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I suppose I've been fortunate to enjoy many great dive trips.

When you're in the pristine wilderness that is Fiordland on a little boat for a week with three other divers doing nothing but diving, sleeping, refueling and gazing gob smacked at the stars on a still clear night you know you're lucky to be there.

Black-backed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon melannotus)

Sharks at the Kermadecs probably follow you around in packs because they've never seen one of these ungainly looking creatures before.

Diving in the tropics is cool but coral reefs do tend to have a sameness about them. The soft coral reefs of Fiji must be some of the most colourful and staggeringly beautiful sights on earth and the diversity of species is a never ending source of wonder in a place like Bunaken.

So, I guess for me, the Great Barrier Reef had a lot to measure up to. I suspected from the beginning it would struggle to compete.

Reef

Highs

Steve's Bommie: A great dive by any standard with tons of fish.

Cod Hole: It is a famous dive site and for the record, I have been there and done that. The fish are cute but the feed is a circus and not the thing to do in a Marine Park?

Cod Hole

Staghorn coral (Acropora sp.)

Lows

It was blowing maybe 25kts and deemed too rough to make it out to Osprey Reef - #### ! So, my main objective, The Coral Sea, would elude me.

Dive briefings: Ridiculous rehearsed hoopla that's supposed to enthuse you but just made me cringe. Let's dive Hog's Breath - YEAH!

Permanent moorings on most dive sites should help to protect the reef from damage by anchors. At Escape Reef we discovered it doesn't always work that way when our dive was interrupted by a loud crunching and then rumbling sound. Taka II is a big, heavy boat and she'd ripped the mooring chain through a coral head and demolished a sizeable chunk of reef. Afterwards, little damsel fish looked pathetic swimming around what had been their home and was now just pile of silt and rubble.

Pumping out Taka II's effluent tank. I know I contributed to this muck but when you see several hundred litres of it blast out from the the side of the boat it does make you wonder about the environmental impact of these human cattle trucks.

While on Taka II, itchy bites promted me to explore my bunk and what do you know? I hadn't seen these critters since travelling through India and Nepal in 1992 where most notably, I got viciously savaged by the bloodthirsty little buggers in Sudder Street, Calcutta. Yes! ####ing bed bugs!

Hog's Breath: One of my most mediocre tropical dives ever with the possible exception of No Name Bommie.

No Name Bommie: Dump your clients on a silty, dead looking reef for their last dive of the trip. A great memory to go home with? What were they thinking?

Schooling Jacks at Steve's Bommie

Reef

Apologies for all the bitching. Even the worst dive beats the hell out of working.

I shall return to The Coral Sea.

[Trip notes: September 2002 out of Cairns on Taka II heading north as far as Cod Hole/Ribbon Reef No.10. All Snaps taken with a Nikon F3 in Aquatica housing, 16mm fisheye Nikkor and twin strobes]

2003 ianskipworth.com

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