Finding our feet at Cirkewwa Point

The first day of our trip to Malta has gone well. Cirkewwa is a peninsula on the Northern end of Malta, complete with a busy ferry terminal, carrying cars and passengers to nearby Gozo. Looking at the aerial view on Google Earth was not especially inspiring, but the site came highly recommended. I was impressed as we arrived, as there is a “divers only” slip road, complete with parking. It’s the only place I’ve been with free parking, reserved for divers only (you put your cert card in the car window).

Steps provide an easy entry to a very pleasant reef. There are two wrecks within swimming distance, but for the first dip, we stayed with the reef to get the lie of the land. With excellent visibility, shoals of fish, caves and swim throughs, there was plenty to keep us interested.





Postcard from the Maldives

Well, after over 11 hours in the air and 24 hours of travelling, I’m just back from a liveaboard trip to the far South of the Maldives. Taking in the most Southerly three atolls (that’s a Maldivian word, by the way), we saw a wonderful range of sites and species, in excellent company and well looked after by Maldives Scuba Tours (thanks folks!).

The highlights were the superb unspoiled hard coral reefs, sharks and shoals on the “current points”, but most especially the manta cleaning station site. Here’s a postcard to give a small flavour of the diving. More images to follow, as I reflect on this wonderful trip.



Scotland Road Trip – reluctant return home

Well, every trip has to end. On the journey North, having noticed the wild trout in the river Etive when shooting diver portraits, my buddy and I decided to devote a day to shooting those trout. If we had not seen them on our outbound leg, then there would seem to be little reason to put a macro lens on the camera. It was with some relief that, as I swam through a lovely gully in the rock, I saw a group of juvenile trout in exactly the same spot as last weekend. In the event, I spent a couple of hours watching these fish, switching to a snorkel when I ran out of air. It was quite a special experience to watch these entirely wild fish from such a short distance away.



An interesting hitch-hiker

Shore diving in the clear waters off Clachtoll campsite in NW scotland, I discovered a tiny yellow fish clinging to the snoot of my camera’s flash gun. Showing it to my buddy, it jumped ship and took up residence on his housing. The fish was beautiful but absolutely tiny – only 4-5mm long. It is a strange-looking fish, related to the lump sucker and has a strange name too- the Common Sea Snail (Liparis liparis).

Common Sea Snail (Liparis liparis)
Common Sea Snail (Liparis liparis). Nikon D200 + micro Nikkor 60mm. Single Inon Z240 strobe with snoot.



Scotland Road Trip Day 5

Sometimes, on a photo dive, everything comes together- subject, lighting, technique. Today was just such a day. On a third dive on the same site, several images worked out, which I knew hadn’t quite cut it on the previous dive “just worked” on the second try.

Having found a good pitch on the loch shore, we decided to stay put for the day. It’s certainly true when they say “if you don’t like the weather in Scotland, then wait 10 minutes”; it’s mostly overcast, but occasionally the Sun breaks through or a squall passes over.

The loch water is pretty clear, due in part to the movement of water and abundant coarse white sand. The dives today were a repeat of yesterday, and I followed the cliff wall to its bottom at 30m, though I did not stay long. Even in the weaker light today, the wall looked pretty impressive, encrusted with brittle stars, anemones and other filter feeders. The highlight of the dive though, we’re the enormous red Sea Hares (Aplysia punctata). These giant sea slugs are over 15cm long and take their colour from the kelp they eat. It’s breeding season and many of these hermaphrodites could be seen hard at it…




Scotland Road Trip Day 4

I rose before the Sun (even at 4am it is pretty light already) to photograph the sunrise, but it was cloudy, so I went back to bed. We filled our cylinders first thing, up on the main road, where it was unlikely to cause disturbance.

Today we were looking forward to diving the most Northerly Sea Loch, Eriboll and it was with anticipation we made our way to the first shore entry we had identified, Portnancon. Here a track runs down to a tiny harbour, complete with stone jetty. However, the diving did not live up to the picturesque surroundings, being shallow and very silty.

I deterred, we made a leisurely way around the loch, in glorious sunshine, to the little peninsula known as Ard Neakie. After chatting to a local man gathering cockles on the shore for sale in Scrabster, we parked on the beach. The charts indicated a good drop-off on the Northern end of the almost-an-island.

Indeed, this is what we found and after a long surface swim, we dropped into sand in 15m among a huge shoal of small pollack. Following the sandy slope down, we soon found a cliff wall.

The bed was very silty, but the Vis was good as long as we stayed away from the bottom. The wall is encrusted with brittle stars, tunicates, crabs, squat lobsters and huge Sea Loch Anemones.

We ate a well-earned steak dinner on the shore and hatched a plan to dive the same site again tomorrow.




Scotland Road Trip Day 3

Monday morning began sunny and we made an early start to explore the shore diving possibilities of Kylesku.

We could see the impressive road bridge below us from our camping spot and, sure enough there was what looked like a good spot to get in the water (though involving a bit of a walk down from the car park), but unfortunately the current was tanking through the narrows at that time.

We identified two other spots: one from the slipway in Kylesku village and the other over the rocky shore to the North of the bridge.

The latter was selected for our dive, but it wasn’t a great choice being full of clinging algae and with very fine silt. Still, there were many lovely crinoids and some very large burrowing anemones to see. However, after the clamber back up the rocks following the dive, a repeat wax not on the cards.

By the time we had blown the tanks, it was too late for a dive at the narrows, so we decided to move North. Gordon Rudley’s book “Dive North West Scotland” is quite dated now (written in the 1980s), but we took his advice to find our way to Droman Pier, which is beyond Kinlochbervie and is outside the mouth of Loch Inchard, so counts as a dive in the Atlantic Ocean!

This proved a worthy detour, with terrific visibility over beautiful white sand and huge kelp sturdily gripping the granite rocks. We saw some Cross Jellyfish (not seen in the South, but otherwise similar to moon jellyfish) and an incredibly docile sleepy dogfish.

The evening saw us past Durness and parked up overlooking the most Northerly sea loch- Loch Eriboll.