Dive Trip to Coral Sea with TAKA
We left the boat on the berth in Breakwater Marina in
Townsville and took a bus to Cairns where we boarded TAKA – a big diving boat on
which we are going to Coral Sea to spend 4 days diving on the reef.
We had a separate room on TAKA with double bed,
air-conditioning and our own bathroom. It seemed a luxury after living on our
Empede for 3 months.
There are around 30 divers on the trip and also the crew of
13 (Skipper, first mate, engineer, cook and his assistant, 3 instructors, 2
photographers, 2 helpers and a trip director).
The crew takes care of everything, including cooking and
filling the tanks and all you need to do is diving. The schedule is tough – 4
dives per day.
One third of the divers are Japanese tourists, they don’t
speak a word of English and have their own instructor who is also Japanese and
is their interpreter as well. The other third of tourists are either Americans
or Germans, and the remaining minority are Aussies (we included ourselves in the
In the evening we took off from Cairns marina and were
given a yummy dinner (It feels good to have a break from cooking again).
1st Day: Diving in Cod Hole.
In the morning we arrived to Cormorant Reef, next to Ribbon
Reef No10, where the Cod Hole site is (14°39.93 S., 145°39.60 E).
Here we did our first 2 dives.
This place is very popular for the huge potato cod that
Gonzie decided to do an underwater photography course and
we did our fist dive with a photographer Steve.
The reef is beautiful. Through the glass of my mask I see
layers of corals of various shapes and colours, lots of reef fishes and giant
clams. Soft corals are swinging back and forth from the current like the trees
on the wind. On the top of bommies Nemos are peering from their
anemones. And of course, the local pop-star The Potato Cod is there. The
visibility is around 20 meters (actually not too great for Coral Sea).
The water is warm: 24°C.
The next dive was an underwater show: cod feeding. All the
divers sat in a circle on a sandy patch in 7 meters depth and Potato Cod, the
size of a big dog, was swimming around anticipating the food. The trip director
Jane took out a big plastic canister full of dead fish and started throwing them
to the Cod, who caught them with the mouth. After the feed, Jane put the canister on the
sand and the Cod sat still staring at it. This fish is not very intelligent and
will probably stare at this canister all day waiting for the food to come out
:). This is the trick the dive organisers use to take photos of divers with the
The third dive we did on Pixie Reef, the spot called
Pixie’s Pinnacle (14°56.11 S, 145°40.26 E) . We went down to 11 meters and
started circling the Pinnacle slowly going up. It was nice to have a
decompression stop on top of the Pinnacle.
The last dive today was a night dive at 6 o clock. It takes
a lot of energy to do 4 dives per day, especially if you’re not used to it.
Therefore it is important to take naps. I had one after the 3rd dive and felt excited about the night dive.
Before stepping down into the water everyone was given a
torch. Also the crew attached the glowing stick to each diver’s tank. The spot
is called Challenger Bay (14°54.96 S, 145°41.44 E) and the maximum depth is only
The boat turned the searchlights on and there was plenty of
light, with around 10m visibility. The reef life slows down in the dark with
most of the fish asleep.
There are a few giant trevallie and sea bass around; they
are waiting for the divers to uncover sleeping fish with their torches and eat
it. There is even an evil joke: you shine the torch to the sleeping fish, the
predator fish will see it and reach towards it, then you quickly move the torch
from that sleeping fish to the coral wall and you see the predator crash its
head into the coral loosing orientation.
At night soft corals also “flower up”. Looking under the
layer of coral I saw a moray eel sitting there with jaw wide open. Morays
wouldn’t hurt you if you don’t touch them.
After dinner we watched the video made by the photographers
during the day and took off towards Osprey Reef, which around 100 miles from
Australia out to Coral Sea and only 250 miles from PNG.
2nd Day: Osprey Reef and Shark Feeding
We arrived to Osprey reef early in the morning. The first
dive is at 7 am in the spot called North Horn (13°48.10 S, 146°32.75 E).
In this place the reef reaches its full beauty. People say
that the reefs in Thailand and PNG are even more beautiful, but I haven’t been
there myself and for me this one is good enough.
