Its Spring Bank Holiday and that means one thing.....Babbacombe!

We come down to Babbacombe every spring bank holiday and have done for a few years, for a break and some 'different' diving

The vis, well there's a thing its been a bit all over, from 4m to very poor, everything has flattened off today (03/06) but it seems divers will be more plentiful than plankton!

This is probably going to be a bit boring for regulars but here we go, the first thing that was very noticeable this year is that the sea conditions seem much further 'forward' than other years I have been here. Usually when I am here you have the back end of cuttlefish spawning, the boulder area has kelp for sure but none of the seasonal weed that was carpeting the site this year, oh and mackerel are close to shore so the pier has guys fishing 24/7. This doesn't mean things were terrible, rather that the large numbers of lost fishing weights were hidden from sight and that there was more lost line festooned around the area.

Before my first dive I was sitting for a while and noticed a DSMB way over from the usual dive area, it turns out that 'Blue Planet' are filming a new series and they had a diver with camera down there filming the spider crabs 'aggregating' which they do every year. It was a bit disconcerting but fortunately my concerns about either lost gear or 'dead' diver were unfounded.

One of the new features is a small cairn of rocks, bricks and metal posts that has been made by divers and sits about due North of the pier end just at the bottom of the slope, I am not sure why this has been built, maybe it is a mark to say 'Beyond here be Anglers', but one thing for certain is that various bennies and gobies have taken up residence and when I get my shots downloaded and titivated there look to be some good images of resident Tompot Blennies.

With everything being forward this means that the mackerel food is also inshore, in this case its lesser sandals and the large shoal stretched from the lee side of Babbacombe Breakwater as far as you could see, certainly there is plenty of food for the various predators, another shot I have is of an anemone eating a sandal, this one begs lots of 'how' questions but it is an interesting shot and guess that the fish was dead or dying and just dropped within reach of the anemone.

The other thing with so many mackerel being inshore is that 'Sammy the Seal' is getting quite, I am struggling to think of a suitable word, not aggressive, maybe assertive with a touch of aggression? It really isn't the seals fault but he has obviously been stealing fish that anglers are reeling in as is obvious by the mackerel feather that he was sporting on the right side of his neck. Seals 'steal' fish thats a given it just doesn't sit right that they get tangled in feathers but its an occupational risk and by the end of my few days the hook had rusted out. This attitude around humans, yup attitude works, means that the usual fin nipping and pulling has shifted to nipping legs and there was a minor issue where there was a nip that drew blood through a wet-suit.

I would say please follow the instructions and allow the seal to initiate any underwater contact and don't feed it, the seal is a wild animal and not a domesticated sea-dog!

Speaking to people down here they tell me that there was a large plankton bloom not so long ago and one of the remnants that I spotted, and got photos of, was a huge sea-gooseberry. Normally these animals are the size of gooseberries hence the name but this one was 'fist' size and seemed much more mobile that the usual smaller animals, it was odd as it was the only one I saw and I had a chance to have a good close look and apart from the pinkish 'lines' which run the length of the animal it was totally clear. I am not sure if this meant that it had no plankton type food in its gullet or that it gets it food from a smaller source or even that it 'photo-synthesises', some animals do you know? I have photos in one of my albums of 'solar powered' nudibranchs, these animals eat chlorophyll when 'small' and store on their backs and when they have a critical mass there mouthes just 'heal up' and they survive on the sugars produced by the chlorophyll.

Although I didn't dive with it there was a bloody big basking shark in the bay, fortunately it was only on the surface a reasonable distance from Oddicombe Bay so no chance of any 'Shark' headlines in the Sun, it was a damn big lump and swam maybe twenty yards before taking off leaving a huge commotion on the surface. There was no obvious reason for the change of speed but I guess it was something underwater.

With all of the green 'sea lettuce' it was difficult spotting any crabs or lobsters so I spent most of my time looking at fish and there were lots of different species, some that I recognised, Ballan and Cuckoo Wrasse, Topmost and a huge amount of bennies and gobies that being honest I would need a book to identify, Pouting, Pollack, Dragonets although none in breeding trim and finally an absence of flatfish and dogfish/cat-sharks. Its the latter thats a bit of a surprise as usually there are loads about, maybe they are under the weed canopy during the day?

I have another day left so will be in again and this time spending time looking for the blue-shrimps that live on snake-locks anemones, I am told that they are here and have some idea where to dive, its just going to be a case of moving from rock to rock, from anemone to anemone until I spot one and then try for a photograph. If they are as camera loving as the 'sexy shrimps*' you get on anemones in warmer climes then I should get some good shots.

With that in mind have a good weekend, if you are at Babbacombe I have already picked up a couple of the Teign Diving Centre Jubilee Rocks but there are another eighteen to go at, stay safe and enjoy the diving!

Dive safe


Weight this break - 10.0 kg

Weight this year - 397.6 kg

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