Newer dives

Diving in Truk Lagoon – October 2006

 

We got a great price for the trip.  $2500 each for 15 dives, 8 nights and 9 days on Truk and a night in Guam on the way back.  Airfares return Cairns - Sydney were $440.  Food and drinks on Truk $400 per person.  We shared a Nitrox tank between 2 of us to increase our safety margins – approx $200 each.

So all up – around $3600 each for 10 day trip and 15 superb dives (plus good snorkel dives!! For an extra US$70 a night dive was available on the Shinkoku).

 

This was a great place to dive – no current, good visibility, great things to see down there, warm water, good guides, great dive buddies, boats Ok (ladder could be improved) and everyone relaxed about it.  (Knee replacement did Ok on diving – but the other knee still sore cos of the ladders.  I think the flights there and back were worse than the ladder though.)

 

The lagoon is protected, but shallow.  Several days the water was mirror smooth.  Of course when Stephen came out with us the sea gods decided to make it rougher – so he got sea sick and missed some dives.  Even on those days it was not too bad – but some big crashes through the waves did perform spinal & knee adjustments for us all.

 

Most trips out to the wrecks were around 15-20 minutes from the Blue Lagoon Dive Resort.  (If you stayed on the Thorfinn you might have saved only 10 minutes travel but been trapped on the boat).  Odessy also a live aboard option – looked pretty good and went to all sites in the big boat.  Mind you it was more like $6000 per person return from Sydney – for one day less.

 

The resort was clean, comfortable, well cared for, friendly staff, pretty and on land!  I’ve stayed in worse places in Australia – and would recommend it as the ideal place to dive from.  The dive guides were very attentive and helpful – making a point of showing us all the good stuff, and looking out for our safety.

 

The wrecks.  We did 12 different wrecks (of around 50 possible) on scuba and some snorkel dives.  My favourite were the Fujikawa, San Francisco and Shinkoku.

 

Overall these wrecks are covered in brilliantly coloured corals and sponges with masses of pretty little fish.  On some of the wrecks you can safely (even for claustrophobic me) penetrate the wrecks – with sea surface above you or lots of light.  Swimming along the promenades of the deck a special treat on many of them – and I love swimming up the steps and ladders – rather than climbing them.  Lots of guns, ammunition, mines, trucks, plates, saki bottles (they must all have been piss pots!!). Also lots of jellyfish quite pretty really - in the warm (29 degrees) blue and current free water.  No site so overcrowded you could not see lots and move freely around.  Blissful diving conditions.  We should have some good photos of corals etc – but could not get wide angle shots with our camera.

 

Our plan was to work our dive fitness up so that by the end of the trip we could do the deeper dives in the morning and a shallower one in the afternoon.  We also always did at least 10 minutes on 50% oxygen at the end of the dive – to help us old and unfit wrecks safely explore the sunk wrecks!

 

We arrived Friday lunch time and did the Fujikawa maru that afternoon – after flying or sitting in airports for 24 hours.  They call this “THE wreck” for good reason.  It was also our last dive of the trip cos we had to test if it was as good as we thought – it was!.  Eerie steps still intact going up the deck to the bridge.  Planes in the hold.  Cannon on the bridge.  Easy penetration and looking up through the skeleton of the wreck.  Loads or pretty fish and coral.  Max depth 25 metres for me.

 

Kansho Maru  I went to 32 metres.  Crusted steps and mast.  Huge turtle and big silver fish. Torpedo blew up its stern – made for a good surfaces for coral & sponges. Big plate size bat fish, cannon on the bow – complete with dive guide making rat tat tat tat noises.  Gorgeous little bubbles of irredescent bright orange soft coral hidden in the mast.

 

Heian Maru that afternoon and again later in week. I hit 26 metres. On its side with nice relics like telephones, plates, bowls, bottles.  Nice clown fish – Nemos – that Deb torments to send them red. They live in huge anemones that are soft mat like things with tiny fingers protruding all over one side and pretty undersides – these ones were a lovely purple underneath.

 

Reo de Janeiro maru I went to 26m but it is a lot deeper if you are a depth hog – did not mention any names!! Lying on its side and its cargo holds had big guns in them.  Nice walkways to swim along.  Sting ray overhead.  Propellors intact at stern – with moray eel living in them.  Little blue fish living in a little blue igloo.  A colony of pretty little black and white striped fish living on plate coral.

 

Kyoshumi maru – 24 metres.  On its side with lots of artefacts.  Large gun in the cargo hold – I bravely went in the holds twice!  Shown a skull and mandible with 2 teeth – dive guide then carefully hid it away again.  Lots of ‘pipe’ sponges that look like a plumber has left pipes lying around.  Also ‘heart’ sponges that look like bad fatty deposits all over a heart and arteries.

 

Betty Bomber – 20 metres - an intact plane that went down, with its engines coming off and landing 75 metres in front of it.  You can go in the cockpit and swim down through it to the tail and out – tight squeeze.  One wing is a bit crumpled, but it is all intact and an interesting sight.  I lifted the cockpit cover off and scared myself cos it came off so easily.  Bits and pieces around the plane are worth a look – including a board that looks like a communication panel with on off switches.

 

Fumitzuki – a destroyer that was 25 minutes run on a sunny day.  34 metres for me.  Big gun out the front, torpedo shells and depth chargers. Saw a whaler shark in the distance on the safety stop. Spotted it cos saw a school of big silver fish moving fast around 20 metres away and then saw the shark behind it.  Huge anchor and chain lying on the sand out from the boat.

 

San Francisco – this is a deep wreck.  We did 2 dives on it – but the bow is the pick.  Going down to 33.4 metres before the bow suddenly came into sight.  2 tanks on the bow; a truck, a hold full of mines, we swam to the bow at 50 metres – some of us went to the sand closer to 60 metres (but not me!). At this depth only got 10 minutes on the wreck and had to do deco time – but it is special and worth the visit.  The stern not as impressive and came into view at 33.7 metres.  Lots of depth charges and mines.  Sitting there upright for us to visit.  Of course at that depth we would have had narcosis so who can be sure what we really saw?  Well I do remember those tanks and the mines in the hold. 

 

Sankisan Maru – 24 metres going down the mast.  We went through the holds 1-4 since it was pretty open.  Lots of bullets, little bottles, jeep in the hold, lots of trucks, hit in stern by a torpedo.  Lots of coral and fish.

 

Shinkoku maru – 35 metres.  I did this once, the night divers went back and raved about it as a night dive.  Dropped down into the torpedo hole to watch Col, Margie, Deb and Rob go in – Stephen and I waited outside cos it was a bit dark in there.  They swam out some other hole, so we made our way back along the deck at 21 metres looking at artefacts, coral and sponges.  Very pretty dive.

 

Yamagire maru – 26 metres.  On its side, torpedos in hold and we swam through a torpedo hole.  Big tuna, big silver fish, bat fish, jelly fish, stinging things on face around the mask.

 

Nippo maru – 35 metres.  Slightly on its side, torpedo shells in the hold, lots of soft coral and sponges.  Nice big holds – Ok for me to swim into them.  Pretty dive with lots of fish and coral.  Saw a shark in the distance again.

