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Atlantic Manta Mobulae

ISSUE 7 ARCHIVE - THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING A DIVEBUM

Joe Dallison

Having worked as a Professional Dive Bum (otherwise known as a PADI Instructor), for a number of years I often find it difficult at times to get a grip on reality. It just isn't a normal type of existence, living out of a backpack in remote places, dealing with locals, dealing with tourists day in, day out and spending hundreds of hours every year underwater. All in all it is a fantastic lifestyle that I can heartily recommend, even if it is not great for your general health... especially your ears and liver (one of these is a diving related issue... and the other is work related... come on, entertaining guests is all part of the job!).
Aquamarine Silver
Atlantic Sunset As I think back over the time, I realise that I have had some amazing opportunities. One of these cropped up close to a year ago whilst my partner Karin and I were Dive Guides aboard Nautilus 2, a live aboard in the beautiful Maldives. Whilst socialising with a couple of the guests we found out that they had a yacht called Philippides 3, which at that moment was moored up in the Caribbean. After a bit more chat and a little bit more social lubricant (beer), they casually mentioned that they wanted to sail their boat back across the Atlantic to its berth in the Algarve, Portugal. On the way they would pass Bermuda and spend a couple of weeks in the Azores Islands and possibly do some diving. But alas they needed a couple of crew to come on for free and help them out with sailing, crewing etc. Did we know anyone? To say our answer wasn't quick is a bit like saying that all new PADI Instructors deserve their rating and should be employed immediately (I'm now a dive centre owner, can you tell?).
More Atlantic Manta Mobulae So after finishing up a gruelling season in the Maldives, we winged our way across to Antigua in the Caribbean to meet up with our new friends and their very spanky and luxurious yacht. For those of you who know a bit about sailing, their boat is a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey. It is completely amazing to see how this thing is decked out for complete selfsufficiency including generators, desalination plant, galley and more. I have to say I love the sea and being on it in this 51 foot long yacht was like a dream come true. On the 5th of June 2008 we left Antigua with 936 nautical miles to go to reach Bermuda.
Nautilus Lifeline
A boat Averaging 5.4 knots we reached Bermuda in 7 days, and after a few action packed days taking in the sights and sounds, we found ourselves back out on an empty sea on the way to the Azores Islands. Being alone on the sea with only the sound of the water rushing past the boat, the wind, and the clinking of the ropes and shackles of the sails is an amazing and addictive experience. I can fully see why people start doing it and don't want to stop. I suppose for me it is a similar experience I had when I first started diving... I didn't want to do anything else (as my parents have reminded me many times... I haven't done anything else!).

13 days of unlimited horizon, besides the odd container ship, can start to do funny things to your mind. What am I talking about?... It was the 13 days without alcohol that was doing funny things to my mind! Our skipper, Chris, is a very casual guy but he does have one rule, whilst underway Philippides 3 is a dry boat. I can understand why. Doing a watch is a very responsible thing and you can imagine what would happen if people were getting boozed up and falling asleep at the wheel! This leg of the trip was absolutely mind blowing with sightings of spotted atlantic dolphin, flying fish and shearwater birds following the boat. One day we even had a pod of orcas come past. I was so excited I couldn't hold the video camera still enough to get any decent footage! These amazing, powerful creatures with dorsal fins standing higher than a man filled me with awe!
Atlantic Manta Mobulae plus Brad Finally we arrived in the Azores, approaching these beautiful Islands early in the morning was something I will never forget. I was excited for a couple of reasons: dry land and the opportunity to do some diving. The island we landed on was called Faial and the main town is called Horta. I learnt that this place was a Mecca for yachties as it is a stop on the Atlantic crossing. I felt that I was imposing, as I can't really call my self a diehard sailor. On the pavement down the main marina are some amazing paintings that sailors have put there over the years to commemorate their accomplishment and I was proud to do a painting for us and Philippides 3.

