This summer’s adventures (excluding my time in India) were all based around exploring the natural beauty offered by Devon and Cornwall. The first outing was close to home in Plymbridge Woods - a short journey on the bus followed by a short walk was all that was needed before reaching the wooded area. After navigating this initial part we finally managed to arrive at the main attraction of Plymbridge Woods, the river Plym, which eventually runs out to Plymouth. This was our guide as we ventured through the various fields and forested areas in which you could easily get lost, but luckily it wasn’t too hard to keep on track as many of the paths ran right beside the river. Natural clearings in the woods made for an abundance of riverside photo opportunities with plenty of nature to capture such as dragonflies, flowers and the river itself in all its glory. Many people were jumping into and swimming in the river which looked quite fun but unfortunately we didn’t have swimming costumes so couldn’t join in...maybe we’ll come back!
Our next adventure took us to The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall - a slightly longer journey made even longer by the fact that we had to walk part of the journey in order to get there, but luckily the scenery was quite nice. The gardens are the result of a restoration project of an estate and are one of the most popular botanical gardens in the UK. After spending the day here I can see why, especially for someone that loves the outdoors and photography - it’s a photography haven! Now since the name contains the word ‘gardens’ it obviously has a fair amount of flowers to see, split into numerous sections based on climates around the world. In addition to this there were greenhouses with fruits, such as apricots and grapes, and a vast vegetable garden. Adding to the experience was a section for animals, your standard farm animals; horses, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs but the cutest by far were the newly hatched ducklings - so cute! After covering most of the map we headed for a BBQ lunch followed by Cornish ice cream - delicious! I would definitely recommend this as a day out for anyone who loves the outdoors!
Our final trip was the longest of them all (two hours on the train) taking us to the seaside town of Newquay - known to many as a surfing destination. But we stayed on land and went to visit the aquarium situated pretty much on the beach funnily enough! It was quite small as far as aquariums go but it had its own little surprises - including a glass tunnel that ran under a big tank filled with fish (of course!), rays, sharks and a turtle, but we’ll come back to this later! The first few parts of the aquarium were your usual small tanks with the smaller forms of marine life, before moving onto a section where we found a big octopus and then an amazon-inspired section that featured a tank with a small alligator! We then came across a nursery section where we saw some baby cuttlefish, pipe fish, sharks, rays and some jellies, and eventually reached the tunnel. Moving through the tunnel we could see the majestic creatures calmly swimming around and, after making our way up to the top of the tank, we were greeted by a turtle that kept doing laps of the perimeter. We got some great footage on the GoPro of him/her swimming and popping its head out of the water to take in air for the next lap.
The second time we went to Newquay was to get some diving experience. Although we went during the summer, the water was freezing! The hooded wet suit helped more than we thought it would. Under the water was a little different to the aquarium, nonetheless we witnessed several jellyfish species; Stalked, Lion’s Mane, Blue Lion’s Mane and Compass, some starfish, crabs, mullets, flatfish, and a lot of kelp (which serve as nursing grounds for juvenile fish).
The time I went diving!
Where do I even begin? (My pictures should say it all really!)
I had visited the Maldives in the summer of 2016 in order to attain my first set of diving qualifications. The location for my first set of dives was chosen by my dad (long story!) about a month before I set off to experience this new world. I flew from India, and I must say the difference in scenery from a bird's eye view was breath-taking! The Maldivian atolls looked like white pearls against a contrasting, yet gradually transitioning blue background; to say it was beautiful would be an understatement. At the immigration I had a little glance out the window of the airport and my eyes were filled with blue, blue and more blue (and a few palm trees). Immediately after we were welcomed by our skippers who directed us to our dive boat which ultimately (felt like minutes with the astonishing view) took us to our luxury yacht, which was called “The Maldives Crown”! Yes, we lived on a live-aboard yacht for a week! Just to show off a little - we were welcomed with a very tropical drink and were shown to our rooms in the lower deck. The middle deck contained the Jacuzzi, dining area and a lounge (which became my second room as I got Wi-Fi there)! The upper deck contained a bar and massage facilities, above which was a huge sun deck. The little dive boat was attached to our yacht and when required was able to detach and take us to our dive locations (which are too hard to pronounce or remember)!
Prior to every dive we would have a briefing about the site, wave action, our path of swimming and the organisms we would encounter. This was my first actual dive after my confined water dive in the pool. As I was a beginner, for the first few dives I, as well as some other beginners, were accompanied by several instructors who were guiding us by holding our tanks for us to get used to the waters and overcome our innate mental blocks.
Without going into too much detail about the skills I had to perform (which was in fact quite overwhelming as I had never really jumped into a big ocean before let alone perform funky underwater skills), the overall experience was amazing to say the least. I did manage to overcome a few fears during my last dive and encountered several marine creatures, namely moray eels, manta rays (from a distance), turtles, white tipped coral reef sharks, hundreds of coral reef fish and several others. The best encounter we had was a friendly visit by a baby whale shark who had come to feed in the shallow waters. We got up close and personal with this fantastic beast as we got to snorkel and dive with him/her!
I have dived since then in the UK and I have encountered several organisms I had missed in the Maldives such as various species of jellyfish, benthic starfish, flatfish, crabs and lobsters. But, you’ve got to admit, the bar has been set very high!