 

Snorkel dives (done to increase surface time and show us some we would miss otherwise!) included over an upside down cargo boat – interesting perspective.  A zero bomber that crashed near the coast of an island; a submarine chaser like McHales navy boat; and the Eisen maru which was upright in 5-10 metres and quite a big wreck with a big gun and the mast near the surface.  Lots of big yellow and black fish in this one, and a cloud of little silver and black fish moving like a curtain in the wind as we swam near them.

illana

Some Pictures

The Wrecks

Dives 112 to 119/120 Koh Tao, Thailand


Thailand Diving – Koh Tao
The trip was 10 days to provide a mix of sight seeing and diving – only producing 4 days in the water or 9 dives. Col always said the diving over there was not as good as the Barrier Reef – but the potential of whale sharks was too tempting. An accurate assessment of the diving, but we still had lots of fun.
We spoke to people that dived with the whale sharks – but it was a dream not realised this time. The visibility varied from a great 30 metres down to 10 metres on some sites. We did a couple of sites more than once – with amusing results. Water temperature varied from 29 degrees to 30 degrees – a little too warm, but a great change and very relaxing.
South West Pinnacle is a popular site for the morning dives. It is a cluster of pinnacles with the tallest in the middle (10 metres below the surface) and smaller ones on the shoulders. Some giant fan corals, barracuda, schools of yellow tails and little black fish hanging down the side like a soft curtain flapping in the breeze. Prettiest part of it was the huge number of bubbles coming up into the sunlight – from the swarms of divers off the many boats on the site. Pretty purple and yellow fish, lots of anemones with Nemo like pink fish, yellow ferns and green ferns sticking out from the side of the pinnacle. Steve did one of these dives with a little sucker fish sticking to his leg.
We dived this 3 times. The first time I came up on the wrong line cos I got confused and was low on air. The second time I came up on the right line, but the driver had moved the boat (a little bit of extra excitement when diving in Thailand is that the boat drivers have a hierarchy and have to move off for someone more important – though ours moved off to get a fish for his lunch!) The third time I followed Stephen up on what I knew was the wrong line, but he wanted to go up so thought what the hell – we can take a sighting and swim back to the boat 3 metres under the surface. The absence of current makes it easy to swim to the boat, but it adds a little anxiety wondering where the boat will be unless you learn to relax about it. Lesson in this is to relax about coming up on the wrong line!
Twin Rocks was a good dive. Lots of colourful corals and fish. Very easy to navigate. Some fans and ferns. A large cowrie shell, big “cushion star fish” about the size of a 12 stack of dinner plates, with a star pattern on the under side and looks just like a cushion to rest your head on. A bit of current on this one, but not too hard to interfere with a 43 minute cruise over the area. A pretty swim-through under the boulders and lots of nice views up to the surface through crevasses.
Chumphon Pinnacle was a much better pinnacle site. Lots of anemones and pink Nemos. Some big colourful bat fish, Moorish Idols, pretty wrasse with their opal like colours and even some red ones. A school of barracuda came passed at one stage – looking over the invading divers. Comfortable 30 metre dive and easy navigation – yep – I came up the right line and the boat was there!
Sail Rock was a good dive. At 8 metres we dropped down a chimney and came out at 18 metres. Great to take photos looking up at the bubbles in the chimney, and other divers coming down – or of them below. We found the chimney by going to the place that looked like a spa jet! Moray eel poked his head out at me – so I took his photo. More barracuda, lots of colourful angel fish in the soft coral. More curtains of little black fish swaying in the breeze and filtering the sunlight.
White Rock – yep it is white. Lots of different corals here, including some nice plate coral. Unfortunately the Crown of Thorns (CoT) has been busy and some damage is showing. Saw a couple of the starfish hiding in a pretty crevasse. Some long white coral-like worm things sticking out from the reef – kind of like the spine of a new fan developing. Lots of the coral surfaces with the little bottle brush things sticking out and they pull in if there is movement. They were all kinds of colours though – not just the orange or blues I have seen before. So many on all the surfaces – should give some good photos and future growth of coral if the CoT lets it grow.
Shark Island – we were told it was called that cos it looked like a shark, and also told cos there were sharks seen there. Neither was obvious to me. This site will live long in my memory. There be trigger fish at Shark Island. Very territorial and aggressive trigger fish. The advice is to avoid them. If one comes at you, keep your fins between you and it. At the same time, go down since they protect a conical shaped area of water above them – so dropping down will take you out of their territory. Ha. We did 2 dives here. On the first dive I thought my fun loving brother was trying to rip my fin off. Nope! I could see him on the other side of me. Yep! A trigger fish had taken offence. I swam away and left it patrolling and then attacking Stephen who was staying between me and it (such a wonderful man!). The very pretty soft corals at the site were not worth the 5 stitches that our guide got the last time he was attacked by a trigger fish there, so we kept the dive a bit short when the fish were being so aggressive (they are protecting their eggs this time of year).
On the second dive on this site I got a chance to test the advice about keeping your fins between the fish and yourself. I encountered a very angry and very large fish that was determined to have me. I discovered it is impossible to sink down out of the “cone” when the fish is attacking you; if you keep your fins in its face and kick at it, and suck in air in fear. I eventually got in enough fin strokes to get out of its range, but all I could think of was how spooked Neil had been from the cut on his face and how the hell I was going to get away from this angry fish. Obviously trigger fish should be left alone in this season.
Overall the diving was easy, the boat was comfortable and stable, and the dive team friendly. The warm water and the corals made it good diving and as always we learn more each trip. The hardest part of the diving was transferring from the long boat to the dive boat or from long boat to shore. I managed to rip a sarong on one trip and my swimmers on another. Then again, letting off fire works on the beach one night I burnt holes in a dress – so had a ripper of a time. The Thai people were friendly, it is great to stay in a resort on the beach, walk along the beach to the dive shop, or have dinner sitting on the beach under pretty lights! Mmmm – I still remember the lobster. Everything is dirt cheap with 30 baht to the $1. A meal for 5 people was less than $40. Thai massage for $8 for an hour. The tailor made clothes on Koh Samui cost around $50- $60 an item and look great. It was a relaxing holiday with fun people and good diving. What more could we ask for? (We should have left the bug we brought home behind – laid us flat for several days with headaches, vomiting and diaorrhea. Still, at least we had it at home and it did not ruin the time away.)

illana

Some Pictures

Dive 111 Terrigal

The air temp was 18.  After the water temp of 13 when we cleaned the boat, I decided to wear my full wet suit.  It was a bit constricting bit I was warm as toast in the water temp of 17.  Would stick to the new flexible high tech suit in that temperature again - rather have the flexibility.
 
The objective was to test all our newly serviced gear at Terrigal, before we take it to Thailand for diving holiday.  All the gear worked really well, vis was around 10 metres.  Fair bit of surge and the tide was going out.  was easier coming back into shore than going out along the rock wall.
 
The huge stingray was there - a couple of metres across.  I love those puffer fish - they looks like shoe boxes with ridiculous little yellow fins on the side and end - and when they are racing away the yellow bits whirl as fast as a chopper taking off.
 
 
Cute bird diving under the water to catch fish - came done 5 metres and back out fast.  A couple of large cuttle fish sitting there and changing colours from grey and brown to red and yellow as the sun came out on them.  They look like a bucket sized orange and red jelly that did not set right and if dripping off the edge of the table when it is turned upside down.  It was swaying to and fro in the surge with its eyes closed completely ignoring us.
 
Lots of pretty little fish - some with that cute electric blue trim around their edges.  There was a school of tiny fish that looked like a swarm of fruit flies on a rotting piece of fruit.  I liked a large orange and red fish that had a little horn sitting on top of its head - until Stephen took its picture when it put the horn down - obviously camera shy. 
 
Very pleasant use of a Friday - sleep in, leisurely breakfast, drive to Terrigal, fish and chips for lunch then go blow bubbles.  All topped off with hot chocolate and cake afterwards.
 
