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Mauritius

by Mike Maloney

Mauritius

As the luxurious 4Oft catamaran slowly eased herself off the dockside into the hot Mauritian morning sunshine, her engines softly burbling, I laid back thinking 'this is how all diving should be, no heavy equipment and gear to carry, as it was all provided'. All that was required of Jan and myself was to take our cameras on board.

A little different from the usual club inflatable, carrying it across shingle beaches clad in dry suits etc at Selsey Bill.

Soon, the light balmy wind gently filled the mainsail and we were off for a day's diving in the warm Indian Ocean.

One hours leisurely sail, whilst lying on the deck getting a tan, brought us up to a huge sheer cliff on the west ride of the island of 'Gunners Coin', situated at the north west tip of Mauritius. We anchored in the lee of the island and made ready our cameras. All we then had to do was slip into our basic gear, sit on the deck mattress and adjust the buckles of the equipment that had been gently lifted onto our backs by a member of the crew.

Once in the water, the visibility was in excess of 30 metres at a temperature of 25°C, We could see the sheer rocks dropping down below the surface gradually sloping off into the deep ocean. The underwater terrain here is large boulders and crevices with an abundance of fish life. In the crevices on the point there are brilliantly coloured Sorgonians. One could choose a range of depths, but at 20-24 metres you could take in the whole seascape.

When, too soon, the dive was over, we swam back between the hulls of the catamaran, where our equipment was removed whilst we hung on a line. We then swam to the stern and, once up the ladder, a cold drink awaited us.

After a leisurely lunch, taken on deck, the second dive was carried out close inshore on one of the many reefs.

Another day's diving took us to an area off Trois Beach on a flat sandy bottom. Three wrecks have been sunk here to form artificial reefs, Two of these were large barges sunk approximately six years ago, providing a habitat for many species of fish, including Lion Fish and the greatest number of eels we have ever seen. Visibility here was in the region of 30 metres.

The third wreck, a 50 metre Japanese trawler, was sunk in December 1987. This lies on its port side in 26 metres of water and is in pristine condition. It was very interesting to see how much growth was already forming on it and fish were starting to make it their home.

The Mauritian Underwater Group had this trawler sunk and you can dive on it on the understanding that you leave it as you find it. It is ideal for wreck photography.

Lunch was taken at the Trois Beach Hotel resort and our second dive was on Anchor Reef, where there were many encrusted anchors and baby Lion Fish. Never having encountered Lion Fish so small before we found that we could handle them with gloves, making them ideal photographic subjects.

We dived with Kevin Cock who runs Paradise Diving out of Grand Bay and have no hesitation in recommending the dive concern for its equipment, organisation, dive planning and friendliness of everyone, which were all first class. Kevin is a three star NAUI Instructor and his whole attitude and experience reflects this, The cost of diving is approximately £13 per dive including all equipment, which is in excellent condition. Paradise Diving can also arrange accommodation of your choice ranging from 5-Star hotels to bungalows all situated in and around Grand Bay. Their address is Paradise Diving (Pty) Ltd, Route Royals, Grand Baie, Mauritius. Tel. 038 296.

Also whilst in Mauritius we were able to dive with two well-known Marine Archaeologists, Jean Michel and Jan Arnim, who have mounted a superb exhibition depicting the loss of HMS Strius, which foundered In a battle between the English and French in 1810, and its subsequent discovery and excavation. The wreck is well broken up but easily recognisable as a Man-of-War. Huge timbers and cannon are everywhere. She lies on a sandy sloping bank some 15 metres on the top and 29 metres at the bottom.

If you do visit this beautiful island in the Indian Ocean, try and arrange a dive trip to see this relic of the battle, I promise you will not be disappointed.


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