Benin – January 12, 2012
A helpful soul on Scubaboard.com had posted a link to an article on diving in Benin by Mike Markovina. From the article I knew there was dive operator who had a compressor at Benin port and to ask for Mr. Septime Gnacadja. I drove to the navy section of the port and asked an officer there who directed me to what used to be the fisherman’s section of the port. As luck would have it, Septime was just coming back into the harbor as I was asking for him at the gate. He was very friendly and pleased that I had found out about him from the article as he remembered the two South African divers he had taken for a harbor dive and a dive on an offshore platform on the Nigerian border. He invited me to his office for a soda and agreed to take me diving when the visibility was better two days later. He has a nice facility with shower and toilet. (Dive conditions are supposed to be good between December and March when the Harmattan winds blow from the Sahara, but as in Ivory Coast and Ghana, this year proved to be very rough.)
Septime learned how to dive in Benin and then trained further in Marseille and France. He has a Frenchman working for him, Philippe, who came over from diving in Pointe Noire, Congo Brazzaville and Serte, Libya. He also has a number of Benin divers who came with us, with an armada of spear guns in tow.
We set off in a wooden boat (the RIB mentioned in Markovina’s article still floats in the harbor but they have now upgraded to the larger boat, but the motors were still acting up even on the short run out to the old warf. One of Septime’s divers dove in to tie us to the warf and the pool was declared open. Septime and one of the Benin divers were first in with spear guns. Viz was 2-4 meters at best and I was worried about dodging spearguns and rust spears from the warf, not to mention items from the public rubbish dump—the sea: condoms, plastic bags, tin cans, medicine bottles, packets of laundry detergent, cloth and bits of fishing nets. There were a few sergeant majors and in the current I saw some 1.5 meter sweet lips and groupers and 2 meter long dorado. I was the only one to see these fish so they lived to see another day. Next stop was along a breakwater were viz was even more reduced especially as the tide was going down. Septime and his spear gunning partner had more luck there and also bagged a few moray eels for lunch, which I was invited to try!
Septime runs a cheery operation and I was touched that he was so kind about allowing me to dive with him for free. I will always remember my dive in Benin fondly.