After all the rain we have had over the last few weeks, the river visibility is probably about as bad as it gets. The 1.5m of water is cold, fresh and pretty clear. We then descended into the brackish band of water as the clean fresh water coming down the river swirls together with the more salty tidal water from the ocean below. Needless to say that means you can’t see anything, not even the dive computer right in from of my nose. Below around 6m, that disappeared leaving us to head down to the bottom through a suspension of silt. With the vis ranging from about 2m at best and down close to zero otherwise it was a fairly short dive.
First time out with the 5D in the new ikelite case. Having a DSLR of this size in an underwater case is a whole new experience to get used to! Firstly I was surprised at how buoyant it is. I had to get our spotter to go back to my car to get me some extra weights so I could get down. Being the first time in the water with the camera, I used the modeling light without the strobe which worked pretty well considering.
After the first dive, we headed around to the other side of the islands for lunch and a chance to snorkel over the shallow reef.
While swimming around the bombies amongst the spectcular range of fish life, we saw the destructive “Crown of Thorns”.
Whilst there are quite a few to be found around the Murion Islands, they are part of the ecosystem and not currently considered to be a problem.
This dive site was littered with Nudibranch of a range of colours and feathers.
We again encountered a sea snake, this time much closer and quite enquisitive!
The abundance and variety of soft corals was amazing.
To end the dive we had a pair of catfish hiding under a rock ledge.
On the way home we were treated to more humpback whales including the mother and calf who cruised along just beside our boat!
Having saved the best until last, tomorrow, we are off to the World Famous Exmouth Navy Pier…
We were once again collected from Exmouth and headed off to the Bundegi Jetty to get to the dive boat. We headed north for about an hour stopping intermittantly to take in the delights of breaching humpback whales in our path.
When we arrived at Murion Islands, our first stop was on the north of the first island.
After descending down the mooring line and heading over to the coral bombies the frist thing we we shown were the most amazing fern corals extending out from the soft coral outcrops.
The coral bombies were crouded with life including Queen Angelfish…
We explored the range of canyons and coral shelves to get the most of the spectacular scenery.
This also our first close encounter with a sea snake. There were a fair few around. Every few minutes they would head up to the surface for a breath and then dive down to the sandy floor to then head out under the overhangs in search of the next meal.
After surfacing, we then headed of around to the other side of then island for the second dive…
We travelled a little further up the coast and moored again at our next site for the day.
This site is marked out by a large coral ledge at the centre of the dive area with a multitude of limestone caverns and coral ledges around to explore.
Follwing the mooring line down to the sand shelf at about 10m depth, we encountered what we believe to be a very well camoflagued wobbygong under one of the ledges. It was about 1m long, but wedged so well under the ledge I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of it.
We moved away from the mooring line and headed over to the large coralledge at the centre of the site.
Swimming around the left side of the site, we got to see plenty of life.
This interesting pair never seperated by more than a few centimeters in the whole time I was watching them.
Some of the coral formations were amazing and look so fragile.
My buddy and I were then treated by a fly past from a Manta Ray.
It circled around us and then came back again a few minutes later for another look!
This guy looks like he was very comfortable using a coral bowl as a place to rest.
There was a large turtle that was hanging around on his favourite piece of rock.
While touring the right hand circle, we were followed around by this rather friendly sea snake.
At this point, my camera battery died, but I was able to persuade it to try again to get this final shot of an octopus that was hiding under a limestone outcrop.
Not the best photo in the world! I will try better next time!
Tomorrow, we are off to the Muiron Islands…
Having been picked up in Exmouth, a short bus ride later and we were at Bundegi Jetty to get the small tender over to our Ningaloo Reef dive boat for the day. Today’s sites are on the North end of the spit.
After a boat trip around the point for about 40 minutes, punctuated by frequent Humpback Whale sightings, we arrived at our first dive site. Jumping in the water, we then headed to the mooring line to descend. Following the line down to the bottom at around 12m depth we were treated with the first sight of the day. A lion fish was sitting quite happily under the concrete block that holds the mooring in place.
Once we were all together at the bottom, we headed out along the line of the reef moving against the current. The life of the reef was amazing.
I am never sure that photographs really to justice to the increadible abundance of activity on the reef so here is a video. The quality isn’t great, but it shows how the fish collect together and appear to be connected!
Next up. Dive 2…
While I appreciate that this post is neither about scuba diving, nor is it in Perth, WA, for the next few days I am on a trip to Exmouth to explore the delights of the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef.
Today was booked as a Whale Shark swimming experience, but as they haven’t seen Whale Sharks here for over two weeks, the season is now pretty much over. Two years ago, the Western Australian Government started allowing licensed Whale Shark Swim companies to extend the season by offering the oportunity to swim with the Humpback Whales. The Humpback Whales start their southerly migration and head for Antartica a month or so later than the Whale Sharks. The program is experimental at this stage and while the engagement rules are clearly defined by the department, the reality of swimming with them is yet to be perfected (as we learned today).
