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mike-yPADI rescue2000 TGs

bad vis - no fun

At home I googled for a dive center on Hamilton and could only find “Explore”, some kind of tour operator for day trips to the White Sundays and Great Barrier Reef including meals, snorkeling, lunch break on a beautiful beach plus 2 dives for the heavy price of 320 A$. Well, I planned diving so I had to book this.
I stayed at Palm Bungalows, lovely spacious cottages with kitchen facilities and all kind of amenities. You can use all the pools of other hotels here, a great idea. I heard the whole island belongs to one guy, spectacular. Same goes with meals, where you can eat wherever you chose to and charge it to your room, so no need to carry much cash around with you. Public transport is free of charge, it cruises all around in 15 min intervals. This should be introduced elsewhere and would reduce pollution and exhaust for sure.
Dive 1 was Luncheon Bay inside the islands as the wind was too strong to head outside to the Great Barrier Reef. It would have been a 2 hour choppy ride, not good for a load of 60 holiday hungry tourist. It was a cloudy and rainy day. Water temperature ran around 27 degrees vis was 5 m only !!! what else is there to say ??? Small boulders, some coral, nudis, lobster but not one single shot with camera, not in that vis. 50 bar or 50 min is the rule, whichever comes first. The cruise ship is a big catamaran, rather stable even in choppy seas, the dive Zodiac they lowered with a hydraulic ramp into the water. This happens without divers, the hydraulic wouldn´t have managed to carry that weight or lift it up again. An idea maybe for the future, you gear up sit in the dinghy and are lowered into the water. Most times after the dive we were close to the mother boat and kicked home. Once or twice we had to climb into the Zodiac, no fun on a short and steep ladder. There are better ones on the market. Twice we just grabbed a line on the dinghy and were pulled back to the catamaran.
Butterfly Bay for dive 2 showed a bit better vis maybe 8 – 12 m, some pretty coral and sponges (medium sized barrel), soft coral, nudis, barramundi and some reef fish. I guess all divers longed to go to Bait Reef outside. Snorkelers have to wear a rash guard suit because of some jellyfish Irukandi in the water here.
I should maybe have done a bit more research on the diving conditions here, the vis seems to be that poor all year round inside the islands. But again, I wanted to visit the stunning beaches like White Heaven so I had to bear it. The first days of diving continued like this. It was a bit of a shock and some sort of anticlimax after Elliot and Lord Howe. All divers I met strongly recommended Yongala Wreck which so far I haven´t dived on.
Next day same procedure again, Luncheon and Butterfly Bay, which turned into a soup dive with beginners. My buddy had 25 logged dives, I had to show him the dump valve in the back of his BC, it was some kind of escalator dive, up – down, urgs. Keep up hope and cross fingers for the next few days. Weather forecast looked and promised better and calmer sea. I canceled one day as they planned the same thing again. They do a double head count when all dives and snorkelers are back on board, kudos to that. On all dives here they register and follow your profile, you sign for it. You even have to bring a snorkel, Queensland Law insists on that, due to the big number of divers they have there.
Saturday and Sunday outer reef at last, a 2 hour ride to reach Bait Reef 16 miles outside of the islands. Bait Reef is bigger than Hamilton Island, a huge coral plateau or sunken island where all kinds of blue invited you to jump in soonest. Vis 15 – 20 m, 28 degrees, a wall reaching down to 25 some crevices and boulders, 2 sharks, 3 blue spotted rays, some reef fish but not that many to get excited about, hard coral not on the whole reef. Hamilton was hit by a typhoon but you couldn´t find damage of that on the reef here. Lunch break and dive 2 followed right after, which was not too good an idea, a US guy and I were nearly sick in the water. Gear up time for dive 2 was called out, we all sat ready and were planned for the first dinghy going out. 1 went with snorkelers, the next followed, we were still sitting there in full gear for more than 10 min no fun that. First mate came down and cleared the path for us thank you! 35 min into the dive the guide gave ascend sign. I looked to my buddy, he shrugged his shoulder, we both had 150 bar, but we slowly climbed up the reef and did our safety on a boulder, dive time 50 min. This was a bit too much on the safe side here.
They give some excellent boat procedure and briefing. Diving concerned they overdid it for me. There was a dive briefing when divers met on board, a pre dive briefing 15 m before we reached the place, a buddy check procedure under the eyes and command of the guide, like air on, buckle on the right, valves check, inflate BC. Under water this continued with signs like, come up/down to my level, get closer to the wall or buddy, gauges were asked after all 10 to 15 min.
Next day showed clouds and some rain but medium calm seas, so we went out again. We did the same two spots Stepping Stones + Dragon Wall of the day before, which was like same procedure on the inner reef. One wonders if there aren´t any more spots worth diving on or are these guys just a bit lazy. Again we jumped into the Zodiac, motored out to the reef, backroll and let´s see what´s around. A turtle is flying past in foggy waters, a good sized sea trout hovers above the reef. Dive 2 much better vis, 15 – 18 m, modest fish life on the reef, Napoleon, juvenile bat fish, angel fish, 2 sharks, lovely and bizarre formed boulders with windows, swim thru, canyons reaching inside the wall. A sandy bottom at around 25 m is sloping down. There was nothing in the deep blue. Getting back on board out of the Zodiac was a bit tricky in a swell and we made sure to grab a helping hand and step up one at a time. Snorkelers were feeding fish from the boat, 5 huge bat fish and 2 giant trevallies cruised around on the surface, I would have loved to find these on the reef.
I feel I chose the wrong sequence of islands for that trip. I should maybe have started with Hamilton, second secluded lovely Lord Howe and as highlight and climax awesome Lady Elliot. Hamilton was a bit too touristic for me, huge hotels, crowds around the pool in town on the ferry. Well you can´t have it all