Monday, 28 November 2011

Epically Unfortunate - Lady Musgrave Island

A 3-4m Manta Ray swims over me while free-diving next to Lady Musgrave Island. Photo: Ryan Pearson
By Ryan Pearson
For a very unlucky, and ultimately disappointing dive trip, this one was great fun! The crew from the Griffith University Dive Club ventured north to Bundaberg for a weekend of diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Our aim was to live aboard the dive vessel Venus II for three nights, and have ten dives around Lady Musgrave Island. The whole group was very excited to dive with heaps of Manta Rays and we were all holding out hope for an appearance by the fabled resident 4m Tiger Shark. Unfortunately, not everything went to plan...

We boarded the boat on Friday night and took the long trek out to Lady Musgrave Island. When we woke up in the morning, we had breakfast and were ready to jump in the water for our first dive at Jackson's Bommie off an island right next to Musgrave itself. Jackson's Bommie is well known for its many resident Manta Rays, and these were the guys everyone was hunting for on this dive.

A turtle over the reef at Jackson's Bommie. Photo: Ryan Pearson
We jumped in to 23°C water with about 20m vis, and a moderate surface current. The water was beautiful, and on this dive we saw many turtles, and lots of biodiversity among the reef fish. DD and I also spotted a guitar shark, and another unidentified shark (which was probably a tawny nurse). There were also beautiful bommies, covered in soft and hard corals, but up in the shallows, the effects of human impacts and climate change were in full view with masses of dead, bleached corals. While some of the group were lucky, unfortunately, the manta rays eluded us, and after a safety stop in the now strong current, we jumped back on the boat only to see at least four manta's cruising the surface for our entire surface interval. 

Just as we were getting really excited to jump in again, and were listening to the pre-dive brief, the crew decided that the outgoing current was way too strong for us to jump in there again. Disappointed, we sat down again and waited for the crew to move us to a new location, still holding hope that the Manta's would turn up on at least one of the next nine dives we were scheduled to do. On the way over to Musgrave Island, the skipper noticed some nice structure and lots of life in a spot they'd never dived before, and decided to throw us in as explorers.

The coral structures and fish-life at the all new dive site. Photo: Ryan Pearson
The dive site itself was pretty nice, but I came up in a crappy mood. In the strong current I had managed to lose my flash diffuser, and bump my dome port into some coral and scratch it... and to top it off, more of the group saw some Manta's while DD and I still hadn't so much as glimpsed them underwater. That said, I still got some nice shots of the beautiful structures down there.

A soft coral under an overhang. Photo: Ryan Pearson
Next it was over to the 'premier dive site of the region' - Manta Ray Bommie - which is situated right on the outside of the Lady Musgrave Island lagoon. Again, we could see Manta's cruising the surface as we prepared ourselves for the dive. We were told our best chance to catch them underwater was to head to big bommie where they come to be cleaned. So without further ado, we jumped in and followed directions exactly to the bommie. The many bommies at this site are very impressive on their own, they just would have been more so if the friendly Manta's had graced us with their presence. We hung around, and sadly saw none. In fact, every other group we encountered underwater said they saw a manta just after they left us. DD and I were beginning to think we were cursed. 

DD next to one of the giant bommie. Photo: Ryan Pearson
As I got out of the water, I saw a Manta on the surface coming towards the boat. I made the quick decision to just jump in and freedive with it. After the first one came past, they started coming by regularly and within a couple of minutes almost everyone was in the water with me and we were having a blast. Finally, DD and I had our Manta Ray encounter, and we were stoked. 
My first Manta encounter on the trip. Photo: Ryan Pearson
Back on the boat afterwards everyone was buzzing, we were so excited that we could barely hear the skipper when he told us that the trip was over, and we had to go home. It seems that something had broken on the boat that prevented tanks being filled, or the desalination plant running to give us fresh water, or most of the lights on the boat working. After such a high, we were all brought right back down. I didn't even get to try out my macro lens.

It was still an epic trip, but it was cut way too short just when it was starting to get really interesting.
The uni group, still happy despite recently being told the trip was over. From left: Makoto, Ryan, Matti, Shary, Trev, DD, Kieren, Chris, Katie, Amanda, & Seanan.
Here are some of the other pics I took on the three dives we managed to get in.
Another turtle at Jacksons Bommie. Photo: Ryan Pearson


Divers doing their safety stop on the anchor line at Jackson's Bommie. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Fishlife and Coral at Jackson's Bommie. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Some coral structure at the 'new' dive site. Photo: Ryan Pearson

DD using her new camera. Photo: Ryan Pearson

A small, tempting gap between two bommies at the new site. Photo: Ryan Pearson
More coral structure. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Glass fish surround a bommie at Manta Ray Bommie. Photo: Ryan Pearson
 
Another of many local Manta Rays. Photo: Ryan Pearson

Manta from above after he had cruised past me. Photo: Ryan Pearson


A marine flatworm at the new unnamed site. Photo: Ryan Pearson

1 comment:

divingwithme said...

Nice blog, I have a similar one www.divingwithme.com its good to hear about the current situations with dive sites...was comtemplating doing lady musgrave during Xmas but will probably opt for Stradbroke now instead...thanks for the info and keep it up