Author: Mrs A
Dives undertaken: 2 plus 1 in a swimming pool
Water temperature: 21.5 degrees C (brrr)
Wetsuits worn: 2.5
Mr A and I went out separate ways for the day as I had booked a couple of dives on the Royal Australian Navy Pier, considered one of the top 10 dive sites in Australia. I haven’t dived in a few years, so I was picked up shortly after 8am to do a refresher dive in a swimming pool, remembering how to remove and replace my mask, weight belt and BCD and tank underwater, and how to do an equipment and buddy check.
I had a brief 40 minute break in between that and being collected again, where I quickly ate breakfast and collected some extra layers.
11am the bus returned to collect me plus a few others to do the dive proper. In total there were 15 people doing the two dives and we were paired up with a buddy with similar experience. I got paired with a very tall bearded Simon from Denmark, who had learned to dive in Danish waters, no warmer than 2 degrees!
There was a lot of briefing involved in order to prepare us for this dive. It is located on active Naval land so we had to hand fill out a form with our name, address and date of birth, ensuring it accurately matched our photo ID. It took the 15 of us three turns to fill in this form with no errors! We then had to drive to the Naval base for the key to the pier, and line up at the side of the road while a man in a bullet proof vest with a gun checked us off against the form. Once on Navy land, there was a no photography rule until we reached the pier…not that there was really anything to photograph…
As we arrived at the pier we were immediately entertained by three humpback whales swimming past, just 50 metres off shore – just magical, and a sign of things to come. We we-suited up and climbed carefully down two flights of metal steps (not soft underfoot when you are carrying a heavy tank on your back!) to the platform.
The jump into the water from the platform is about 3 metres, and it looks much further. It’s important to keep a hold of your weight belt and mask to ensure they don’t get lost on the jump down. I took a big stride off the pier and I was in. They then lowered all the cameras down to us via a hook. There were a lot of cameras – almost every diver had one, and I watched with dismay as mine was accidentally unhooked and sank down to the bottom of the ocean! Oh no!
We descended down the line to almost 12 metres below the surface and began our exploration. The sea life was incredible, just like I would imagine swimming in an aquarium. Every surface of the pier’s structure is covered in sponges, corals and fish of every colour and shape imaginable, huge shoals of fish visible everywhere – above, below and beside you as you fly gently through the water.
The sounds are of clicking and crunching shells, as we see fish attacking clams for the sweet meat inside. All this time, however, I was also anxious for my camera, which we hadn’t seen once on the ocean bed. Before long, it was time to ascend for our shore break, and another workout as we carried our heavy tanks up a ladder out of the water, and back up the two flights to the top.
We had a cup of hot soup, connected our breathing devices to a new full oxygen tank, and got ready for dive two. I was handed my camera, to much relief, by another dive guide who had found it and carried it around with her during the first dive. I decided to not put it on the hook this time, and attached it firmly to my wrist and again stepped off the pier. This time I lost both my fins! I watched in dismay as they both sank to the bottom of the ocean. Swimming with no fins is not fun at all! Fortunately a replacement pair were found for me, and again we descended.
This time the dive was even better than the first. We explored much further, seeing groupers, a grey nurse shark, a white tipped reef shark, moray eel, octopus, lion fish, flat worms (sound uninteresting but are stunning)…the list was endless.
A brilliant dive site, mishaps aside, and much fun had by all. We ascended for our final time and packed away our gear. Out came a cry ‘Manta ray!’ And another, and we all rushed to see at least seven huge mantas swimming just below the pier. They were huge beautiful fish, swimming on the surface like giant black rippling birds. Just incredible.
It was impossible to capture the mantas on camera as it was into the sun, but believe me, it was wonderful.
I returned on a high to camp to find Mr A on the phone to the bank trying to organise new cards. This is how his whole day had transpired, after realising he had lost his wallet on yesterday’s boat trip – farewell Medicare card, drivers licence, the lot – probably also at the bottom of the ocean somewhere. A far less enjoyable day for Mr A.
We ended on a positive, however, enjoying a delicious meal out at a local restaurant; Whalers. Crocodile wontons and a smokey grilled kangaroo loin for me, soft shell crab tacos and a reef and beef for Mr A, thank you very much – delicious!