Diving Conch and Earl of Shaftesbury in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
Dives #13 and #14 in my logbook have just been stamped by a divemaster from Poseidon Diving Centre here in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. This time we visited two awesome ship wreck sites which were just a short 30 minute boat ride away from the coast. It does not happen very often that a dive centre has access to a wreck site so I consider myself lucky to have seen two in one day. The first dive of the day was SS Conch (16-21m depth) and the second one was the Earl of Shaftesbury (12-13m depth).
I have been really looking forward to seeing these sites as both wrecks (at least to me) sounded pretty special. Conch which sunk in 1903 after hitting a rock was one of the first oil tankers in the world and was absolutely massive (over 3000 tonnes in weight). The parts of Conch including its propeller which can be seen in most of the pictures online are scattered over an area of about 100m by 35m so there is quite a lot to explore. Having said that, the ship has degraded over the years so to a newbie wreck diver like myself a lot of those parts were quite difficult to identify.
The site is very 3-dimensional not only because the deepest point is at around 21 meters depth with some parts at 16 meters, but also because there are a lot of passages that you can go through in between these various parts of the wreck without getting yourself into a confined space. This means you can have a great dive even without advanced specialties. For the adventurous, one of the cabins is still intact and can be entered quite easily. The wreck is now home to a variety of marine life including barracudas, angelfish, pufferfish, octopus (all of which we’ve seen!) and others.
The only downsides of the dive I can think of were poor visibility (approx. 10m) and current which sometimes was a bit difficult to overcome. On good days you can get much better visibility and no current though so we were just a bit unlucky this time.
Second dive of the day was a wreck of a sailing ship called the Earl of Shaftesbury which sunk in 1893. This was a very straightforward dive with a maximum depth of 12.6 meters. We saw loads of various bits and pieces resting on the sandy bottom of the ocean which once were part of this 85 meter long, 13 meter wide and 7 meter high ship.
Although we did not penetrate this wreck my divemaster and I poked our heads into the openings of the ship and found loads of fish hiding there. I was also very pleased with the fact I could swim under one of the masts without hitting my head or bumping my tank into it! #PerfectBuoyancy.
Similarly to the Conch dive, the visibility was not particularly great (9 meters maximum only) and the day was cloudy so views appeared a little bit dull in places but I thought it was a great dive anyway.
After about a year from my last dive it was nice to refresh my scuba diving skills here in Sri Lanka and explore two awesome wrecks, the SS Conch and the Earl of Shaftesbury. I really enjoyed my experience as water was warm (29-30 oC), both dives were fun and the sites were only about 10 minutes away from each other which meant we did not have to spend half a day on a boat. Having left at 9am we were back by 1pm, just in time for lunch!
All in all, I would really recommend these two dives to anyone visiting Sri Lanka. If you are interested you can also check out the videos here: Conch and Earl of Shaftesbury.
If you are more into snorkelling, I recommend you check out Snorkelling Hikkaduwa Coral Reef.