North Solitary Island, Anenome Bay, North West Rock.
North Island is quite small, little more than a lump of rock with a little grass clinging tenaciously to the very top and around the lower edges, we went past the island to a small lump of rocked topped with green called North West Rock, tied on to one of many moorings that are present throughout the island chain, and geared up for this dive.
Once in the water my ovservations from the boat were confirmed - the visibility was excellent, the boat lying in 16 metres, I could make out the fish at the bottom.
The rock was split so that a tinyier portion lies a little way away from the main rock, forming a channel, it was through this that we swam, starting at about 8metres in the channel and dropping down to 16 - 17 metres at the other side and explored the various rock ledges, walls and swim throughs on the other side before heading back.
There was a wobbegong in one of the swim throughs, along with dozens of huge painted and spotted sweetlip, thousands of smaller fish, and schools of larger fish above, it really deserved the name fish soup.
On the return journey under the boat at about 8 metres were a few patches of large anenome's each with a different species of clown fish as company. Moving from North West Rock, we made our way to North Solitary Island, and again the mooring points were quite numerous. We moored at a spot called Anenome Bay, David had told us that if w thise liked the anenome's on the previous dive, we would love this - he certainly was not wrong.
Once we'd had a little light refreshment and geared up again, it was back into the water to find that, if anything, the visibility was even better.
Descending down you became faintly aware that the sea floor was slightly fuzzy, indeed that it seemed to shimmer slightly. Approaching closer with the descent revealed that the bottom was covered with sea anenome's, shoulder to shoulder, as far as the eye could see, and with the amazing visibility, that was quite a distance.
The carpet of anenome's covered a vast area of the dive site, it was difficult to tell where each one sbegan and the previous finished. Anenome's with white tips, blue, yellow, red, or orange tips, thin tentacles, thick ones, bubbles on the end - the variety seemed endless. Each one had a colony of clown fish living amongst its protective fingers, the species of clown fish nearly as varied as the anenome's.
Most clown fish I've seen have been living on an anenome that is otherwise isolated. The fish tend to be very timid and shy and dive down into the heart of the anenome, or even under the rock it lives on in fear as you approach. Not so for the thousands of fish living on this margic carpet - the proximity and abundance of places to live must have nessesarily increased the competition for somewhere to live, because these clownfish were quite fearless and even agressive in their behaviour. They certainly weren't shy when you approached to take a photograph, even to the point of tapping the camera and your goggles if you got to close to their patch!
As if the anenome's weren't enough, a couple of Grey Nurse Sharks were lurking about in the gutters closer to the island, one of then being cleaned, and a juvenile lionfish was nearby - the first time I've seen on that A) has been in descent visibility - no clouds of sand, and B) hasn't immediately turned its back to me before I could get a photo.
Finally, the trip proved fruitfull, with a pair of humpback whales, one of them playful enough after we stopped to breach for us to see, magnificent.
This dive easily makes it into the category of best dives ever, absolutely magic.