We are diving along the drop-off wall which is going down
very deep, but there is no need to go below 20 meters.
The corals are of more variety of shape and colours, large
Gorgonian fans of white, yellow, pale pink, red and even blue, and the fish life
is abundant. The reef looks pristine and not as damaged by the anchors and
clumsy divers as the reefs near Cairns.
The anemones are everywhere with clown fishes nervously
swimming around them, diving in the depth of anemone tentacles when the danger
The danger is not too far away: returning to the boat we
swam through a school of barracudas.
The next dive is shark feeding and it is on the same side
of the reef, not far from the first dive. The divers take turns jumping in and
head to the dead coral where Jane, the trip director, shows them their “seats”.
Gonzalo and I are among the first ones to arrive. The visibility is great (30 m
or so) and watching the other divers descending above and swimming over feels
like watching the witches flying to the Sabbath.
When all the divers took their places in this underwater
theatre at 12m depth the show began. The crew brought in a dinghy a green waste
bin full of frozen large tuna heads and lowered it down to the feeding spot. The
sharks (reef sharks and bronze whalers) were coming from all the direction
Then Jane pulled the rope tied to the lid and
the boy came out releasing the piece of chain with a tuna head attached (tuna
heads are released one by one, not all of them at once). The sharks jumped on it
shaking their heads in a frenzy trying to take it off the chain. Poor sharks,
the heads are frozen and it’s not too easy. There were not only sharks
large potato cods, sea basses, giant trevallies, and some other fish were here
too not being afraid of sharks. Sea basses were agitated and turned red except
one, who must have had blood circulation problem :).
This feast lasted for about 20 minutes until all the heads
had been finally eaten. The shark started to swim away, so did we. Gonzalo was
trying to take a photo of a shark swimming nearby and lost his fin, which came
up floating on the surface and we had to come up. I couldn’t stop laughing
looking at this fin during our ascend and decompression stop.
The next 2 dives were also done at Osprey Reef, but on
different sites. One of them called “Around the Bend” (13°50.92 S, 146°33.76 E)
and the other one “The Entrance” (13°53.39 S, 146°33.24 E), where we saw a few
puffer fishes. The Japanese make a dish of them called Fugue. It is a poisonous
fish and only a few chefs who pass a special test are allowed to cook it. The
test includes eating it at the end and apparently only 30% pass (it doesn’t mean
that 70% die, they just might do something wrong in preparation process).
Day 3 & 4: Diving at Ribbon Reef No 3 and other
Overnight the boat returned to the reefs closer to
mainland. We did 4 dives on day 3 and 2 on our last day before returning back to
Devils’ Wall (I did not write down the reef name or
Steve’s Bommie (Ribbon Reef No 3; 15°30.05 S, 145°47.29
Temple of Doom (Ribbon Reef No 3; 15°30.47 S, 145°47.56
Beer Garden (Agincourt Reef; 16°01.04 S, 145°47.34 E) –
Split Bommie (Opal Reef; 16°13.97 S, 145°51.88 E)
My favourite spots from the above were the ones on Ribbon
Reef No 3. Night dive was probably the worse, as the visibility was bad and we
only saw, apart from other divers, a prawn and a giant clam. Apparently if you
happen to put a foot or hand into it you are risking of not being able to pull
it out easily. I didn’t want to test it though :).
The last night on the boat we celebrated 2 birthdays (of
the crew) and had a pyjamas pirate night. People had fun of making up the
costumes from whatever clothes they brought and some were quite inventive.
Later we played games which went into the late night, and
getting up for 6 am dive next morning was a tough business :). This reminded me
on Underwater Club dive trips of old days :).
We arrived back to Townsville at 1 pm and we happy to find
a supermarket trolley: the dive gear is very heavy since it is wet and the
distance to the marina is not long enough for taxi to give us a ride.
It’s Gonzie’s birthday today and I took him out for a nice
seafood lunch in the waterfront restaurant.
In the evening I went to supermarket to do our next big
shopping and had trouble finding a taxi that would take this to the boat.
P.S.: In photo collage for this page a few photos of Steven
J Tait, the trip photographer, had been used.