Clear blue skies - a perfect day.  Made it worth working last Saturday!
 
illana

Some Pictures

Dive 108 Terrigal

Today I had my second dive at Terrigal - in the Haven. This is a lovely shore dive, with an extremely easy entrance and exit. It is around 11 metres at its deepest, with a boulder wall on your left as you go out and right on the way back. Half way along there is a huge anchor to show you half way.
The fish life is very good, and varied according to the trip out. Several large blue groper (2 footballs in size) liked to follow along with us. On the first dive, Steve and I had the joy of lots of sting ray and an enormous bull ray. The bull ray had was about 1.5 - 2 metres across with a huge stinger thing. It looked like a submerged tree branch, and frighten the life out of me when it rose up out of the sand and looked at me. No rays at all today though.
Stephen had fun with his camera. He tried to get a shot of a huge shell with an enormous sea creature in it - like an enormous slug in a shell. The shell was about a foot long and 6 inches tall, with the slug thing nearly twice that size out the bottom of it. Looked odd to see it turn towards Stephen to get its photo taken!
Saw a tiny fish that fascinated me. About the size of a die (did not have a pair to be dice!). It was square, brown with yellow dots. I guess it was a baby puffer fish - or as Lisa would say - a tiny brown and yellow spotted mullet! Lots of little prawn like things too.

Closer to shore there were lots of black and white striped fish, with a bit of yellow in them - all around the six of 2x 50c pieces. As we moved further out there were more brown and white or rainbow coloured fish. Eventually there were lots of gatherings of odd shaped silver ones about the size of a drink coaster hanging under the rocks and surging back and forward in the current. Passed them we found dinner plate size bat fish - I think. They have black and white stripes and look a bit triangular. the kelp died out around this point leaving us with huge boulders and the sun forcing its way down 10 metres to play on the few silver fish that we found.
30 minutes later on our way back I found a giant cuttlefish. Steve insisted in patting it, Stephen insisted on photographing it and the poor bloody thing went all sorts of different colours as it tried to camouflage itself to look like the sandy bottom, or like a boulder or like Steve's wet suit. There were lots of baby cuttlefish hiding under the rocks. I figured they stayed that way to avoid us.
I find I get giddy and disoriented among the kelp as it sways in the current and surge and my eyes follow it as I want to swim through it. Very unpleasant feeling and it has happened both times. Lots of boats in the area where we were coming up - they don't seem to stay between the posts put up for them. They make so much noise that at least we were able to hear them and stay clear.
The water was 21 degrees and felt refreshing without being cold. A lovely way to cool down and enjoy a Sunday.
illana

Some Pictures

Dive 104 Gordon's Bay

A nice little find and good place to blow some bubbles.
 
Had a relaxing dive on this well marked out site.  There is a chain laid around the bottom of the site to help you navigate.
 
Lots of fish life - and for those of you that know what I mean there were leather jackets, flathead, blue groper, yellowtail barracuda, crimson banded wrasse, Maori wrasse and senator wrasse.  I have all those names cos I bought a card on Gordon's Bay to take underwater to help you find your way around and to identify the fish.  None of those names mean much to me.  I was more impressed by the pretty little pink ones, and the iridescent blue and yellow ones, medium size blue green and pink ones,  a 2 dinner plate size coral coloured one, and lots of little yellow white and black striped ones.  I guess I am a heathen when it comes to knowing the names. 
 
Steve went over some kelp and lightly kicked its edge which was like shaking out a pillow that was covered with crumbs as a school of yellow, black and white striped little fish filled the water in front of me.
 
Saw the biggest cuttlefish I have seen - standing guard on his little den - looked black and grim under the ledge and quite determined not to budge for the 3 silly people blowing bubbles at him.
 
Some sponges and lots of kelp on this site - that is a really easy dive.  Walk down a ramp to enter it, over some rocks and then drop down several ledges, each taking you further into the depth.  Even without the chain it would be an easy navigation.  Mind you, we went fro ma 3-4 metre visibility in the ledge area to about 1 meter at 13 metres.  The rain last night and rougher weather had really stirred up the particles and scunge.  water was 23 degrees, so very pleasant and refreshing.  Followed it up by a leisurely lunch and promise to do a night dive at Balmoral Friday night next week, followed by fish and chips.

Dive 102 Camp Cove

The weather was perfect. The sea was blue, the sun was shining .. this is to rub it in for the 2 who missed out.
We did not go under until 11.30 - but everything takes so long in the water. Steve looked great in his new gear - now the aim is to get the cost per dive right down by having lots of bubble time.
We took a 240 degree bearing on the harbour bridge - out to a little rock reef. Lots of small fish if you go slow enough to find them. Some brightly coloured nudies. large pick fish eating scum - sticking out their bright yellow tongues. Lots of sea urchins. Enormous sea slug - bigger than basket ball. Easy navigation down one side of the reef and back up the other. All in around 4 metres - so not too deep - lots of boats over head.
More interesting on the ledge - over kelp bed, giant boulders, leatherjacket fish.

Not sure the site is worth a second look - think there are better in Sydney- but hey - any bubbles are good bubbles and we had a great 47 minutes!

