Bernie, the engineer was waiting for us when we arrived and Fiona, the cook, and Capt. Graham McCallum arrived shortly afterwards. The original plan was to motor overnight to Lizard Island and head out to the reef from there, however there was one hitch. The three non divers with us, were aged 6, 8 and 10 and unless the seas were very calm they would not likely be able to do any snorkelling on the reef. Fortunately Graham knew the reef system very well and we soon had a whole new iteniary worked out. We would spend the bulk of the day out on the reef and then in late afternoon motor back to the shelter of an island where the kids could get off the boat and do some snorkeling.
We managed to use the other boats more rigid schedules to our advantage, and for the most part were successful in having every dive site completely to ourselves. The diving was nothing short of spectacular. The water temperature was 78 F and the visibility was around 60 feet. Forget the 200 foot visibility, you won't need it. I saw more species of fish on a the first dive at Hastings Reef then I have ever seen anywhere else. The best dives were on the coral heads (bommies). These included Hastings Reef, Agincourt Reef, Norman Reef and the Temple of Doom (Ribbon Reef #3) where we encountered dozens of Lionfish. We dove at Snake Gulley, Clam Garden (with 4 foot wide giant clams), the 3 Sisters, Challenger Wall and Pixie Pinnacle where there were huge schools of fish.
The children had their share of fun too. They saw turtles, sharks, moray eels, clams and lots of coral and fish. They explored the islands and collected shells on the beach, and watched "Crocodile Dundee" about a dozen times, while we were out diving. The highlight for them however, was the school of spinner dolphins that swam in the bow wake of the boat for about half an hour.
My favourite spot, was Cod Hole. The potato cods there are huge! Many of them were over two hundred pounds (90 kilograms). There is also a 7 foot long Green Moray eel that wrapped himself all over the captain trying to get at the bucket of fish he had brought along. On the second dive we went overtop of the reef into a large depression I call the aquarium. It is about 60 feet in diameter with high sides and a sandy bottom. It reminds me of a fish bowl. There is a huge school of diagonally striped sweetlips that hang out there. We found dozens of caves and swim throughs that were absolutely beautiful. You had to be careful though as more than one cave we looked into was occupied with sleeping white tipped reef sharks.
All in all it was one of the best dive trips I have ever been on. The food was excellent and plentiful, the dive gear was always full and ready for the next dive and the whole crew went out of their way to make us feel at home. Doug Poulin
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