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mike-yPadi rescue2000 TGs

diamond in blue setting

Coming out of the clouds all of sudden we saw an awesome greenish white diamond in a setting of lovely blues of all kinds – Lady Elliot. The pilot did us the favor to start a scenic tour once all around before the final approach, all our cameras clicking away in frantic speed. Paradise was waiting for us. The landing strip looked a bit short, so for the pilot it means, touch down and hit the brakes and propellers in reverse right away otherwise you would shoot over it and hit the lagoon. This would maybe an idea for avid divers to start right away.
Disembarking a guided 20 min tour of the island started to give you a rough idea of what´s going on. I got a lovely bungalow with garden view plenty of birds and a glimpse of the ocean between conifers. On my night desk I found a sign “ear plugs in the first drawer”, I wonder what the hell would I need ear plugs for here. It seems there is folk from the city, who can easily sleep with traffic noise not so however with birds calling, a bit strange that.
Undercurrent had a divers report already in the 10/2017 issue so I don´t need to tell you more on the island features. Diving was the reason I came here. Had e-mailed from home and pre booked a 10 dive package with my own gear. Again no surcharge on the plane, lucky me it seems. At the dive center I found a blackboard with clear warnings for snorkelers, not to go out to lighthouse with southerly winds or vice versa northern winds at Coral Garden. Sometimes they even recommend not to go at all, when the beach for snorkelers was closed due to swell current and strong winds. I went for a first impression with mask and fins and I found a healthy reef no traces of a dying or suffering Great Barrier Reef here. Staghorn in abundance with freshly grown flourishing branches reached up to the surface, beautiful. Were all the horrendous stories rumors or ghost stories to bring in tourist for a last glimpse on the reef? To be on the safe side they installed some buoys and lines on the reef to give snorkelers some reference where they are on the reef and hold tight if they don´t manage the tidal current, a good thing. I swam both ways back and forth from Lighthouse and had to fight only a bit of a current.
Dive 1 + 2 at Lighthouse Bommie + Marori Wrasse Bommie: It was a wouh experience, great vis of around 40 m 27 degrees in the water, that´s how I like diving. Aquarium all around us on entering the water, 6 turtles, 5 sharks (reef and blacktip) 3 eagle rays, 2 sting rays, wobegon, snapper, grouper, sweetlips, surgeons, trevallies, pipe trumpet leaf fish, octopus, amazing and a lovely which couldn´t be better. Vis varied in spots, from 14 to 20 m maybe due to tide. A slight current was running, easy to swim against. All eyes were tuned for manta rays, so far no luck with that. Fish life is abundant and seems used to divers, so you managed to get some good and easy shots even with Hero where you have to get real close to succeed in a nice photo.
You assemble and don you suit at the dive center next to the landings strip and close to reception. It sometimes took some time with 12 divers around for everybody to get ready. You put your gear on a trailer, divers sit in another one behind, a tractor is pulling the whole thing to Lighthouse . There you get ready and put on all your gear. With reef shoes or booties we walked down to the beach and boat. This is some big aluminum construction with a ramp, which can be lowered for easy beach entry of all divers. In a swell you had to be careful when the ramp was moving, so a big step was a good idea. 3 groups were formed, all are guided, 1 hour of 50 bar is the rule, you buddy up. They follow your profile. Once the dive is finished you have to write down your bottom time, maximum depth and remaining air and sign this. Is this a new way to keep liability away from the dive center?
Severance wreck was planned, this time we went out with the glass bottom boat, only 8 divers on the morning trip. 2 min away from the beach we spotted a manta right beneath us. Like on emergency alert all scrambled to get in the water as fast as possible. Not so the dive guide, who first made sure we understood the procedure around a manta dive and not chase it away. We all listened restless and eager to jump. Down in the sand – nothing – Pedro gave directions and immediately round the next boulder there he was hovering a bit. We kneeled down got our cameras ready and several times he flew around and above us close by, great photo opportunity wouh. This was not the only highlight on that dive. A French girl heard dolphins, gave signs to Pedro, he looked around, pointed excited and one animal came down to us from the surface. My buddy gave signal ray in the sand, Pedro at the same time signaled shark, a bit confusing, damn where to look first. I managed to catch both a leopard shark was resting in the sand, the ray half buried only eyes and gills looking out. In the distance near the surface a bunch of bat fish was cruising, I love these and they offer great shots. Jellyfish and transparent salbes floating in the blue above us, a Napoleon with some jacks were looking for food. We reached Severance with a thorny ray there and millions of glass fish around the wreck. One lucky dive, we all laughed and high fived to Pedro and Stephen the boat man for the good job they had done. In 5 days we had 6 manta sightings. At coral garden we found a spot which looked like a caterpillar went over the reef, only rubble, I made a circular sign to the dive guide, he nodded, must have been side effects of the typhoon they had the year ago.
Lunch was good, followed the advice out of undercurrent and did not go for the now 25 buck buffet but had sides only like wedges, sweet potato fries, they got me the best gluten free toast I had ever, big slices with some green seeds in , maybe pumpkin, yummy. The desalinated tap water without any minerals in tastes disgusting.
When you need shadow or suffer from the sun you should try to get into the dive boat first, It´s only partly covered. At Anchor Bommie we had a school of barracuda, a “whaler” shark = grey reef shark, a dozen eagle rays flew past, too far away to catch a good picture, turtles, turtles, turtles on every dive, a blackspotted whipray in the sand. There wasn´t much choice of dive sites, often we did the same again and again or floated in one nearby. Once we had a nice drift dive across a coral garden which slowly picked up speed. When we surfaced we frantically grabbed the buoy line and hung there like flags in the wind. The current was much stronger here and we all got safely but tired and a bit out of breath back onto the boat. Pedro and Phil were really enthusiastic guides, always laughing and happy sharing sights with the guests.
Last diving day for me, The wind had picked up, at Lighthouse and Coral Garden a big surf was running to shore, closed for snorkelers and divers had to turn to the other side of the island which is facing the open ocean. It was lucky me again for that chance to dive both sides of the island. We were only two divers that morning. Totally different landscape here under water, vis a bit low due to the wind on top, a wall reaching down to 25 or 30 m with lots of overhangs, ledges, caverns, a divers heaven. We dropped in at Blow Hole and swam towards Tubes and Hero. We kicked down into Blow Hole a wide opening at around 12 m, a bunch of snappers and thousands of glass fish hovering at the exit at 24 onto a wall with lovely fans and huge table coral. Beneath us a big sting ray, a manta flew past in slow motion, a whaler cruised around with humongous belly, maybe a pregnant female, a good sized potato cod hang on the wall . I looked around for more and right under me a monster of sting ray approached, I shrieked into my reg, Pedro looked around and nearly got a shock with the ray only half a meter away and closing. Parrot fish, leopard trigger angel fish on the reef, a lovely finale to my diving here. Let´s see what I managed to catch with my camera of all that. At safety stop we reached the ledge of Hero, a short look down was tempting but with only 60 bar left we decided on some other time. It was a wide canyon cut into the wall with crevices overhangs but at this time with a bit of foggy vis. Well maybe next time around.
Sunsets at Lighthouse and the sky at night are worth watching and dreaming while doing so.
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