illana

Some Pictures

Dives 92/93 to 100/101 A Reef Encounter

I think we have found the perfect way to become a certified diver! Then again, who cares about those wanting to become certified? Let's be selfish here ... we've found a home on the reef (except it is better than home).
Reef Encounter is moored out on the reef, with 2 ways to reach it. The usual way to get to and from the boat is by a pretty dreadful boat called Compass. Compass is the cheapest day trip out of Cairns and looks like an old tug. It is solid, slow and on the day we used it a bit smelly. Needs a bit of work on it ... and as one person said to us "I nearly did not get on board because I thought it might mean the boat we were going out to was similar". This could be a clever ploy so that when you reach Reef Encounter you are knocked off your feet by how lovely it is inside. The comparison is not valid, cos Reef Encounter is in a class of its own. Large lounge area with beautiful old wood. Dining room with real tables and chairs. Nice bar. Even has a TV (God knows why!). We were in a stateroom - double bed, writing table, bedside cupboard, wardrobe, hot shower, toilet, sink. Towels on the bed had full range of little bottles of shampoo, etc etc. Folded down the bed sheets at night with Lindt chocolates on it. Honestly I have stayed in many expensive motels/hotels with less comfortable rooms and less frills (and more expensive). There is a sundeck, and also a warm fresh water spa.
To the serious stuff. They had a really good set up to store your fins, mask, wet suits etc in bins for each room. At the back on the boat they have all the tanks set up with good quality dive gear, you are allocated a space for your tank and keep it for the duration of your stay. Your gear is left attached to the tank, and they top up the tanks within minutes of you putting your tank and gear back on the racks. Large back deck to allow ease of gearing up. The glass bottom boat picks you up from Compass. It comes to the back of the boat and is lifted up to deck height by an elevator! Yep the only elevator on the reef!!!! It is also used to lift up the divers if you swim back to the boat at high tide - and then you just walk into the back deck. Very nice.
The crew were friendly, but to be honest Ash and Mikey were obvious stars. They were not in your face or over the top - just always aware of where you were, what you needed, ready to have a joke and ensure that you were having a good time. To be fair, we only had around 18 on the boat the first night, and less the second night - so maybe the rest of the crew left us alone so we did not feel "swamped" with attention. There were plenty of staff to cater for the possible 56 guests on the boat, should you be there when it is full.
We did 2 reefs. The pickup point is Hastings reef. The Coral Gardens dive site is one worth several visits - very very pretty. We went off to Saxon Reef for some dives. Our plan was to do Norman reef the next night - but the weather came up and we stayed on Hastings to avoid everyone throwing up. Obviously we enthusiastically supported this choice. Diving is fun - throwing up is not. Hastings reef is plenty big enough to spend a week on it and not get bored - and the dive team made a point of showing us a good selection of the different dive sites Hastings offered.
So - for liveaboard luxury and comfort - Reef Encounter is the choice. Only two areas for improvement would be the boat to get out there and the quality of the food. The food was all pretty bland and boring, and not plentiful. Having encountered this in the past on other live aboard, we went well prepared with snacks and treats of our own. so the food was Ok with our supplements (but you know how divers like their food!). From a personal point of view - also watch out for the ladder on the glass bottomed boat! we went across to the "Wild Side" on the other side of the reef. At high tide we had a great dive over the coral, but had to get back on the glass bottom boat with a lot of surge tossing us against the little ladder. I should have taken my gear off and handed it up without trying to get on the ladder ... but I didn't. sigh. Have bruises from ankle to hip and all down the inside of one arm. Very pretty, and self inflicted. I hate small boats!!!!
So what did we see on our 9 dives over 3 days?
Well at Hastings we saw - turtles, sting rays, giant clams, vast collection of wonderful hard and soft corals of all kinds of colours, big spotted fish hanging out in a little pack like a group of old men in a park, sharks, Nemo relatives, bright yellow fish, gold and purple fish, trigger fish, Moorish idols, purple fish, hard white coral with bright blue tips and little blue fish swimming in and out of the branches. Giant sea cucumbers, two black sea cucumbers some wag shaped into the M of MacDonalds! Key navigation aid was the sunken toilet between two bombies (underwater hills covered in coral). Major source of entertainment is Wally. Huge Wras - 50kg or so, hangs around the boat. Wally has attitude. Likes kisses and to roll in the bubbles of divers. He lets you pat him and then edges away, so you chase him, and then edges away .... leading you off where you should be. Likes introduction divers in particular! hangs above them so they all look up, and breath in too deeply and float up to him - while the instructor is trying to get them to stay on the bottom. Delights in taking the novices up to the surface - when they should be staying down. Mikey took a photo of me giving Wally a hug on my 101th dive. he feels like satin to touch - really special. Was cute the first time we saw him. Snorkelers off the other boat saw him. This guy tugged at Stephen's tank to point out Wally. Stephen took too long to come and tell me - so the guy swims down to 5m and tugs at me to get my attention ... he tugs real hard at my regulator and nearly pulls it out of my mouth. I instantly thought my brother must have been in the water with me and blamed him for such a fun loving gesture - then remembered Col had not done that dive! It certainly got my attention. Had a nice little swim through an open cave at 14m on one of the bombies - always a bit of a thrill to go through the enclosed cave and pop out on the other side into deep blue water.
Did a night dive there - saw a sleeping turtle, parrot fish asleep in their cacoons that they spin at night, played with bioluminescent / phosphorous which is like sparklers without the heat and happens by running your hand through the water, or the fins, with the light out so that all you can see is the sparkles. Also pretty to turn torch off or hold it next to your body and just slowly watch the others with their torches swimming into the darkness in front of you. I love night diving.
Saxon reef was also good fun. We did 3 of the 4 possible dives there. Went around turtle bombie - and guess what? saw a turtle. Also saw the largest sea cucumber I have ever seen. Bigger than my leg. Really good dive briefs meant we were happy to go off and do our own thing using natural navigation to find our way to and from the boat. Night dive here was great. Huge black and silver trevally zoom in on whatever we point the torch at - and eat it if it is small fish. Mikey showed us to whip the light to the side and the huge predators miss out on their meal! These huge fish come right up and bump the divers and push and shove their way around to get at any fish we tempt out of hiding. Saw 2 pretty lion fish. Poisonous and beautiful! Dancing with their spines out - all scarlet and white in our dive torch lights. A sting ray woken up by our torches flashed off in disgust at the interruption. 4-5 long pipe fish looking for all the world like long white ribbons flowing through the air. The other dive site was twin peaks - so called cos it is 2 bombies next to each other and you swim around them in a figure of eight at different depths. Approaching them we saw 10-12 barracuda sitting on the bottom like they were soldiers lined up in ranks. Lots of coral trout .... yum yum .. oops, not supposed to think like that. Saw the lion fish again - prettier at night. Lovely 'swim through' of fish - a large hole or long open cave in the coral and as you look through we saw lots of fish just hanging in there with blue water and sunlight rays as a backdrop.
So - lots of fish, some very pretty corals, fun with Wally, easy navigation, friendly crew and unbelievable comfort on Reef Encounter. Can not recommend it strongly enough as THE boat for your overnight stay on the reef. We also spoiled ourselves and flew back by Helicopter. Gave us good views of the reef from the air. Took 15 mins not 4 hours. Was above the rough weather - so we got home fresh and happy despite the rough weather below us.
Seriously good fun and we will repeat it. Check it out - www.reeftrip.com
illana

Some Pictures

Dives 90/91 to 91/92 Reef Magic

We are regulars on board the boat Reef Magic - we go out on it every 1-2 years. We keep going back to it every time because it is Magic ... specifically it is fast, comfortable, friendly crew, great food, good destinations. They are also a good price, particularly when you compare the quality of the experience.
This time they have had a major change. Now they have a pontoon anchored out on Moore Reef. This means that after a pleasant 2.5 hour trip out, we are tied up to a pontoon. No rocking, nice firm stable platform to use for a dive, snorkel, glass bottom boat, observe, swim, sleep &/or eat. As per usual the food was plentiful and great quality (the owner is a diver so he knows divers like their food!!!).
I think Moore Reef is my favourite out of Cairns. It is a pretty reef with several different dive locations very easily reached. You walk into the water off a waist high solid platform (where you put on your fins and mask). Just under the boat is some sand, but in front of you is a nice coral wall, with loads of baby fish in all kinds of colours. Iridescent blue ones are my favourite, but the pretty little apricot ones are cute too. Many relatives of Nemo, and big schools of blue and silver fish. One large fish looked like it was apricot, but dipped in cream. When it moved the sun would bounce the apricot tones out from under its cream sauce. Trigger fish with their big painted false eye on the top were dashing about. Some aggressive parrot fish (lovely blue, greens, copper and silvery colours) chasing off the competition that may have wanted to munch on their particular bit of coral. Nice large clams with iridescent green rims and soft purples and pinks inside. My favourite (Moorish Idols) were there too - yellow, white and black fish in a diamond sort of shape. Mind you I like the half purple and half gold ones too, and they were there also.
We had fun playing with an enormous Wras. It would have to be 40+kg. He/she/it was very much in favour of people company and enjoying the attention. We frightened a few souls who were in the underwater observation area by popping up unexpectedly and waving at them. You have to be careful not to breath under the window or the bubbles might warn them that you are under there. The best startled looks came when you could sneak up without warning and wave at them. Stephen and I had an underwater kiss in front of them too ... just to show that you can!
Sonic seeker working when we tested it to see if it would help us not get lost. seems like a lot of effort to cart this "toy" around and find a spot 6m above the bottom and 6m below the surface to tie it off, then swim away and a little set of lights flash on a torch like thing you take with you, to tell you that you are swimming in the right direction. I think I prefer natural navigation by remembering distinctive features of the coral, and using Stephen's compass as back up.
We took all our scuba gear off 10m under the surface and put it back on cos that is a skill we have not practiced for a while (did not do this in front of the observation deck - thought it might worry them too much). also some buddy breathing and using each other's spare regulator or octopus as it is called.
Enjoyed 5 hours out there, 2 dives and 1 snorkel. Usual great lunch which had 2 sorts of hot food as well as a good range of sushi. Other dive boats could learn a lot about quality of catering by going to Reef magic.
Nice trip home and a lovely first day of diving on this holiday. Still list Reef magic as the number one boat to go out on for a one day reef visit. It is also locally owned and operated so the profit stays in Cairns. Check out the web site www.reefmagiccruises.com
illana

