proved out to be good.
They were fabulous.
I made it to the beach on the first dive already exhausted as I first forgot my gloves and then forgot to lock my car and had to walk back part of the strenuous climb down the beach twice. Senior moments.
The ocean was mostly flat, with a few treacherous two-footers in-between the one-footers. The water looked pretty clear and you could see the bottom through the waves. That's always a good sign.
After a short 250 yard swim to the end of the reef, I dropped and was greeted with 20-30ft visibility once I figured out that the reason it was not that great was because my mask was a little fogged up. Once cleared, the landscape revealed itself in all its splendor. Water was blue, warm and after a few strokes I located the first kelp patch and spent a good 10 minutes shooting the sunbursts. I love doing that and that's why I dive solo, that's not something you want to impose on a buddy. I don't know that reef as good as others so I usually follow a South-West route in and North-East out (obviously). This time I ended up checking out the outer reef, even though I was sure I was on the inner reef. It was still very nice, with octopus, calico bass, lots of abalone, and tons of bugs and eels. Don't even think of going bug or abalone hunting there, that's a Marine Protected Area and the fine is steep.
Back on shore, I decided to go a second times, because it was so AWESOME. I did not know that I had seen nothing yet.
Walking down the beach, after one trip back to my car which I thought I had left unlocked - again - to find out I hadn't (yes, I know, I'm old), I met another group of SOCDC divers who had just come back from a stellar dive where they were buzzed by 6 sea lions. Wow. Talk about high expectations as I hit the water.
Another 250 yard swim and a couple of divers floating at the surface told me they saw sea lions too. I asked where. "In the kelp forest" they said. Well that reduced it down to like the whole freaking dive site. Anyway, I went down at about the same spot as on the first dive but followed a West-South-West course instead and ended up in a really thick kelp patch I had missed on the first dive. That must be the kelp forest, better be on the lookout for those sea lions!
Now, I have to admit that I love these guys. I even went to the Galapagos to dive with them, not even knowing that the main attraction there was really the whale sharks. I ended up seing more whale sharks on that trip than sea lions, so I had never been able to really clenched my thirst of these funny little guys. Even a few dives in Anacapa, the oil rigs or Catalina, yielded very little of them and I've always been so frustrated that when they finally show up, they're gone in a second.
So I wandered through the kelp forest for a while, shooting more sunbursts on my back, chasing a school of yellow-tail barracudas and then I heard something unusual. Like a little snap. I froze and turned around, just in time to see a sea lion buzz past me at high speed. Ah! Here they are!
I followed it for a few feet, realizing that I was now at the bottom of Seal Rock, an aptly named rock formation that host a small rookery.
And then they came.
Dozens of them.
I was ecstatic. They were everywhere, swimming around me, looking at that weird scuba diver that I am with those big googly eyes, playing with their back flippers like dogs chasing their tails.
IT WAS AWESOME.
I spent the rest of the dive there, shooting video and stills of the raft (that's actually how you call a pack of sea lion, I know, I googled it), hoping that I was not shooting in macro, which I were, for a while at least. Must have been the excitement of finally getting my sea lion fix after all these years!
I shot mostly Tv 1/125s for the sea lions, no flash obviously. I had a strobe light but I only used it for macro as it happened to work better than my internal flash for a reason I have yet to figure out. Sunbursts in the kelp at 1/400s to 1/1000s depending on how defined I wanted the sun rays to be.
So all in all, probably one of the best shore dives ever. Time to prepare for the next one!
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