Australia: QL: 19-22/07/04: Dive liveaboard to Wheeler Reef (GBR) and Yongala wreck

This time, no cancellation for the liveaboard. As planned, we (12 divers and 5 staff) boarded the boat in the evening.

As there were spare rooms, I requested a rom for myself which they agreed. It’s always nice to have that littl bit of extra space on a boat.
The whole night, we are heading to an outer part of the Great Barrier Reef, Wheeler Reef. There we would spend the first 2 days of diving. I was teamed up with Hannes, a German marine biologist. It worked out very well under water. I enjoyed the diving a lot: there was a big variety of fishlife and the coral was still in a healthy state (which is not everywhere the case on the GBR). We saw school of barracuda, sharks, turtles, eagle ray and the other smaller reeffishes, nudibranches, … Even during the nightdives, we saw sharks.

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The last day was then the highlight of the trip (also the reason for me to go on this trip) : the Yongala wreck. The wind was picking up the evening before, so we were warned that it could be rough, even such that it would maybe not be possible to dive the wreck. We all voted to go anyway. The trip to the wreck took longer than expected so we arrived only at 9 in the morning. The boat was dancing up and down, but we could dive. I started to feel a bit seasick but after 15 minutes outside, it went luckily away. Quickly prepared ourselves and off we went. A rough surface swim and we could go down. The visibility was not so good than 5 days ago, but it still is an amazing dive: 2 meter sized grouper, big schools of fish, very nice corals, and at the end, 2 giant stingrays. I still had enough air so dropped deeper again to approach them. Waauw, they were enormous. And then back to the suface were we really had to time carefully to climb back on the boat, because the waves made the boat go up and down a lot.

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We could only do 1 dive at the wreck, instead of the 2 dives foreseen. But this could not spoil my trip. It was a good way to end the diving of my holiday. Especially, back on the boat, we saw a humpbackwhale coming out of the water a few times. We actually heard them while diving as well, but I didn’t realise that the sound was from the whales. It gave an extra dimension to dive at a wreck when hearing these noises (spooky).
Now, I just need to head to Brisbane to catch the flight back home. I am sure I will come back to do more diving from Townsville south to Sydney.

Australia: QL: Townsville: 16/07/04: Diving the Yongala wreck

I heard already a long time ago that the SS Yongala wreck is the best dive in Australia. That is als why I have a liveaboard booked for that divesite. But more and more, I heard that quite often the sea is too rough to dive there, so they divert to other divesites. Currently, there is not so much wind, so I didn’t want to risk to not dive at the Yongala, and therefore booked a daytrip to the wreck.

It is a long way to the divesite: 3.5 hours with a fast boat. Luckily, it was a calm day (although half of the boat will deny this, as at least 6 out of 12 divers got very seasick).
I was teamed up with a diver, Tim, from Sydney (he actually knows the diver, Paul, I dived with South of Sydney). After a very good briefing, Tim and I jumped in as first buddy pair. You have to follow a few ropes at the surface and going down. Already on the way down, we saw a large school of barracudas. This was very promising.
At the wreck, I immediately saw it is not exagerated to have the Yongala rated as a top-dive. The wreck, whcih sank in 1911, is far away from reefs and therefore the only (artificial) reef in the area. So, all life gathers around this wreck. It is overgrown with soft and hard corals and the fishlife is enormous. Hughe schools, very big kingfish, batfish, extreme big Giant Queensland groupers (upto 2 meters), seasnakes, turtles. Everything seem to be bigger than normal (and it is not the underwater effect). We also saw 2 big bullsharks. I was trying to photograph a school of fish when all of a sudden, in a split second, they went away. I looked at Tim to ask if he knew what happened. I turned back and there was a very big bullshark. So I understood why the little fish swam for their lifes.
You can’t penetrate the wreck, because it is fully protected (it is actually a graveyard as everybody died on the ship). To me, I absolutely agree it is a top divesite. I am looking forward to go back there next week.
In the evening, it took me a while to find a spot to camp, so I had to drive in the dark, and immediately you see the animals coming out again, mainly kangaroos. (I luckily didn’t hit them).

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Australia: Queensland: Life is hard: sea, sun and beach!

I am slowly heading South to Brisbane along the coast of Queensland, the Sunshine state. I am absolutely thinking to those back home in cold, rainy Belgium when I am walking along deserted beaches, looking at the blue sky.
Waiting to go on the liveaboard on Monday, I will most probably dive the Yongala wreck already Friday or Saturday. (I couldn’t dive the Lady Bowen wreck due to too much wind).

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Australia: QL: Cairns: angry fishermen

I read in the newspaper that the fishermen of Queensland are absolutely unhappy: new regulations are introduced to reduce the amount of fishing. As a consequence, they threaten to put a bomb on the Esplanade in Cairns (very touristic area) and to close Cairns off on THursday by blocking the harbour and the farmers would support them and block the highways with their trucks.
My plane leaves Thursday evening to Micronesia, so it i sprobably safer to be back in Cairns on Wednesday evening.

Australia: QL: The Tablelands: 29-30/06/04: On the search for “Platypus

It reminds me of New Zealand: there I was trying to sea pinguins, here in the Tablelands, I am hoping to see Platypus.

These mammals live in the water and come out at dusk or down. They have a strange face. But of course, I didn’t spot one.
The tablelands have a very different climate: some parts are very dry and other parts are extremely wet: that’s the part with all the waterfalls and the rainforest area. I was unlucky in that part of the Tablelands: it rained a big part of the time I spent there.