Dives 70 to 81/87 PNG diving

Diving at Walindi – Kimbe bay – PNG October 2003
Picture flying over the dormant (for the moment) volcanic mountain range; sweeping over a deep blue bay that has scattered across it small turquoise gems of reefs just below the surface, and several emerald green islands. The surface is not broken by white caps, and even from the plane it is obvious that the water is clear and the depths are begging to be explored.
The water is 30 degrees – well occasionally it dropped to 29 or rose as high as 32. The dive guides apologised if the visibility got below 20 metres – which was not often. The first day it was unseasonally rough – nearly as bad as a good day in Sydney (but enough to make poor Stephen sea sick! Sigh!) Usually it felt like we were on a small lake – no wind, no white caps – just a pleasant bit of bobbing about if we moved about.
But of course – the real action is under the water. After 18 dives in 7 days I felt like we should do it all over again. The sea mounts were great fun – dropping down 30-40 metres, looking down even further into the deep blue depths and wondering how much further down it goes then slowly coming back up to the surface by swimming around an underwater mountain. Watching great schools of barracuda swarming above us in a tight ball and then peeling off, two by two – following each other like sheep, to dive into those depths or to chase the current. A variety of sharks chasing the bigger fish – trevally, coral trout and others I can not name but enjoyed just hanging there and watching. The fun of getting a spa from the bubbles of those below me – or seeing yourself in the mirror created by their large bubbles as they come up – teaching the old Japanese guy to catch and break those bubbles while we did our 5 minute safety stop.
So many pretty fish – love the feeling of being in a tropical aquarium. The really cute little orange and white clown fish sitting in the anemone (soft finger like coral with little blobs on the ends of the fingers create a home that the fish swim in and out of) – how they dive out to chase you off. At times it felt like being inside a glass dome (like a little snow thing) but instead of snow shaking around us we were surrounded by clouds of small fish – sliver ones, pink ones, blue ones, purple ones. Like a jacaranda tree in the wind with all the petals floating around you.
Finally saw the brilliant red gorgonian fans that so many prize winning dive photos have in them. Also “sea whips” that look like giant pink feather dusters under water. Coral of all colours - green, pink, black, red, white with blue tips – sigh – so many in so many sizes and shapes. A red fan the same size as a king size bed, a huge plate coral even bigger. Large plate coral with the funny little soft tuffs – orange or blue or red – that retracts when you move the water over them, and then slowly pops out again – kind of looks like tiny brightly coloured bottle brushes that pop in and out of the coral. Some that looks like chrysanthemums that also retract to nearly nothing when you wave at them – and they pop out like a full sized flower again when you stop waving water at them. Some bright blue star fish looked out of place – but not so out of place as the bloody Crown of Thorns star fish. Hopefully they will get them under control as on one of the reefs the CoT is doing a bit of damage and the numbers are too high to be ignored.
The local dive guides really love the reefs – they groom the coral – stripping off any algae or weeds. They also love finding tiny critters – they call you to look and use a magnifying glass so you can see what they are showing you. With so much big and beautiful stuff it is amazing that they spend time looking for these tiny critters. Very proud of the pigmy seahorses – which need lots of patience and magnifying glass to see.
Saw some dolphins from the boat – but they did not want to play. Unusual lack of dolphins and whales, which was a disappointment. Saw eagle ray though, lots of sharks, and so many fish.
A favourite of mine are the Moorish Idols. Kind of diamond shaped fish with vertical black, yellow and white stipes. They hang out in pairs – Col tells me they mate for life – that lots of fish do. That must be why so many of them hang out in pairs!!! Made me sad when I saw one by itself. Felt a bit by myself at times – poor Stephen’s sea sickness meant he did most of his diving with one of the local guides – while I went out and did all the really impressive sites without him – cos they required a boat trip and he was not up to the sitting on the boat between dives. Was really lovely to see Col and Margie diving together and holding hands as they swam along!
My last two dives were with Stephen at 2 of the close reefs. Visibility only 10-15 metres there – but lots of lovely sponges and hanging gardens to look at. Was good to do some dives with him – he is my mate for life! He saw lots of lots of fish and pretty things – so he had been enjoying his dives on the sites close to shore, and the guides looked after him well. In fact the local dive teams were excellent and made sure we all had a great time.
It all seems a bit of a blur now – so many excellent sites and wonderful things to see. Over 12.5 hours spent under the water and all of it top class diving. A great holiday – great diving, good company, good food, good accommodation and wonderful memories.
Babies very happy to see us home, and nice to be back home ... now where do we go next year ????

Some Pictures

Dive 68 Balmoral nets

Bubbles! glorious bubbles. It is months since we blew bubbles just for fun. High tide at Balmoral nets, such a lovely flat walk in walk out entry. Warm weather - so we had the pleasure of lycra not full wet suits. AH! Bliss.

Mind you, ever since I have grown my hair I am having trouble with mask leakage - and this trip was a bit annoying. Also got independent and put my own fins on, so both off them nearly came off. I re-did one of them at 4m but Stephen had to do the other. Had great fun trying to get the neutral buoyancy right. Forgot how relaxing this dive is, and had far too much weight in the belt. Even fully inflated, the vest barely kept me off the bottom.

Vis was about a metre in front of us, kind of nice to discover a new world with each fin stroke. Lots of fish down there too. Stephen said he saw a dozen rays - I only saw 2 - but they were fun to look at. Some nice size flat head, odd looking puffer fish. One was a huge watermelon size - very self important and all purplish grey with its yellow spines. A school of yellow tails suddenly appeared and disappeared, lots of big mottled fish with horns on their head.

They have taken down the second net, just have sackcloth hanging there now. Odd look. Got some booty - Stephen found a Nokia mobile phone and a knife, I got a spoon, Rob picked up sunglasses.

It was just a very pleasant hour under the sea - we must go again soon.
illana

Some Pictures

Dive 64 Clovelly pool

Well, two lots of boat cleaning and then Clovelly pool - my mind is still on the barrier reef.
A bit late hitting the water at Clovelly so we had a night dive. water was a bit of a shock at 22 degrees - but lovely once we got used to it. Nice easy entry and exit - all very civilised. Steps leading in and out of the pool - at the end which would be 10 metres in high tide. Well lit pool area, but the torches gave us all the different colours of the kelp on the floor of the pool.
Made an error of timing in that tide was on the way out - and dropped off a lot while we were there. So very shallow dive. Not a lot of fish life - saw a big red fish hiding under a ledge, and lots of little tadpole size ones in the red kelp.
Unfortunately my computer was playing up - so I had no idea of depth or time of dive, which got me nervous since the dive book clearly says to stay away from the mouth of the pool on a falling tide - which we had. As a night dive the computer depth would have helped me gauge where I was, so stayed in the more shallow parts. Rob went further out and got some better fish life.
Night dives are fun just to watch the lights above the water - they shimmer so much. Also, our dive partners were spotted by their light, rather than eye sight - and some lovely green glows helped us keep "light sight" in such a small area as the sea water pool.
The dive was much shorter than we wanted - as I got a bad cramp in one leg. I surfaced for a while and stretched the leg, went back down - but calf cramped up again. I found out later that most of our time was only at 3 metres. It is harder avoid the cramps in such shallow water and I cut my dive short. I figured I had hit 2 things wrong - dive computer failure, cramping calf spreading to cramp in thigh (spent too long painting and gardening I think!); so I did not want to wait for the third strike. It was a new dive site for us, so did not want to push our limits, besides it was nice just to hover above the other two and watch them on the bottom while I floated up on the surface.
At least we blew some bubbles - and as consolation prize we will clean the boat again on Saturday.

illana

Dives 53 to 62 9 dives on the Great Barrier Reef

Well despite not being at the best health wise - we have done 9 great dives on the barrier reef. Rather than attempt to itemize them, I thought I'd share a summary of the highlights with you.

