Text & Photos - David Oldale
I made a call to Monarch Airlines and was booked out of London Luton on the afternoon flight of the 27th. September for just one-week – there was no doubt I would be busy – weather permitting! I should mention that whenever I can I always book with Monarch Airlines – such is the service so–good! It is a fact that should I not be able to book with Monarch Scheduled to Tenerife due to the flights being full – I would put off travelling until I could get on-board. My flight as usual departed bang on time – I had priority check-in and boarding with a very comfortable massive-leg-room seat in row two – it is well worth paying that extra few pounds for the upgrade. And with a hand baggage allowance of 10-kilos (for all passengers) my underwater camera equipment at 8-kilos was stowed safe, without any problem in the overhead locker. The just over 4 hour flight seemed to go quickly, no doubt aided by a good (up-to-date) in-flight movie and music channels with, a good menu of very palatable food and a never-ending bar and snack service – delivered always with a smile!
My first few days in Tenerife was spent – diving with old friends and the staff of Holiday Diver Magazine from the Los Gigantes Diving Centre – and yes the weather was absolutely perfect with a flat-calm ocean, a cloudless blue sky and a temperature that would hit 34°C on most days. Out on the dive-boat – travelling to and from locations it would be the norm to see Dolphins gliding from the surface to the depths and then back again – this really was the life!
Although I was a regular diving-traveller to Tenerife (at up to 3-times a year for the last 8-years) I had never heard of diving with the friendly resident Turtles of El Puertito. However, whenever I spoke to many of the local divers and dive centre instructors – all seemed to have had the pleasure of this particular dive but – and it was a big but! The surface-swim from shore to reach this very special location was to say the least – a bloody long way and with no dive centres close by, only a very few (if any) would take their dive boats there on a regular basis! Once again there is a however – at Holiday Diver we have 3-underwater scooters so, our journey to and from the site could be undertaken without any problem.
The dive – mid-afternoon on the Thursday we (that is Paul, Sheila and myself) travelled down by car to the small, quiet, sandy-bay of El Puertito. On arrival I noticed a group of divers exiting the water – my initial thought was one of some disappointment (thinking that they had been with the Turtles and that we would see nothing of them on that day)! However, Sheila managed to earwig on their conversation – it transpired that they had just been into the shallows of the bay for a training dive. I did breathe a little easier! Whilst it may on the outset appear that my attitude would seem to be somewhat selfish, you must take into account that I had travelled to Tenerife just for this one dive in the slim hope of obtaining the pictures and story for Holiday Diver. Whilst many of my readers will no doubt be thinking – ‘why is this guy making so much about diving with Turtles, especially as he was diving with one off Kas in Turkey just a few weeks before?’ (See issue 9). There was one thing I hadn’t mentioned – I had been informed that the Turtles of El Puertito had learned to breathe from divers exhaled bubbles when the occasion arose (rather than make the short trip to the surface – lazy or what!). Now this was something I just had to witness!
At the last minute it was decided that Paul would remain behind for surface cover and not dive – as I have already mentioned the dive did involve a very long surface swim to the location. We also had decided that it would be easier to take just the one underwater scooter due to the amount of camera equipment I was carrying. Sheila would be at the controls of the scooter whilst I would be tethered to it by a 3-metre nylon-strap that was loosely-hooked onto one of the ‘D’ rings on my BCD. In practice everything worked fine. The only other addition was – a few Sprats (bought from a local Supermarket) to be used as attractor-bait and placed in a plastic-bag. I surmised rightly or wrongly at the time, that we would need all the help we could get!
Halfway out of the bay my feelings were that there was no way that I could have completed the surface swim to the dive site without the aid of Sheila’s scooter or a boat – hey guys I’m getting old! Sheila manoeuvred our way around the many anchored small boats towards the right hand side of the bay and around the low rocky headland that led us into another bay. After we had cleared the rocks the seabed beneath us gently sloped from 3-metres down to an estimated 6-metres. It was here that we dived to follow the slope over a sand and boulder-strewn area, which after some 8-minutes of gentle finning led us into an underwater valley composed of grey, wave-actioned volcanic rock to a depth of 10-metres. I readied the camera – just in case! After ten more minutes of cruising the valley to a maximum depth of 14-metres I was considering that this just wasn’t going to be our day! Whilst there were many shoals of small fish around plus – a single inquisitive metre long Yellow-tail Barracuda (who ventured as close as 3-metres) there was no sign of the Turtles. We cruised the valley back in the direction we had come and then back again and…again. By this time I knew we were on fruitless mission. What’s that saying – Oh ye of little faith!