Having been picked up from Exmouth, we headed over to the Western side of the spit where Ningaloo Reef winds it’s way down to Coral Bay in the South. In the Jurabi Coastal Park is the Tantabiddi Boat Ramp which is where all the Whale Shark boats go out from into the Ningaloo Reef.
First stop was an orientation snorkel, to the North of the boat ramp and on the outer side of the reef.
Then back on the boat to follow the Humpback Whales that had already been spotted by the spotter planes to the North of our snorkeling site.
It wasn’t long before we saw the distinctive spouts of the Humpbacks and then we kept watch as they headed along in front of our boat, spouting and breaching every few minutes.
Then we got ready to go in. The skipper brought the boat around so that we were in their path and we slid into the water off the back of the boat. With visibility at about 25m and the whales probably 50m away,we couldn’t see anything except for the blue water! Duck your head under water though and you could hear them as loud as if they were right on top of us. After swimming for a few minutes, the skipper signalled us backon board as they had dived and gone right past.
We had three more goes with a similar experience and then when we were just about to get back up the steps from the marlin board at the back of the boat, the yell came out that we were going in again for another try.
This time we finned out quickly in the direction we were being pointed in by the guys left on the boat. We could hear the sound just getting louder and louder and then a low vibration that went straight through you. There it was! Right in front of us, nose down to the sandy bottom with it’s fluke coming back up to only about 5m below the surface.
The Humpback then levelled out at the bottom and swam straight underneath us.
It was then our turn to spot on the boat while the others had a go at swimming. After about five goes without any luck, we started to head back home. Then just as we had about given up, we saw a pod of four Whales heading across in front of the boat. Having tired out the other group they called out for two more people to join them so I grabbed the camera and jumped in as well. I was lucky enough to experience another encouter with these majestic creatures. This one was quite a bit bigger (and louder) than the one earlier and quite a bit deeper. As the whale past beneath us, it turned on it’s side as if to see what we were doing, invading it’s world. Unfortunately, it was all to quick to get any photographic evidence second time around. I need to get myself that mask mounted Go-Pro that I have been coveting.
To cap it off, after lunch, we took to the water again to do a drift snorkel over a patch of shallow reef.
Just to complete the experience we saw this turtle as we floated along!
Tomorrow I head out onto the Ningaloo Reef to do a double dive with http://diveningaloo.com.au/. See you then…
Wednesday 15th July – BHP Jetty Night Dive
It was just the two of us today on the BHP Jetty Night Dive, but what the rest of you missed was probably the best visibility we have had for the past couple of months. The conditions were pretty close to perfect with a light current running north to south and virtually no swell.
With a maximum depth of around 8.3m we were down for 67 minutes which at 15 deg C did start to get a bit cold, but we were rewarded by some great things to see. No Great Whites or Manta rays that we had been promised, but the number of Seahorses and colourful Nudibranch were fantastic.
Having experimented with video last week, I took a few more snippets today along with a lot of photos so I will share a few:
Firstly, for those of you who haven’t been on a night dive, this is Aaron ahead of me:
The legs of the Jetty are covered in soft corals, feather anemone and there were a lot of starfish and these Nudibranch crawling around:
The Seahorses were out in force:
Including this beautiful orange seahorse!
Shortly before the turn, Aaron spotted a Cuttlefish hiding under some rocks:
And then further on we met another one swimming in the open water:
And then a small Stingray next to a shoal of juvenile Catfish.
On the way up to the beach, we stayed under and scanned the sand for other interesting life. As always there where quite a number of Blue Swimmer Crabs and small fish, and then we came across this Sand Eel trying to hide from our lights.
And this which has now been identified as a Horrowed Sole.
Next week, the Perth Scuba Manta Club have pencilled in a dive on the coast North of the river, but that will be weather dependant. The wind and swell are dropping after the weekend, so fingers crossed…
Wednesday 1st July – Ammo Jetty Night Dive
Not letting a little bit of rain put us off, we met in the car park to gear up for a night dive at Ammo Jetty.
We had a varied crew. A couple of seasoned locals, two fairly new divers and three recently qualified PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors.
I haven’t been out on a night dive for a long lime and I soon remembered how much I do love it. The underwater world comes alive at night and it gives you a completely different perspective on the dive site. Sandy bottoms that in the day are empty, in the night are peppered with crabs and shrimps. In your torch, the jellyfish shimmer and cuttlefish swim past your mask at close quarter.
We also saw quite a few other things including quite a large Stingray that had been hooked by one of the fishermen on the jetty overhead.
My buddy was kind enough to liberate it and it didn’t hang around after that. The other things we saw were Frog fish, lots of Starfish, a small Port Jackson Shark and a Rock Fish hiding in the soft corals on one of the pylons.
I can’t wait to go out again next week. The current plan is to go out from South Mole (Freemantle)…