We had an overnight stay on the ReefTel with Cairns Reef Dive. An old liveaboard that was pretty comfortable and excellent entry and exist points on the boat. Friendly dive team and excellent diving on Milln and Moore reefs. Got 5 dives in, out of 6 on offer. Proved Stephen can survive on live aboard and can do 3 dives a day - despite the diabetes. Fun dives - bought the video and several shots on disk - so watch for the web site update ( eventually ).

Then out to Agincourt reef on Quicksilver - a great boat. Huge, and cut through the 30 knot winds as though it was a calm day. Out to a pontoon anchored on the reef, and then a little dive platform boat out to the 3 sisters and the point. To round off the trip a lovely day on Reef Magic out to Saxon reef. Great crew - good trip despite 20 knot winds.

Visibility was around 15-20 on all the dives. Water temp at 24-25 degrees - such a luxury after the Sydney cold. We decided to not take our wet suits (5mm semi dry) as the last trip the weather had been too good for it to be needed. We did all the dives in lycra suits - some poor souls were wearing 2 wet suits cos they were cold - whooses!

Where to start? try floating in warm water - weightless and calm amid colourful fish and pretty coral. Just the sensation of warm free movement and only the noise of the bubbles - yes please! As this was the first time we had dived without wet suits we had to struggle to get weight right. I took too little on the first dive - so sent Stephen off with the others while I hovered around the anchor line. I had a great time watching all the fish and slowly poking around in a small area. No one else there to knock or bother me - no rush, just me and my bubbles 15 metres under the boat.

The coral is lovely - branch corals - some of it looks like small tree branches and twigs, the ends of which have been dipped in sky blue paint or white iridescent paint. large pieces of coral that look like giant platters for food, or coffee tables - browns and greens. Stacked coral like sets of mixing blows, waiting for you to pour in the ingredients. Mushroom coral. soft flowing corals with fish darting in and out of he pretty pinks and golds and yellows. Hard big lumps that look like Ayers rock, but over the surface are tiny little blue Xmas trees - when you move your hands over them they retract in quickly leaving a hot pink or red rimmed whole in the surface. Some of the coral reminded me of trees in late autumn - all the leaves have been stripped away and they are bare - but by some miracle, they are surrounded by hundreds of tiny yellow fish - looking like bright yellow leaves dancing in the wind.

Several schools of blue white and silver tiny fish - like that bush - today, tomorrow and yesterday (?) the blue and white bush they use to make Opium perfume. When you get up close you can tell that all the fish are really silver - but as they move the light hits them bringing out either white or blue.

We saw turtles, reef sharks, huge groper, giant puffer fish, large colourful bat fish, long pipe like yellow fish, green red and purple parrot fish, angel fish, blue fish, spotted fish, striped fish, coral trout, snapper, wras, giant clams that shut their colourful soft centres as we swam up, sting rays, yellow tailed fish, gorgeous purple and yellow fish, sea cucumbers - and the sticky white "web" they excrete when pushed - like cob webs over the coral; black and white zebra fish; chocolate dip damsel (looks like an advert for Sheridan liquor -0 the white and black split bottle); a thing that looked like a swimming feather - all soft and floating - I'm told it was a Spanish Dancer look alike.

there was so much to see on all the dives, and with each dive we grew in confidence. No longer needing the mooring line to get down, using our natural navigation techniques to do our own thing, Stephen did a tricky navigation using his compass and got us back no problems. We got lost once when we followed a turtle too far, but we just surfaced and found the boat and finished off our dive. All our safety stops were done over the coral, at 5m without the anchor line. I feel much more confident about our diving skills as a result of the trip - and anxious to hit the water again. Of course the great boats make the trip so much easier than Sydney dives - but what the hell - just blowing bubbles is worth the bother.

illana

Dive 53 Back to Balmoral

We had no joy finding a single boat dive for Good Friday - so we headed back to the old faithful. This time we had Rob and a new buddy - Rhonda, to dive with us.

An Easter high tide - the dive hit 5.5 metres. 50 minutes of blowing bubbles and watching the fish. Visibility was not good as it has rained a few times. Had stephen in front of me a few times - and watched a sand storm engulf me and then quickly settle. He had his new toy - an underwater camera. He told me he got a photo of me emerging from the sand storm.

Only one octopus, but lots of bream. I loved sitting in the middle of a yellow tails in a school, watching the like silver lights flashing in a disco.

I now know the little pink fish with yellow tongues eating all the stuff in the sand are goat fish - I can watch them for ages. Lots of the long stick fish (Rob called them flute mouths). Saw our mate the a very large and self important puffer. Watched a large triangle fish turn on its side and squash itself down to got through the net. Seemed to be planning the entry and sizing up the hole in the net carefully. Very cute. Saw some cute little 50 cent piece size fish - kind of like seaweed mottled colours - for all the world like sea weed, and invisible near sponge or net. Cute little things. Beats the movies - nothing good on at present anyway, not now I've seen Lord of Rings 4 times anyway!

Water 23 degrees, no one else at the site - altogether very pleasant and relaxing. As we came out we were asked to retrieve a rollick (thing to put an oar in) that someone had lost. Stephen went and retrieved that.

Then some guy off a boat 100 metres out asked if we would retrieve a boat hook he had lost - so Rhonda and I went and did that too. Vis much better out there - saw two sting rays in the sand as well.

Out of water for hot cross buns and coffee. Stephen did pre and post dive blood sugar. Level dropped 1 in the time of the dive. He does not seem off colour this time - so maybe the buns are the answer.

Hopefully we will do a club dive on 14th April.

illana

Some statistics

Look at the ABS statistics below.

In one year 1,741 people died in motor vehicle accidents. In seven years 83 people drowned Skin diving, spear fishing ( of which SCUBA diving is a subset ). So 145 times the number of people die in cars. Let's more tightly regulate cars.

In seven years 600 people drowned Swimming, paddling or wading. Over seven times the number of people Skin diving, spear fishing. Let's more tightly regulate swimming.

In seven years 131 people drowned in a bathtub. Over one and a half times the number of people Skin diving, spear fishing. Let's more tightly regulate the bathtub.

In seven years 96 people drowned in motor vehicles. You are more like to drown in your car than SCUBA diving.

Deaths in Motor vehicle accidents in 1999
- 1,741

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/NT0001ED86
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CIRCUMSTANCE OF ACCIDENTAL DROWNINGS(a), 1992-1998

Swimming, paddling or wading - 600

Skin diving, spear fishing - 83

Drowned in a bathtub - 131

Children less than Five Years Drowned in a bathtub - 67

Drownings in Motor vehicle accident - 96

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/910AE60799736A86CA256A7100188A5C?Open&Highlight=0,scuba