Was it Sheila or was it me that spotted the movement first – to tell you the truth I just can’t remember, but all at once it seemed to appear from nowhere – a magnificent giant of Green Turtle’s. In it came, first zooming over my head to then home in on Sheila (the person who had the bag of fish-chum). After giving us both the once-over at very close quarters it decided to give the underwater-scooter a very close inspection plus – a nibble or two! Now here was something most interesting and obviously something not encountered before. How glad I was that the flash and camera batteries were fully charged as I was taking pictures like there was no tomorrow but… I had a problem – I was shooting in RAW on a slow SD Card and it seemed to take an age for the image to load onto the card. The way it seemed best was to keep the image centred on the LCD screen after pressing the shutter release. This seemed to work well but I was losing a few great shots due to the delay (I now have an ultra-fast SD Card) – problem solved!
By now our extremely friendly male Green Turtle had transferred his attentions from Sheila’s underwater scooter to the bag containing the small fish and was nibbling at it. I thought ‘hold on big guy, Sheila’s trying to open it as fast as she can.’ With a Sprat taken out, Sheila held it towards the mouth of the impatient Turtle. Now this guy was not in any way backward in coming forward, as he took the Sprat from Sheila’s fingers as I took the shot – WOW! The fish was held for a second in its jaws before being crunched in half and then munched down. Now it was time to say ‘Thanks human-female – for my snack’ as the Turtle came close to Sheila for a nuzzle. If it weren’t for the images I was recording I wouldn’t believe now what I had actually witnessed as – the Turtle presented its chin just above my dive buddies hand for a gentle stroke! It then dipped its head as if to say ‘right, now you will stroke the top of my head.’ Sheila complied. Then amazingly it remained stationary in front of Sheila to present different parts of its body to be petted – from its underbelly to shell and then – each flipper in turn. After this scenario it majestically glided to the surface to take a breath and then back down – to me, where it presented all its bits for a pett! I felt at the time that we should name it ‘Rover’ and wondered if it would bark!
Glancing to my left I noted that the Barracuda had returned – no doubt attracted by the Turtle’s feed. This time however it came in close – very, very close. With the last Sprat fed and a number of cruise-bys the Turtle glided off to pastures new – or so I thought. Now what was the hand signal for – WOW, that was some experience – an experience of a lifetime!
I shut down the camera and hitched up to Sheila’s scooter for the smooth ride-back (underwater) as we had oodles of air remaining. Five minutes later I was fumbling for the camera, switching on and tugging like hell on my tow-line – our friend had returned! He soared over my head towards Sheila. This time he nudged her head with his to let her know he was back again and wanted to play some more. And then it happened – after cruising around with Sheila for a few minutes he headed for me, approaching close just as I had exhaled. As the bubbles left my regulator he opened his mouth and… took a breath from my exhaled air to then – gently glide off into the distant blue…
With me hitched up once again we resumed our journey back towards the small sandy bay of El Puertito. Now where was our shore based surface cover? After some few minutes we located Paul – relaxing in – a local bar overlooking the bay with a Coke to hand. ‘Did you see any Turtles?’ He enquired.
Our combined reply, ‘no, a complete waste of time!’ But our grinning faces soon gave the game away…
The Turtles of El Puertito – Although I was initially told of two Green Turtles resident in the El Puertito area. It seems that this information was inaccurate as – on a dive 2-day’s prior to ours, four Turtles presented themselves to a small party of divers – at one time. It also transpired (from conversations) that the Turtle we encountered was the largest of the group. It also seems likely that one of the other Turtles is perhaps one that was rescued (at sea) by local fishermen when it was found injured and drifting on the surface. They transported the Turtle to shore where it was treated by a local vet before being returned (after recovering) to the ocean at - El Puertito where it now resides with its mates!
GETTING THERE: ‘Monarch Scheduled’ operates an excellent service from London Luton/Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester to Tenerife (South) Airport. Luggage allowance 20 kilos per bag and is charged at £7-99 each way. So in theory, you can take as much dive equipment as you like, as long it weighs 20 kilos or less in each bag and are prepared to pay the £7-99 for each bag each way – booked in advance. You are allowed 10 kilos of FREE hand baggage. Web: www.monarch.co.uk Tel: 0871 225 3884
DIVING: To dive with the Turtles of El Puertito contact David or Yvonne at:- Aqua Tenerife Diving, Arona, Tenerife. Because of the distance involved by surface swim it is very much advised that this be a boat dive – due to the distance involved in bringing the boat from Las Galletes to El Puertito there is an extra charge for this service which is dependant on the number of divers who wish to complete this dive.
Please Note: That this is THE DIVE of a lifetime and one not to be missed!
ACCOMMODATION/COMPLETE HOLIDAY: For accommodation in Tenerife close to the Diving Centre contact: www.monarchhotels.co.uk or for a complete package holiday contact: www.monarchholidays.co.uk Tel: 0871 423 8642. You can also contact Monarch Holidays to book just a flight.
Please note: Monarch Holidays operate to various destinations throughout the World including the Maldives, Red Sea, Turkey, Malta and Caribbean.
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