18 Feb 2008 - Rod - Diving on the Great Barrier Reef


Got up for an hour at 2am (4pm UK time) to deal with any mail as cant be sure bberry will work out on the Reef about two and a half hours out of Cairns and will be on the boat overnight so no laptop access. By doing this I wouldn't hold up everything Val and Mary are doing, particularly around the media plot, by my going AWOL for a couple of days. Finally got up at 6.30 to walk across from the hotel to the boat terminal and boarded The Compass which would take us out to Hastings Reef on the Outer Reef to meet up with our main diving boat the well named Reef Encounter (Hastings Reef today, Agincort yesterday -- are they all named after famous battles -- won one, lost one!!)

The Compass was an old and very uncomfortable boat and, despite the journey to the Reef being over 2 hours, no food was provided and I couldn't even buy a packet of crisps or a bottle of water as they had no change for a $50 note!! Those going on to join Reef Encounter were given a briefing -- this was just myself and Jorgen, a very nice chap from Copenhagen who is in Educational Software IT and was on a 6 week tour of Oz, lucky man!! After the briefing we chatted for a while and then l basically tried to keep myself occupied on bberry which did still work and cat napping.

Finally got to Reef Encounter and wow what a difference -- terrific diving deck with lift to bring you out of the water, backing straight onto a very comfortable lounge from which a passageway connected to the cabin, which were reasonable size and comfort for a boat and had terrific high powered showers with limitless water as they desalinated from the sea. Thankfully they soon served lunch as I was famished and this, and the food generally, was very good despite the chef doubling as a Divemaster! There were 6 guests that day -- it does vary day by day as you can stay on there as long as you wish so very variable. Sam, Ben and the other dive instructors, guides and staff were all terrific so basically I hit very lucky with a really good boat with a great crew .....and some excellent diving.

I won't bore you with the detail but that afternoon we had 2 dives on Hastings Reef, both on the wild side due to weather conditions. Both were about 45 min with a max depth of about 13m and on the first I got very lucky again with a White Tip Reef Shark. Due to the recent harsh weather conditions -- high wind and a lot or rain, although my two days were fine though slightly overcast -- the visibility wasn't fantastic and the shark was a bit in the gloom. Having said that though there was no question it was a shark!! But too gloomy to get a pic for you this time. On the second dive we saw a large turtle but not overexcited as we see a lot of these diving in Barbados. Of course again the reef itself was magnificent with an abundance of sealife so take that as a given so I don't keep repeating myself.


Then after dinner we did a night dive -- I have done a couple before and very much enjoy them. We didn't go as deep -- 8m -- or as long -- just 30 min as its obviously pitch black except in the beam of your torch. So quite creepy really and everyone tends to bunch together a lot at first!!

Second day we were up for a first dive at 6.30 am, then breakfast, then dive 8.30am then final dive 10.30 -- just as well this was not later as I fly to Tokyo at noon the following day and you have to allow at least 24 hours after a dive if you wish to fly. All the dives were about 40 min and 13m and main viewings were a bright yellow flute fish, a smallish (2ft) epaulette shark (hope I got this right -- a speckled beastie with a longish tail), a beautifully marked crayfish, dragonfish and the biggest Parrot fish I have ever seen.


We had lunch then about 1.30 it was time to sadly swap this wonderful boat and crew and a very enjoyable diving experience for the rather more dated, slow and uncomfortable Compass. There were 4 of us returning to Cairns and we had of course all met on the boat -- myself, Jorgen again plus Axl, a Lufthansa Airbus pilot, and Tanya , a business IT specialist. Axl and Tanya were coincidentally both from Cologne but did not know each other til they met on the boat and both, like Jorgen, were enjoying a few weeks of travel around Oz.

We tried a bit of sunbathing on the top deck but the sun was by now quite fierce so in the end we opted to sit and there and have a beer....and another.....and another. I have said previously that Aussies like a beer but so do Germans and Danes. We got on pretty well and talked about diving and lots of other things to pass away the trip back to port, arriving finally at about 5.30. I invited them back to my nearby hotel bar to continue our session and we carried on til about 9.30 when I said farewell and good luck on their travels (somewhat jealously it must be admitted!) and called it a day as I really had some work to do. My bberry did work fine the whole period but there is a lot you really can't handle on it if it comes as attachments or involves a lot of typing. Didn't get much done though, a combination of 6am start, dives, sea air, sun and quite a few beers with good company meant I had got a about a sentence done then hit the sack!!


RnR over -- back to the tour and Japan tomorrow!!

- Rod

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