Take a bunch of keen underwater photographers to Ponta D'Ouro in Mozambique for an Easter week-end; throw in a rude dive camp manager, and a fast moving moray eel, and you have the perfect recipe for adventure, true Africa style.....
This was our third Bittenbysharks photography trip for 2007, and as usual we had a wonderful group of people along for the ride, all of them keen to learn as much as possible about underwater photography from us during and after the dives.
There was an ecclectic mix of point and shoot compact cameras and DSLR's and so we got to work.
We put the 'less than healthy' accommodations out of our minds, and ignored the fact that the dive camp manager was severely lacking in customer relations skills. Our thoughts were on photography. Nothing phased us: not even the super noisy quad bikes or the non-stop thumping of night club music in the wee hours. This group was focused!!
The Bittenbysharks formula was rule of the day: we ditched the idea of a DM, tied off the buoy line, and worked a smallish area thoroughly with no need to keep moving at the speed of light.
The results were inspiring and Chad, our skipper, a rare gem, suggested we try a little known reef called 'Blacks'. Of course the Bittenbysharks team is always keen to try anything off the beaten track. Decision made, the group decended upon the cleaning station, and found it to be teeming with photographic opportunity. As Chad had promised, there really were more than the usual amount of eels in this one spot.
As fate would have it, we had just bumped into Roger Horrocks that morning, and invited him to join us on our boat, since he had ungraciously been bumped off of his planned dives for the day. Rather liking the Bittenbysharks formula of working one patch of reef for the entire dive, Roger joined us for the dive at 'Blacks' where he opted to freedive (due to the dive camp running out of compressed air!).
Towards the middle of the dive, I (Claudia) had done the rounds with my camera, assisted my (by now seasoned) students, modelled for Roger, and was on my way to Leon to give him a turn with the camera, when I found a black cheeked moray eel particularly keen to come in very close to the lens.I took the shot.....
Black Cheeked Moray seconds before the deed.....
After this lunge at the lens, the eel withdrew into his lair and I decided to hang in there for another shot. This type of behaviour is not unusual -the eel sometimes darting in and out of its crevice. I tried to stay still, the surge was not helping, so I found a piece of dead rock far down from the lair, and used my left hand to steady myself. Looking deeply into the camera's viewfinder to hold focus, I did not see what came next. The eel had disappeared from my field of view only to reappear from of a hole much further away. As fast as lightning, it lunged downwards and bit my left hand! I had flashbacks of another dive not too long ago, where I also had to cover one hand with the other just to stop the bleeding. Green goo oozed and oozed while I immediately made my way to Leon to give him the camera. Assessing the situation in seconds, Leon rounded up the team, while I calmly made to the surface. Roger, having ascended to sip some air, captured the moment at the surface....
Images by Roger Horrocks. Chad arrives with the boat in the background.
Click on image for www.rogerhorrocks.com
Chad efficiently got all the divers on board and we headed in to shore; he arranged for me to get help from the closest thing Ponta D'Ouro has to a doctor: Kevin Watson, an ex medic who has lived in Ponta for 15 years. Sandy, his partner, assisted him in the little operation. It would not have been normal without Leon's occasional quips:"Look, its so cool!!"'A local anaesthetic, 10 stitches, tetanus injection and voltaren injection later, we were on our way, not before showering Kevin and Sandy with our profuse thanks of course!
Back at our unsavoury dwellings, the rain began to pour and we huddled in one room, reviewing images and rehashing the afternoon's exciting events. Looking around me at the dazed group, I was relieved that the eel had chosen me as its victim, instead of one of them. From the sounds of things, that very eel had tried its luck on a few people in our group, before settling on me.
To satisfy our curiousity regarding this unprovoked attack, I grabbed the Reef Life Guide and found on page 77, that our good friends Andrea and Antonella were indeed 'spot on'!
Excerpt from the excellent 'Reef Life' guide, by Andrea and Antonella Ferrari
It certainly rained torrents on Ponta D'Ouro, point of gold, wet playground of the quad bike gangs, during the Easter week-end. The rain meant that a couple of our dives were cancelled. Despite this, our group left satisfied. Their shots had improved tremendously, almost overnight, with consistent coaching from the Bittenbysharks contingent! They had eaten succulent prawns, tasty peri peri chicken; they had taken a lesson in 'how not to run a dive camp', and last but not least, they had experienced high adrenalin adventure!
And after the excitement, we all know to keep our distance from 'ol black cheeks' in future.
Take a shot if you dare, but not too close. Give him a little wink for me, and be on your way!
(The doctor confirmed that Kevin had done a great job with those stitches. There is indeed nerve damage, which may take 6 months to a year to rectify. But look on the bright side, this is not my shooting hand, so no harm done )
CLICK HERE FOR A CLIP OF THE EEL JUST SECONDS BEFORE THE BITE..