Dive 52 Balmoral nets

Well, it feels like a life time, but we were finally able to get back in the water today. Our first since Stephen was diagnosed with diabetes, and my 6 week spell of colds and middle ear infections. We awoke to rain, that got heavier as we padded around the house putting out dive gear together. Still, the sun had been good up until today - so seemed like it was still worth the shot.
Down to Balmoral nets for a dive around the outside. Rob came with us. He has to be he most relaxed dive master I have ever encountered. A slow and casual getting as we get all the gear ready - no rush, with a completely inelegant waddle to the water. One thing I've learnt with my knees- it is so much easier to put the BCD and tank on in the water.
2 hours off high tide - the dive only hit 4.5 metres. 40 minutes of blowing bubbles and watching the fish. Visibility was not good - but hell, we kicked up sand anyway. Quite fun to lose sight of everything and then swim free of it - like a new world through a veil.
Lot of octopus and bream. Yellow tails in schools. I swam up to what I thought was a bunched up bit of netting that had fallen off- only to in it was a school of tiny fish all bunched up and swimming in spirals. Rob shone his torch on a couple of cuttlefish - making he change colour. They blend in so well on any surface they are near - going fast you would miss them. I was really taken by the little pink fish that were feeding so earnestly - their yellow whiskers flashing in and out of he dirty sand.
Rob tells me that the fish life were pretty varied. We saw - long stick fish (he called them flute mouths) dory, bream,a very self important puffer fish, ras and the boys saw a sting ray without its tail.
Rob came back with some souvenirs - he got a knife, a newish fishing net (basket ball type)on a rod, and a Fiji keying and car key.
Water for 24 degrees, no one else at the site - altogether very pleasant and relaxing. Went in under cloud and came out to bright sunlight. We really must do this again soon - I'd love a night dive down there - and we think there are a few other sites down there worth a look too. It is such an easy entry and exist that it is easy on my knees. Stephen coped really well- his health is clearly better now than on the last dive.

Dive 51 Balmoral nets

A glorious sunny winter day.  Air temp is 19 and water temp 18 degrees. We decide to take on the long planned Balmoral nets.

Putting gear together I find the occy is leaking badly.  You can hear the air rush out when you turn the air on.  This is the first dive after we spend $100 having it serviced.   Hmmm ... too far gone now, so decide to dive anyway, will breath off it and keep my regulator as the spare.

We discover it is only 5 metres deep at high tide.  Nice slow dive around the nets and under the private jetty.  The net goes around a pool.  We find out it is actually a 2 layer net job.  The inner layer (near swimmers) is a wider mesh, and newer than the outer net.  The outer net is close mesh, with slimy stuff and cockle shells growing all over it.  More like a wall at times.  Every so often this net is torn or missing, and you get to see into the swimming pool, or the space between the nets.

Some really pretty soft sponges.  Soft delicate pinks and gentle coral colours.  One little outcrop of mushroom coloured sponge stuff - waving its tentacles in the water like a fern in a soft breeze.  Lots of fish that would have looked better on the dinner plate - bream I think.  (No expert though).   Many of these hung around in the space between the two nets - safe from fishermen and divers I guess.

At one stage I was looking at some pretty ribbon fish (red and yellow and white stripes along them) that were at the bottom of the net.  Looked up and it was like I was standing under a tree someone had shaken.  The leaves falling all around me were mango tree leaf size, with yellow borders.  No idea where this school of fish came from - but it was very pretty to be in the middle of it.

Saw some odd things too.  One dead star fish.  Swimming along and looked down - thought - Hmm - that little black rock is looking at me.  Blinked - only at 5 metres, I can not be narked.  Poke it, rock's eye shuts.  Decide I am mad and swim on further.  Find another little black rock looking at me (about big potato size - with an eye like a spud).  Put finger at it - it jumps up.  Scares life out of me.  Looks like it is octopus - funny kind of tentacles hanging down.  Settles back into water and looks at me.  I point it out to Stephen who thinks I have pointed out a rock.  Also I am much taken by 5 fish that look like smallish peeled cucumbers - except someone has painted them in an oyster shell sheen - and put funny little squirmy bits at the end of them.

The sonic seeker is working - we played with it to see that the homing device locks on well - so it will be a good tool so we do not get lost in deeper water.  Tested occy out of my mouth and had several spectacular free flows of lost air.  They did not want to turn off, and leaked the whole dive.  Oh well.  Back to dive shop for some fine tuning and refill of tanks.

The choice of a Ford for the next car will be helpful for diving.  The car keys are smaller and will fit in the water proof container I can take on the dive with us.  Gets rid of the care of what to do with your keys while diving.

Weather allowing we may go explore the little island there later in the week.  Was a nice way to spend the high tide today.

illana

Dive 50 The Chapel Steps

Yippie!  A lovely sunny day, calm seas (well whitecaps of Dee Why were a worry - but hell - the day was glorious)

Of to Balmoral - our first dive from this site. Frog Club dive has not had a good run.  The last 3 club dives have been cancelled.  They had a full show. 4 trips on two boats.  We had omega two again - a soft sided boat with not a lot of room.

A 12 noon pick up and the thought of a bumpy ride not pleasing either of us. But Darren promised it was not too bumpy - so we bravely set out.  A quick dodge across the harbour - in and out of sailing boats that are taking no prisoners.  Down under the gap we anchor in near shore.  Near the Chapel Steps.  Not bounced around, no current to speak of - gee - this promises to be fun.

Down the anchor line, and up, and down and up.  Damn - my left ear is still not happy with me - it does not want to equalise.  I thought the middle ear infection all over - so am not happy as I go up and slowly, so slowly back down.  I think it is good enough - and sure enough, with a little discomfort it is fine for a 45 minute dive in only 13 metres depth.

Visibility is good (for Sydney) and the view great.  Some of those boulders look too symmetrical to be natural - but they are.  Stephen has our new toy - a sonic seeker - so you never get lost again!  He ties it to the anchor - but it does not float up like he thought it would.  Hmmm... first time used  - experimentation is expected.

Rob in the lead, and no one crowding us.  Passed the soft fan coral all orange and white.  Today the fashion in underwater wear is stripes!  All the striped fish go in and around us.  One brown and gold and white striped fish was a new one.  My favourite remain the iridescent blue little ones.  A giant cuttlefish comes out to inspect us - looks like a blue and purple an green coloured mop head - with funny little eyes in there - and a soft floppy body at the back.  Seemed to want to follow me for a little while. It is their egg laying season.

Very excited to sea my own weedy sea dragon - I found it myself.  still proud of this - despite seeing several more later.  saw a fish the same colour as my wedding dress down there - most unusual - had not seen one like it before - all the blue, green and purple shades.

Time to turn back - bit more current than we had going out - so we have to put a bit more effort in than expected.  Following Stephen with his sonic seeker - but the messages are confusing.  Eventually Rob took over and lead us right to the anchor (he found a spare one earlier - but did not take it with him!).  The homing thing for the sonic seeker was lying on the rock, not floating 3-5 metres up.  that means Stephen needs to explore new way of connecting it - brass clip must be too heavy.  Still the signal got pretty strong as we got closer - so it will be good for another time.

Current and a bit of anxiety about the sonic seeker chewed up some air - so Stephen used my occy on the 5 on 5 safety stop.  Nice that I now have enough air left over to be able to do that.  That gives us both 50 dives.

Next club dive in on Valiant in July - so we have booked on that too.  Nice dive the Valiant!  As the weather warms up we will do our stress and rescue. Don't know how much I'll be able to rescue anyone - but at least I'll know how- if my knees will let me.  Took enough Vioxx to ease the pain away today - hopefully will not pay for it too much tomorrow.  (although they are just a tad sore now!)

Another good note - Balmoral has to be the easiest water entry in Sydney. Lovely little walk in.  A couple of good dives there too - so we have found a new spot we will be happy to explore at our own pace and time.

