Fishy portraits at Pak Lap Tsai 白腊仔

[If you just want to see the photos, scroll down for a gallery]

After two weekends on dry land, I was itching to get back in the water so on Sunday my buddy and I went on a couple of local dives in Hong Kong aboard Scuba Monster again. On this occasion we got to sail on the newly acquired Scuba Monster II, a more functional and spacious boat than their original wooden junk (but the latter has more character!)

It was a cloudy day but the rain held off. We sailed to a beautiful bay on the east side of Sai Kung Country Park called Pak Lap Tsai 白腊仔. In the heart of the Sai Kung Geopark, the bay is surrounded by stunning cliffs with hexagonal volcanic rock structures, natural rock arches and small caves.

plt Land view of Pak Lap Tsai – taken on a different day!

Underwater, the topography is shallow. The centre of the bay has a sandy bottom and a maximum depth of about 8 metres. To the north and south sides of the bay are rocky reefs sloping gently up towards the shore made up of small scattered boulders and the odd bit of encrusting hard coral.

After a few days of heavy rain and thunderstorms, we had our doubts about the visibility but when we got into the water we discovered a very fair 5-6 metres vis, which deteriorated only slightly for the second dive.

This bay is a great place to dive in spring due to the abundance of seaweed. Many kinds of macroalgae grow here and this combined with the sheltered shallow waters of the bay make it an ideal nursery for juvenile fish. This late in May, the large clumps of tall, sargassum-like algae were beginning to turn brown; but still provided a shelter for many little creatures.

20150524pak lap tsai-0585 Juvenile rabbitfish sheltering among the seaweed

The overcast weather cast a dim, even, greenish-blue light. There was only the slightest of swells, and with the water now at a comfortable 25 degrees, the dives were very relaxing. For both dives I stuck to macro shooting and focused on trying to get some good fish portraits, as well as some environmental details to represent the site at this time of year. Here are some of the results:

Photo gallery: click on individual photos for more info

This dive trip was very productive for other divers on board too. Green hairy shrimp and an orange seahorse were among the critters spotted! I was not so lucky but I was very happy to spot the bright yellow goby (see photo gallery above). On other occasions, divers have seen frogfish and a butterfly ray here. Pak Lap Tsai is a very rich site for interesting local species and macro photographers will always find something to keep them happy. In early spring, the tall seaweed and clear waters make for lovely wide-angle shots too.

Dive 1: max depth 8 metres for 64 minutes

Dive 2: max depth 6 metres for 77 minutes

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