On Sunday my iron leg* dive buddy and I went for our first dive of the year in Hong Kong. We joined a full Scuba Monster boat with captain John Ng.
Hong Kong diving — expect all kinds of low vis!
Weather conditions at 9 am at Pak Sha Wan 白沙灣 pier were typical of Hong Kong in spring time, i.e. dense and tenacious fog, but mercifully there was no wind. With 18°C water, you you do not want wind chill to turn your wet gear to ice on your already refrigerated body during your surface interval.
March is about the earliest time of year where you might want to hazard a dive in Hong Kong in a wetsuit — but your thermal protection needs to be adequate. I wore a 5mm suit with an additional 2mm hood vest and a long-sleeved thermal top (Lavacore) underneath which I added for the second dive. If you expect to get a bit chilly on your dives and are doing more than one, my tip would be to keep one dry layer to add on for each subsequent dive. Works for me!
Many local divers claim that visibility improves in winter and early spring; I am not sure if this is consistently the case, but on Sunday at least the visibility reached up to about 6 metres at times which is pretty decent by Hong Kong standards.
Wearing lots of layers, camera optional
What we saw
Jennifer Chu of Scuba Monster explained to me that spring in Hong Kong is also an excellent time to observe juvenile fish and lots of nudibranches. To that end, John took us to two sites, first to the exposed seaward side of Trio Island 大癩痢 and second to Shelter Island 牛尾洲.
Shelter Island in the mist
In the first dive at Trio Island, we dropped down to a gently sloping rocky shelf at around 6-12 metres depth which at first glance seemed fairly barren with just some patches of encrusting corals and colourful sponges, but upon looking more closely revealed many different nudibranches, their sizes ranging from less than a fingertip in length to more hefty garden-slug-sized specimens.
There was some swell on the surface at this first site so we moved back to the aptly named Shelter island for the second dive. My buddy and I descended to around 19 metres to a silty bottom which only appeared in the khaki-coloured gloom moments before we reached it. The vis at that depth was terrible, the kind where you have to stay at arm’s length from each other. Trusting the compass heading, we moved forward and soon came up against a sheer wall of rock where cup corals and whip corals grew. We followed it along and up, until the vis opened out at around 12 metres depth to a fairly dramatic landscape of right angles — vertical slabs and great shelves of rock where strings of silvery rabbitfish grazed and rockfish darted about. When we reached 7 metres, looking up, it was possible to see the underside of the waves crashing against the rocks on the surface and there was a great sense of space that is always a treat when it happens here. We both concluded that it was a great way to begin the season.
Photo gallery — click on the photos for more info
For me, the purpose of this day was to test out my new (well, new for me) Hugyfot housing for my SLR. It has a completely different feel to the compact camera systems I have been using up until now, not to mention the fact that it is humungous. I was experimenting with strobe positioning and both wide angle and macro lenses, so my photographic results were not spectacular. My aim for the year is to get proficient at taking different types of photos with this camera setup — and I’ll be posting my results on this site.
Dive 1: Max depth 13m for 50 min
Dive 2: Max depth 19m for 42 min
*Ask a Cantonese speaker!
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