But this time, it was on a boat. Far further north. For 3 dive-filled days. And with our lovely friend, Sian, turning our buddy duo into a trio.
With 3 daytime dives each day, we had plenty of time under water. The standout locations were the famed bommies – we visited Steve’s Bommie, Lighthouse Bommie, and the little-known Christmas Tree Bommie. We each had a favourite – all had their delights.
Steve’s we were lucky enough to visit twice, which was great, one because it was good first time round, and two because it was better second time. Steve’s is named after Steve, who loved it, and for whom there’s a plaque at around 23m (don’t worry though, it’s not his resting place). The bommie goes from the sea floor at about 25m, right up to around 7m. The life on the top of the bommie is brilliant: thousands of tropical fish in orange / purple / yellow / white / multi-colours teeming on top of the coral; coral of all shapes and sizes, alive and vibrant.
Lighthouse brought us our first olive sea snake; while Christmas Tree gave us a white leafy scorpionfish, so ugly-cute.
As with most bommies, we started at the bottom and simply went round and round and round and round as many times at it top to work our way to the top. Such a great game for spotting tiny little creatures that live within the corals and nooks and caves of the bommie.
Top of the list of finds this trip was Disco Nudi, a ridiculously dressed nudibranch that’s red frills really were as bright as the pictures we captured suggest (no – it’s not photoshop!)
Other notable dives and finds included:
– The aptly-named Snake Pit, which lived up to its name with plenty of sea snakes
– A slightly disappointing Cod Hole dive, where only one large potato cod turned up for feeding. But it turned into a fun muck dive for the three of us as we made our way back to the boat.
– Giant clams, at, yep, Clam Garden.
Overall, it was pretty easy diving – we didn’t have guides on any of the dives, not when it was as simple as: get in, follow the mooring line, circle round a bommie, come back up at 50 minutes. Having said that – coming up at 50 with still plenty in the tank and no deco limits being pushed isn’t Kristy’s style, so we struggled with that one. First in, last out, right?
Each night, after dinner but before dessert, we geared up and jumped in. Which isn’t ideal if you’ve over-eaten at dinner, but who would do that?
The best was undoubtedly what shall hereafter be known as ‘gangsta night dive’. We’d been told that diving Challenger Bay at night would be the best night dive, and boy was it. Hectic. From the moment we got in the water, there were big Bass and Trevally, and Sharks and Giant Morays all around, and all out for one thing. Dinner.
At any time, night diving feels criminal – creeping round someone’s house – but when there’s many predators around, it’s like playing god. Shine your torch on some poor creature further down the food chain, and CHOMP, they’re gone. Gangsta.
We saw sharks chasing fish, fish chasing smaller fish, eels chasing fish, fish chasing eels – nobody was safe.
The most disturbing of all was when we were trying to get a picture of a moray eel, that appeared to be trying to change location and hide. It slid around a rock, into a hole, but then through the hole we saw it was sidled up next to a big red sea bass. And then, CHOMP, red bass gone. And the eel came up with a mouthful of fresh sashimi. Like we said: Gangsta.
And it wasn’t just the animated creatures on the prowl. We’d been taking pictures of pretty pretty molluscs, only to later compare our images to the guide book and find out one of our shells was none other than the extremely lethal Cone Shell. That has the ability to fire harpoon-like poisoned darts at its prey. Gangsta!
On a brighter note, we also saw lovely hermit crabs scuttling about in their fancy shells, on both that dive and at Princess Bommie on our final night.
While we were slightly late for Minke Whale season, we still held out hope. And during our afternoon surface interval on day 2, we were rewarded. Just as we were thinking that we should really take some pictures above the water, we need our camera – whales!! Breaching 50 metres off the boat, we suddenly had whale company. They toyed with us, never coming close enough to warrant extreme ‘shall we jump in the water?’ excitement, but hanging around long enough for us to hope.
And then, just as the hope was dwindling, in came dolphins! Charging in like a cavalry, you can almost hear dolphins saying ‘We’re here, we’re here!’ ‘Woooop!’ ‘Let’s go!’ ‘Faster!’. They rode the bow wave for a good 15 minutes, before deciding they had other places to be. So much fun.
The boat we went on accommodates about 28 divers, but lucky for us, we only had 17, so it wasn’t completely full.
It did mean the ratio of staff to divers was pretty high, but that’s obviously not a problem, especially when the staff are really helpful, nice and funny.
With the very entertaining Dan the Engineer; Neil, Tim and Ben(Ben) the main dive crew who helped us; Matt the Amazing chef; and Merric the Pursor, we had a great time.
For more pictures of our trip, check out the gallery
And what holiday could end without plans for another? Not this one – stay tuned for October long weekend Nelson Bay adventure!