After a great night last night bringing in the New Year on the boat and watching Willo trying to match the fireworks in town with his own brave display, we are off to Gran Canaria. We stopped right at the bottom of Fuerteventura for a quick swim and a little rest before making the seven hour crossing to the next island. Fuerteventura is very different topographically to Lanzarote, with large swathes of sandy brown landscape and hardly a tree on the whole island.
It was a beautiful day today. The kids spent the whole morning on the water, wake boarding and water skiing. This afternoon we went for a snorkel along the harbour wall and saw loads of fish, even a barracuda. The visibility is excellent and once I got over the shock of the cold I really enjoyed it.
This marina is great for the kids. The water is calm and we can swim straight off the back of the boat; there’s not many marinas you can do that. The town is total tourist-ville though, plenty of places to get a proper English fry-up breakfast for €3. It’s great for people watching, but not much else. We’re staying here for another day of fun and water frolicking before heading off to the next stop.
We left Lanzarote this morning to a fine 15-20 knot breeze on the port beam, and beam reached most of the way down the island of Fuerteventura to the marina at Barcelo Castillo, a beautiful sheltered harbour with a wide beach and shallow calm water for the kids to play in. I jumped in and it was so cold I couldn’t even put my head underwater. Isaac was in for at least an hour putting me firmly to shame.
The more I see of Lanzarote, the more I love it, and today we drove all over the island so I got a good opportunity to see a lot of it. Up in the north the topography is similar but the black sand fields are filled with green and the plants along the coast are plentiful. We visited the lava tunnels at Cueva de los Verdes which were quite beautiful, stretching for a length of over six kilometres about fifty meters under the surface. Then on to the Jardin de Cactus and a great paella and tapas lunch at the very north of the island in the town of Orzola.
We drove back along the west coast through Haria with it’s winding zig zag road and spectacular views. I finally managed to get the quad in the air and shot some video as well as some panoramas. I have to come back here and spend a week flying. It is quite wonderful.
Christmas Day was a long one. Isaac was up at 3am to open his presents, but wasn’t allowed to until 6. We had brunch at The Westin Hotel, along with 800 other expats. The food was excellent and extremely well organised. We didn’t have to queue for anything and the turkey was superb. We had to stay awake as we flew at 2am in the morning for Madrid, then onto Lanzarote arriving on the boat just after lunch and slightly knackered.
Today after a leisurely breakfast we drove all over the lower half of the island, going to the National Park at Timanfaya where we took a coach tour of the laval eruption that took place in the 1700’s. In order to preserve the integrity of the whole area you are not allowed to walk on the lava and are restricted to the coach for the tour, which is great for the environment, but not good for taking photos.
We followed this with a drive around the vineyards at La Geria, after a lunch of goat stew at an excellent local restaurant.
The island of Lanzarote is very stark with little vegetation but quite beautiful. I haven’t seen anything like it, except maybe the Atacama Desert in Chile. The fields are all planted in black soil. The locals use a semi circular wall around the plants to protect them from the trade winds and this also helps to retain the scant moisture that they receive from sporadic rain and morning dew. This creates magical geometric patterns in the landscape which I am itching to photograph from the air, but the wind was very strong today and that stopped me from flying. Hopefully it will die down a little and I can fly tomorrow as this place is screaming to be shot from above.
We went to dive Blue Corner this morning but the current was running so hard the mooring was about a meter under water, so we went around to Turtle Cove and cruised along the wall in no current at all. The rest of the day was spent shooting turtles in ambient light on Dexter’s Wall and the most amazing lettuce coral patch on Fairyland. This was the last day of diving and really rounded out a great trip; not every dive was great for photography, but it was certainly great for diving and although we are all underwater photographers, we have to love diving to be under the water in the first place. We have an off gassing day tomorrow and hopefully the weather will allow us to fly for the last time on the trip.
In the morning we went across to Jellyfish Lake and whilst the others went in with their cameras, Andy and I flew the drones and captured some scenic panoramas in the beautiful early morning light.
We took off the second dive to go exploring around the island of Peleliu and visited the WWII battlefield of Bloody Nose Ridge. It took us ten minutes to climb to the top of the ridge. It took the marines 73 days to accomplish the same thing, which gives you an idea of how fierce the fighting was in the most atrocious of conditions. We were bathed in sweat in a couple of minutes and I can’t imagine how it would have been to live like that in full battledress with all your kit for two months whilst fighting for your life.
On the first two dives of the day I saw four mantas, loads of sharks, napoleon wrasse, turtles, schools of jacks, and countless other deep sea wonders without taking a single photo. It was very much a fantastic dive experience, not a photographic one. When the others dived Dexter’s Wall in the afternoon, I took a dive off and flew the Phantom over Blue Corner. It was a beautiful clear sunny day, no wind and white puffy clouds; no other boats to disturb the view except for ours.
Another great day of diving today. We tried to dive Ulong Channel on an incoming current but it changed mid dive so we all turned around and swam back out. I crossed over to the reef area which is where I wanted to dive in the first place as the hard coral garden there is quite lovely in shallow water and full sun. Diego led me to a ball of jacks and I had the whole school to myself for half an hour, hanging at five meters depth with very little current while the jacks formed a perfect ball. I love well ordered fish and these complied in an excellent manner. I shot with the magic filter and no strobe so the reef was balanced with the fish and not having strobe on grey shiny fish means they are all exposed without blowing out.
Straight after diving yesterday we were offloaded onto the Solitude, an old Japanese research vessel now beautifully restored as a live aboard dive boat. There are more crew than divers with a large and spacious dive deck and camera room .
First dive of the day was the wreck of the Iro, a WWII Japanese vessel sunk in 1944. It is incredibly encrusted with masses of hard corals, more than I have seen on a wreck before. I shot quite a lot of available light images instead of strobe as the Nikon D4 is an extremely capable camera for this sort of photography, even though it was quite deep and dark at 16 meters.
We then dived Chandelier Caves which I have never seen before, and found very challenging photographically. It is very dark with stalactites hanging down into the water. For some inexplicable reason I forgot everything I have known for years about shooting underwater in low light conditions, and I struggled because of it. Of course I remembered it all when I got back onto the skiff after 90 minutes of blatting about to little avail.