After asking around about diving we were finally put in contact with Norberto from the aptly named Norberto Diving. This diminutive man, who looked more like Jesus than a dive guide, came highly recommended by everyone we met. After chatting with Norberto we decided to charter his boat to take us out to a spot called the Princess Alice Bank. We had by chance heard of this solitary pinnacle that is situated 80 km away from the nearest land. Norberto told us that he only goes out there a few times a year as it is expensive ($200 each person for the day!) and the weather has to be perfect. It took 3 hours to get out there and another half hour to put an anchor right onto the pinnacle. Starting at 30m and washed by the full force of the Atlantic currents this is a tricky dive and I was glad that everyone doing it was an experienced diver. Pulling ourselves down the line we arrived on the top of the pinnacle. The water temp was chilly at 16 degrees but the amount of fish life was incredible with schools of Amber Jacks and a massive school of barracuda swirling above us. Before we knew it, it was time to head back up the line and this is when the real show began. Suddenly out of nowhere, looking like a squadron of tan coloured stealth bombers, came 20 atlantic manta mobulaes! These things are huge with a wingspan of around 3m. We took a good 25 minutes to go up the line and they continually circled us. What a photo opportunity! Once back on the surface they stayed with us and all we had to do was hold onto a line off the back of the boat (the current had really picked up by now) and they were continually buzzing us, sometimes within touching distance. After a surface interval the second dive was almost a carbon copy of the first.
Nautilus Lifeline
Finally we arrived in the Azores, approaching these beautiful Islands early in the morning was something I will never forget. I was excited for a couple of reasons: dry land and the opportunity to do some diving. The island we landed on was called Faial and the main town is called Horta. I learnt that this place was a Mecca for yachties as it is a stop on the Atlantic crossing. I felt that I was imposing, as I can't really call my self a diehard sailor. On the pavement down the main marina are some amazing paintings that sailors have put there over the years to commemorate their accomplishment and I was proud to do a painting for us and Philippides 3.

After asking around about diving we were finally put in contact with Norberto from the aptly named Norberto Diving. This diminutive man, who looked more like Jesus than a dive guide, came highly recommended by everyone we met. After chatting with Norberto we decided to charter his boat to take us out to a spot called the Princess Alice Bank. We had by chance heard of this solitary pinnacle that is situated 80 km away from the nearest land. Norberto told us that he only goes out there a few times a year as it is expensive ($200 each person for the day!) and the weather has to be perfect. It took 3 hours to get out there and another half hour to put an anchor right onto the pinnacle. Starting at 30m and washed by the full force of the Atlantic currents this is a tricky dive and I was glad that everyone doing it was an experienced diver. Pulling ourselves down the line we arrived on the top of the pinnacle. The water temp was chilly at 16 degrees but the amount of fish life was incredible with schools of Amber Jacks and a massive school of barracuda swirling above us. Before we knew it, it was time to head back up the line and this is when the real show began. Suddenly out of nowhere, looking like a squadron of tan coloured stealth bombers, came 20 atlantic manta mobulaes! These things are huge with a wingspan of around 3m. We took a good 25 minutes to go up the line and they continually circled us. What a photo opportunity! Once back on the surface they stayed with us and all we had to do was hold onto a line off the back of the boat (the current had really picked up by now) and they were continually buzzing us, sometimes within touching distance. After a surface interval the second dive was almost a carbon copy of the first.

Before this trip I hadn't heard of atlantic manta mobulae and I just felt so privileged to have witnessed this spectacle. They almost seemed happy to see us. Why did they come so close and interact with us in such a way? Is it because its such a remote location and they don't feel threatened by humans? Who knows, all I know is that it was one of the best days diving I have ever done and made even sweeter by the fact I didn't really know what to expect.

We spent the next couple of weeks touring these jewel like islands in the middle of the atlantic. Along the way we met lots of fantastic locals and learnt about the history of whaling that has shaped the islands and their culture. Whilst sailing between the islands we were lucky enough to see sperm whales spy hopping right next to the boat. This is when they literally stick their massive heads out of the water to look at you! Spine tingling stuff.
Dive Worldwide
Eventually it came time to leave for the final leg of the journey, Azores to Portugal. As we sailed away from the islands I realised, not for the first time in my travels, that we live on an amazing planet. I have been travelling the globe for almost 10 years non-stop working in diving and I can't think of a better way to have spent that time. I am broke. I have seen my family only a handful of times in these years but I wouldn't trade it in for anything... nor would they I imagine! Divers are a bit like surfers, always looking for that perfect wave. Who knows where the next amazing dive will take place?

Nearest recompression chamber
Hopsital da Hota, Azures
Tel: +351 292 200 100

Joe and Karin now own and run Oxygene Cranleigh Dive Centre in Surrey. The centre is a 5 star PADI Centre and has a modern showroom with equipment from all the reputable manufacturers. They have an active Dive Society that does quality UK diving. They still try and get out overseas whenever possible, escorting divers to the Red Sea and elsewhere... still looking for that perfect dive!
Dive Worldwide PNG

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