Diving St Helena: Country 141
This week’s post comes courtesy of guest blogger, Ceri Sansom
When Karin Sinniger came to St Helena in the South Atlantic, it was to dive somewhere new and challenging to reach. And she is good at that, as this is her 141st country. That makes her a world record holder. And very down to earth she is too. Where she could have enthused about her experiences, she and her buddy were far more interested in hearing about what St Helena had to offer and get into the water to see it.
St Helena has a lot to offer, from wreck dives, rocky reefs with caves and areas of boulders to cobbles and sand. Each is its own habitat, each worth exploring and all within easy reach of the wharf in Jamestown, some even within snorkelling distance. The marine life is abundant and much of it unique. St Helena’s isolation has resulted in ten endemic species of fish (only found around St Helena), with a further 16 that are only found around St Helena and Ascension. Explorers still come and find new marine species; St Helena is an island ripe for discovery.
Then there are the larger and migratory species that are worth taking in. There are three types of dolphins around the island; there are numerous pantropical spotted dolphins, more elusive rough toothed dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Pantropical dolphins can often be seen leaping within easy reach by boat from James Bay in their hundreds. Bottlenose dolphins chase flying fish onto the wharf between July and September. Humpback whales come to calf between June and December, and although it is not possible to dive with these creatures, to spend time in a boat around them is extraordinary. The biggest fish in the ocean, Whale Sharks, come here to mate between November and February and snorkelling with them is a truly exhilarating experience. This is an exciting discovery and part of a research project between the SHG Marine Conservation Team and Georgia Aquarium, USA. Green and hawksbill turtles are around the island now and are often spotted at the wharf steps. This year has seen the exciting development of Green Turtles nesting at Sandy Bay where the beach is now big enough for the first time in some years.
Sea temperatures vary from 19 to 25oC (66 to 75oF) and visibility can be up to 30m. Dives vary between 12 and 30m+ (40 to 130 feet) and offer a range of opportunities. However, if you dive here there are local laws to abide by including no wreck penetration.
So, to Karin Sinniger’s dive; a double dive was planned, but had to be rescheduled due to difficult weather bringing the MV Ortelius in late, but there was still a window of opportunity to squeeze a single dive in, so it needed to be a good one.
With a full RIB, including other visitors from the cruise ships, we headed out to Bennett’s Point. On the short trip out to the dive site it was clear that Karin enjoyed her diving and liked the low key camaraderie. The dive started wonderfully as before even descending a devil ray came over to visit us. These are beautiful creatures, that despite their intimidating shape, are some of the most restful and playful creatures here. They are close in shore at this time of year and there have been frequent sightings. They enjoy playing in scuba divers’ bubbles and can stay with dive groups for half an hour on a good day. The rest of the dive was going to be hard to beat. In the sun dappled water we investigated the caves and bolder terrain finding many of the endemic species on the way. The fish were plentiful and to complete the experience another devil ray came to pass us.
It was a great dive and easily enough to hold anyone’s attention for an hour. It must have been good as Karin, renowned for going to new places, is planning a return trip shortly, when the airport opens in early 2016 so she can thoroughly investigate the whole island.
With thanks to:
Karin Sinniger for sharing the experience. Read more about her adventures here.
Mark Stevenson for his great photos and for allowing us to use them. If you want to find more about St Helena dive sites and his beautiful photos go to Into The Blue.
Ceri Sansom has lived in St Helena for 18 months with her family. She is an environmental consultant and works as Climate Change and Pollution Officer for St Helena Government. During her time on island she has remembered she enjoys walking and photography and discovered she loves diving and blogging. To find out more about her experiences click here.