November 09, 2003

Holmes Reef Day #2

After a calm and quiet night... we ended up starting diving around 8:30AM. Anyone being on a liveaboard will wonder why the heck we start so late when a 'normal' first dive is usually more around dawn than anything else, but I have absolutely no answer except a possible specific desire to waste some precious time which could be also very welcome for surface intervals.

The day goes on with (short) dives and pleasant diving in good visibility, but nothing unforgettable.

The 'drift' diving makes me smile of irony as we are forced to dive as a whole group (16 divers) and surface at the same time because the boat is coming to pick us up close to the reef (1-2m deep). It seems absolutely insane, it would be far easier for all divers to swim away from the reef so that there is no risk to smash it against the reef. Once on board my buddy and I were 'reminded' to surface with the group to avoid possible incident with the boat and a reef encounter.

We did not do it as everybody went straight from 8m+ to the surface and we did a safety stop (which to me is mandatory when diving deep...) and whatever reason is invoked, fact is that as the boat is not made for diving. It takes up to 15min for all divers to be picked up. That is, even after the safety stop, we waited more than 5min in a more dangerous situation: imagine 16 divers on the side of a boat, itself 20m from a reef (2m depth) and sometimes manoeuvring to stay away from it, while all divers have to climb a 3m high metallic ladder on the side of a boat with all the equipment on.

It is an absolute miracle that no one ever felt from the ladder or was smashed between the ladder and the boat (it nearly happened).

It also especially made me angry when the crew was waiting just on top of the ladder to note our diving time/depth while I was doing my best not to smash a US$1500 photo equipment. A hand would have been appreciated to take the gear ! Thanks to my buddy or divers passing by on top !

In the afternoon, the long awaited shark session happened. Very few opportunities to take pictures here, but oh well, I expected it.

The night dive was pathetic as it happened on top of a pinnacle: a flat top peak a few meters wide surrounded by 40m depth all around and exposed to current. Rather than restraining the divers to 8m depth for 30min, with 16 divers circling around a pinnacle as large as a swimming pool with dead coral exposed to current, I would expect a sheltered dive site. I was so bored after 15 minutes that I hesitated to come up. I was not the only one.

The way back to Cairns happened flawlessly.

As a conclusion:
- Visibility was awesome
- Huge sea fans
- Small marine life is nearly inexistant
- There are sharks
- Boat inappropriate for serious diving with 16 people (no platform)
- Do not catter for photographers (I was the first one)
- Ridiculous dive schedule
- Ridiculous dive time (because of schedule ?)
- A briefing about the whole trip lasting 1h30min just prior to the checkout dive is ridiculous. It should have been done before leaving Cairns to avoid wasting a precious time.

More could be said.

As a matter of fact, divers with little experience will probably enjoy this trip as it will give them pristine visibility with a rather 'close-up' encounter with sharks. More serious divers with experience elsewhere will be disappointed by the lack of marine life and will certainly not be thrilled by the sharks, especially if you are into photography.

After talking to a couple of dive instructors in Cairns (who have been diving somewhere else) it is crystal-clear, that the Great Barrier Reef is to be avoided. It is only a Koh-Tao bis where they do loads of Open Water certifications.

Diving should be very different with longer and professional liveaboard such as Mike Ball, Taka, Nimrod Explorer or Pro Dive, but I don't have the resources to test them

That said, fortunately the crowd was very diverse: swiss, german, american, irish, belgian, dutch, english, australian, israeli, etc... They were all nice people that made the trip more enjoyable than it would have otherwise been.

#05: Location: Cathedrals, SI: 11h49min, Max. Depth: 40.2m, Time: 42min
#06: Location: Abyss, SI: 1h30min, Max. Depth: 30.7m, Time: 40min
#07: Location: Turtles Graveyard, SI: 1h41min, Max. Depth: 22.9m, Time: 44min
#08: Location: Predators Playground, SI: 2h36min, Max. Depth: 9.8m, Time: 30min
#09: Location: Nonki, SI:1h06min, Max. Depth: 8.3m, Time: 36min

Susie as an underwater model Susie as an underwater model James at the back of the group Soft coral Soft coral Shark activity from the boat Shark activity from the boat Shark bitting at a piece of fish and taken out of the water without releasing it. Shark bitting at a piece of fish and taken out of the water without releasing it. Shark bitting at a piece of fish and taken out of the water without releasing it. Shark bitting at a piece of fish and taken out of the water without releasing it. Susie "Russian doll" on the boat deck Holmes Reef. 240km from the land. Nothing there but... water Holmes Reef. 240km from the land. Nothing there but... water White tip shark White tip shark White tip shark James filming the action White tip shark Moray Featherstar and soft coral Parrotfish

Posted by stephane at November 9, 2003 10:57 PM