Looking Glass, Nelson Bay
We were supprised to find a glorious day waiting for us, and an almost empty boat. Calm seas and blue sky, a perfect day for diving.
The conditions at Broughton Island - Looking Glass, the tunnel straight through the island that Grey Nurse love to lurk in - were perfect, so we did both dives there.
We saw thousands of fish, big blue groper, but most importantly, 7 or 8 big Grey Nurse, one of them easily the biggest I've ever seen - about 2.5 metres long.
There was a fair amount of surge, so the first dive was a little hair raising. After a decent surface interval, the swell died a bit, and the sun had angled into the crack in the island, so the second dive was well lit and a lot more plesant.
North Haven, Cod Grounds
My old friend the Eastern Blue Devilfish made a few appearances, such a lovely fish.
North Haven, Titan and Cod Grounds
Still, getting Narc'd is almost as good as a few beers, so I didn't complain.
THe Cod Grounds are entirely different prospect - last time I was here there were an astonishing number of Grey Nurse about. This time only a couple, perhaps the weather didn't agree with them...
After the dives, we had the whole afternoon - we took a drive to Crowdy Head national park.
North Haven, Bonnie Hills.
Anyway, the weatherman totally and utterly failed us for the first day in North Haven, blowing a gale in the morning meant we were restricted to inshore reefs. Still, a very colourful reef at that.
A couple of Port Jacksons, a couple of painted crays, and quite a bit of colourful weed and spongues - was certainly not unpleasant.
The Wreck of the Oakland, Nelson Bay
The guys were going their deep module, and wreck module, and I don't especially enjoy wrecks much anyway, so I enjoyed being narked instead. There is always something else you can do if you get bored in the water ;)
Thanks to Jules, Mel, Tabi, Steve (Ox), James, Aimin and Aimina for a great weekend. Drop me a line if get a minute guys, so I have your email addresses.
Halifax, Broughton Island and Cabbage Tree Island, Nelson Bay
First dive was at Halifax point, an aquatic reserve just around the point from the boat ramp and jetty o the east of the Nelson Bay township. A nice leasurely stroll into the water on a sandy bottom and a very easy dive, especially since we had timed our entry to coincide with the high slack tide.
Nudibranch's abounded, and colourful spongues and weedbeds were the backdrop for the dive. I counted 7 varieties of Nudi's in a little over half and hour. Truly fantastic.
2nd dive, Looking Glass at Broughton Island, is simply breathtaking. A balloon shapped tunnel right through the island, the Lookingglass is a gloomy lurking ground for grey nurse sharks and huge schools of bullseyes and stripey.
There was a bit of surge, which surved to hurl you flying along the dark corridors of the tunnel, and then leave you weightless in the back-surge. Once such surge brought me up over a large boulder and face to face with the first grey nurse shark of the day. I'm not entirely sure who was more supprised, but I give the prize for best reaction to the shark: a quick turn, a snap of the tail and he was gone. All I did was drop my camera :)
The final dive was at Cabbage Tree Island, on the swell leeward side, amongst two smaller wrecks. Instructed to watch for a rare 'Donut' Nudibranch, James and I had it spotted and dazzled with strobe light in under 5 minutes flat. THe rest of dive didn't fail to disapoint, an Eagle ray took a bit of a chase to get within camera range, and a dozing wobbegong had made the old wreck his home.
After all this, the group still had enough energy to front up for a winery tour and some wine tasting. That finished us off though I think, the rest of the evening ends sort of, well, blurrily.
Forster, The Barge
The barge is an old garbage barge that was used to help build the bridge between Forster and Tuncurry, twin towns on the NSW north coast.
Julia and I, both interested in the idea of a barge covered in Nudibranchs stayed on the barge, which John from Action Dive had expertly anchored within 5 metres of.
We weren't disappointed. Huge nudibranchs everywhere. Thousands of fish, small and large. Moray Eels, small and large. Colorful and abuundant sponges.
I normally don't really go for wrecks, but this has to be an exception. Perhaps because it lies on the tip of a rocky reef, life seems to have colonised it extremely rapidly. There are big hols all over the hull, large enough to poke your head and a light though, but not large enough for divers to be going in there messing things up.
Even the dive profile is near perfect textbook ;)
Seal Rocks, Little Seal Rock
We anchored a little way of the island and got into the water. Our goal was a series of channels and gutters that ran obliquely away from the island down into about 30 metres of water, and hopefully to find grey nurse sharks.
We didn't find any.
We did see plenty else though, an abundance of large bull rays gliding around and over the canyon walls of the gutters. Huge schools of red morwong - far more than I've ever seen in one place before.
There were several moray eels out swimming in the open water which I found unusual. As soon as they spotted us though, they retreated back to their rock crevices.
Lots of fish life and interesting geology made the dive a good one. There was a medium current, which we small into at the begining of the dive to get to and along the gutters. It then was so kind as to turn on us and we had to swim against it to return.
The current prevented us getting to the anchor again, and our safety stop had to be performed in open water with no reference - with the current as it was, this put us some distance from the boat.
I used my marker bouy. I have a scubapro dump fitted bouy, so all you need to do is inflate it and attach it to youself below the water line and it stands to attention for you and stays inflated - an excellent investment.
It was a long snorkle back against the current. The dive and current itself had been a bit much for Julia and I needed to help her the last few metres back to the boat. I don't think my legs have forgiven me yet :)
Seal Rocks, Off the beach
There is a group of reefs and rocks off the right heads of the bay, and we stopped there for a second dive, again looking for Grey Nurse.
This time we weren't disappointed.
Not far from the rocks is a large sand patch, somewhat circular surrounded by tall banks of rocks and circling slowly inside and around it were 8 or 9 grey nurse.
A thrill to see always, these sharks were a little more formidable with the extra light afforded by the shallower depth at which we encountered them. They normally live a bit deeper.
We spent a bit of time cooling our heals just watching quietly and then started to explore some of the extremeties of the caves and overhangs around the perimiter of the sand patch. At the back of a long trench heading away from the patch we found a large resting port jackson shark.
An excellent dive.
South West Solitary Island - Groper Island
At the beginning of the dive, a batfish was sticking closely to the mooring line, and seemed to be unfazed by the swarm of divers that descended around him. Inifinitely patient, he almost seemed to enjoy having his photograph taken.
Almost immediately I happened upon a wobbegong taking a morning nap in his natural hammock, a large plate coral. Sharks seemed to be a bit of a theme this morning, as the next thing we came accross was a crested horn shark.
Other highlights include a massive starfish, so big I could not touch its outstretched arms with mine, a black cowry shell with white spots (that appeared to emit light), and a lovely clown fishand anenome.
A fantastic dive, extremely relaxed and refreshing, and very nearly an hour long.
During the surface interval before this dive, a small manta ray made an appearance near the boat, but not before masquerading as a shark for a while (causing quite a stir) as it swept and turned while feeding a bit too far from the boat to be more positively identified.
After a bit of a snack, we got back into the water and found that the batfish was still swimming about near the mooring line, still as oblidging as ever. This time we went off to the west of the mooring and got down a little deeper to around 17 metres.
I finally spotted a nudibranch, having spend all of the previous dives looking out for them and not finding anything. I took over 20 photo's, but sadly only one was even remotely in focus - very strange.
Another cowry shell, and another crested horn shark rounded out this most excellent dive.