Illana

49th voyage under the sea ....The Wall Longreef

The sun was shining, the sea was blue- without a sign of whitecaps.
Omega Two came in to pick us up off Longreef beach and we gave them our gear while we cooled off in the water. A lovely soft sided boat with a solid fibreglass bottom. The middle of the boat is taken up with our tanks and gear - we sit on the soft sides, and after gearing up fall over soft sides.
We thought we would not have many on board - but ended up with 9 divers.
Off to the Wall with us, at around 12 noon.
First time I have dived on this boat since hurting my knee. Hmmm. Not a lot of space to put fins on and turn around to get tank on back and then back to fall over side. Will need to sit somewhere else next time.
Now the weather here has been shocking - so I did not have high hopes about the visibility - which turned out to be around 2-3 metres at back of the pack; and maybe 8-9 at the front.
We were supposedly diving with Rob. just a nice little trio - but invited a lone person to join us.
God knows why - must have been the charisma of our dive master - but the other 5 joined us.
All these other idiots stayed up there on the surface waiting for Rob to go down first - we were waiting for Stephen who was last off the boat. So 9 of us hit the anchor at around the same time. Current was really strong, and seemed to move its direction a bit - so the effort of getting down and around was pretty high.
It kind of reminded me of boiling eggs - you know how they all bob about and hit each other in the water. Good practice at mask clearing as they kicked me. One fool got his computer caught in my tank. Rob went fast to lose them - I thought bugger it, went slow to let them get out of the way.
Quiet potter around in shit vis - but still saw lots of fish, even a stone fish. Some big blue groper out there - pushy and wanting to be fed.
Vaguely saw Rob's fins, but did not attempt to catch him through the 6 other people. Gee the giant boulders under the water make an amazing wall - some of them are huge cube shapes - you would swear they were man made.
Reached a turn around point determined by 100 bar of air left for one person. Shit - all these people stopped, clustered and swarmed back at me.
Ostrich attack only way to cope - settled on a ledge like a wobby (shark) and let them race back over the top of me.
Rob brought us all back to the anchor line. Really only needed Stephen to go up as his air was low - and I was going with him. Nope - like lemmings they were they all followed us, causing peak hour at the end of the boat as we waited to get back on board! Sigh. At least Rob had the sense to stay down at 12 metres while that happened (collected a weight belt someone, sometime lost - NOT Stephen - he kept his this time!!)
An unusual dive - but great to get back in the water. The crew are friendly and Frog dive is good to be with - so still a good day out.
Home for snooze to recover - and let that nitrogen out of our systems the normal way. (Rob tells us the new look diver will have increased microbes in the gut - which will convert nitrogen to methane ... safer and has lots of advantages. Hmmm .. will depend on the richness of the meal the night before as to how socially acceptable this measure will be!.)

Illana

Dives 46 to 48 The Seals Montague Island

Last weekend was a super dive time. We headed down the coast to Narooma at lunch time Friday and stayed in a house that had 6 bedrooms. We had 10 divers and one non-diver with us.
Saturday a 7.30 start at the jetty to head out the 10 km to Montague Island.
A not too rough crossing on the boat called Dallas. (At least Stephen only went a little pale and did not throw up - so must not have been too rough!)
Saw a dolphin keeping pace with the boat as we go out.
The first dive was at the Bubbly cave - so called because a cave there captures the bubbles at the top from all the divers who go into it. It is also near the New Zealand seals. Well Rob, Stephen, Julie and myself missed
the cave! But we had a relaxing dive to 21 metres, just looking at rocky outcrops, huge numbers of sea urchins - an iridescent green at base of spine (not like any I have seen before). Some groper, sting rays and schools of fish. Nothing spectacular - but no current and pleasant back in water experience. The boat is good and crew are friendly.
Second dive is with the Australian seals. Before we hit the water we are told if current picks you up - do not panic, just relax, happens a lot, we will come and get you. Off we go to play with seals. They are everywhere -
hanging down to look at us, swimming under us, huge brown eyes looking at you. You turn a somersault and they copy you. They are so like puppies playing with each other - biting and hitting and jumping at each other. A steady stream of bubbles comes off their coats. A delight to be with.
Unfortunately the surge is pretty strong and lots of the divers are fighting it. I get kicked several times as the 10 of us are following the dive boat captain and he has kept us altogether in a gully. Twisting out of the way of yet another kick I hurt my knee and get a cramp. The water temp is around 14 degrees and despite the wetsuit and hood I decide I have been kicked, cramped and twisted enough in the cold. We head for the direction the dive leader points out for us. As all this is in only around 7 metres of water I make the mistake of heading up and over towards boat. As I hit 4 metres, the aluminium tanks says - OK - up to surface. We surface around 100 metres from boat - while I try to work cramp out of leg. I signal the boat we are OK - he returns sign - so I know we have been seen. Within a few minutes the boat starts to get smaller. 10 minutes later we are out the other side of the island and can barely see the boat. Stephen puts up his safety sausage (bright orange tube that sticks out above the water) so boat can find us. The boat comes for us first - thankfully. No matter how many times you say to yourself - it is OK, relax, they know where we are, it is
still disconcerting to see the island getting smaller.
Next day, 7.30 am, we front up for 2 more dives. Sea is the same as previous day, sky blue but some wind this time. Over to the island and the first two divers hit the water. they immediately let us know the current is very very strong. Then suddenly - no current! Just like that. Boat pulls off its anchor - we shift boat. 4 more divers hit water. Same funny current problem. Boat pulls off anchor. I hit water and fin like all hell towards
the island. Much finning, little movement. I can actually feel the current pulling me back faster than I can fin. There is no current line along the boat - so I am losing this battle. Knee starts to complain about this
abuse - so I abort this dive - this is not fun! The divers who got down said the current just disappeared under 10 metres, but was a pain above that. Stephen and I sat it out - along with boat crew. So we missed the
large number of Port Jackson sharks they saw there.
An hour later it is the last chance to dive with seals - so we hit water.
Current is much better now. We (Stephen and myself alone) go down anchor line and hang around near there. Seals love it- we just ride the surge and watch them play. It is harder than I thought to turn somersaults. The final reverse finning action pulls on front of knee cap - but worth it to watch the seals copy me. 3 port Jackson sharks around that area- much smaller than the seals (no they were not going to eat the seals or us - this is not a breeding colony so no seal pups to eat - so sharks not a problem) Lots of yellow fish in the yellow weed bed - hard to spot but fun to find.
Plenty of food for the seals - which explains the curtain of seal poo in the water (just like a dirty fish tank). No problem getting back on board, just bloody cold thanks to 14 degree water and a cool breeze on surface.
Back to town at lunch time and we head home.
The seal dive is a must for animal lovers. It really is something to be in the middle of, and around 200 seals - watching them play and playing with them. Some people out there on snorkel seemed to enjoy it as well, but I
reckon the great thing is to ride the surge on the bottom and watch them play around and above you.

Illana

Dive 45 The Royal Shepherd

There is just something about the Royal Shepherd! It does not want to be dived upon. Yet again it took 4 shots to get the anchor to take on the wreck - while we sat above it bobbing around between Sydney harbour heads.
An eight o'clock dive - so it was nice weather, flat and calm - just a little nippy. Water temperature felt much cooler than the 17 degrees my computer told me about.
slow down the anchor line to find we were anchored on the engine block. A leisurely poke around, with the torch bringing to light some lovely soft coral in the engine block, a moray eel, some yellow and black fish, a big nigger fish, and Stephen chased off a stone fish.
Visibility was poor - only 5-10 metres. Hanging in a thermacline (15 degrees) on the way back up we prodded jellyfish that were all around us.
Pretty phosphoresence made the safety stop more enjoyable.
Back on the boat with Jason - no problems getting in and out of boat at all. In fact knee was fine until the final moments - when I had to climb a sand bar to get out on the beach. With a helping hand I fell over, giving it a twist that is still throbbing 6 hours later. A good experiment.
We are off to Montague Island next week to dive with the seals. No sandbar down there so all should be well!
Nice to be blowing bubbles again!

Illana



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Last Updated 10-3-0