Report and photos by Duy Dinh
Thirteen lucky club members made the long journey to Exmouth for a week of sunshine, warm weather and incredible diving.
Saturday - Arrival
Choy Lin, Ellie and I used our early arrival to get a bird’s eye view of Exmouth via microlights. In addition to a gorgeous view of the sunset over the Cape Range National Park, we were lucky enough to spot pods of breaching humpback whales, dugongs, mantas, turtles, dolphins, tiger sharks and even an upturned boat still on its mooring.
Bryon, Emily and Blair arrived in the afternoon with Mitch, Rob and Allessandra following soon after. We were all blown away how beautiful and spacious the villas Bryon had booked for us were.
Sunday – Diving the Murion Islands
There was a bit of swell on boat ride to the Murion Islands, but we were rewarded with views of breaching whales and dolphin pods in the distance.
Our first dive at Cod Bommie was a warm 23 degrees with vis between 10-15 m. Highlights included Bryon’s extended interaction with an overly-friendly sea-snake, sharks, turtles, pelagic mackerels and whale-song in the background.
Our second dive was at the Aquarium; a large, sprawling garden of hard coral with swim-throughs, scattered groups of fish-life and fantastic vis. While there was a vague plan to meet at the bottom for a group photo at the start of the dive, this was quickly discarded when someone yelled out “Manta!!!” and we all dispersed for a closer interaction. Unfortunately, the shy manta didn’t stick around for long.
After a long day, we were joined by Andre, Natalya and Phill at the evening BBQ. Tongs were passed around as the flames burned higher until Phill was left to contend with a raging greasefire! Despite a bit of charring, the BBQ nevertheless went down a treat!
Monday – Diving the Ningaloo Reef
We enjoyed a gentle boat ride to the Ningaloo Reef. Our first dive at Blizzard Ridge became one of the most memorable of the trip when a large, friendly manta decided to join us for most of the dive. Unconcerned by the number of fixated divers in the water, it put on a show by circling the group and darting in and out of the schools of glass fish. This wonderfully unexpected interaction almost made us forget about the other reef residents such as stingrays, cods, groupers and beautiful schools of fusiliers.
The second dive was on the Labyrinth, presumably named for its abundance of holes, ridges and swimthroughs filled with soft and hard corals, huge anemones with families of anemonefish. Some lucky divers caught a glimpse of several black tipped reef sharks circling the area and on the return home, we got a close encounter with a dugong near the boat ramp. Dinner consisted of lentil soup and other goodies by Rob and Allessandra and we were joined by Karl who had been in the area fossicking for rocks as part of a geology project.
Tuesday - Double Dive at the Navy Pier
A much welcomed late-start to catch the slack tide for a double dive on the Navy Pier. After a heart-stopping two-meter giant stride into the water, we were surrounded by a plethora of concentrated marine life. Schools of trevally, pipefish and batfish circled overhead. Groups of potato cods, white-tipped reef sharks and groupers as large as some divers hung together lazily between the pier structure.
Flatfish, rays, nudis and octopi littered the sandy bottom. Eels and octopi nestled among the rocky structures and a sea snake harassing some nervous divers. We enjoyed a dinner of delicious burritos put on by Andre and Natalya.
Wednesday - Snorkelling with Whalesharks
After a brief snorkel with a curious rockcod, we were quickly whisked to a location where two whalesharks had been spotted. Two groups of us took turns being dropped into the water in front of the largest fish in the ocean. It was definitely a breathtaking experience to witness a giant mouth heading right for you! We were lucky to have both whalesharks stay on the surface for a very long time, diving only briefly to give us a breather and stretch our legs. We ended the day with another snorkel on a sandybottom reef. As the boat started its motor, we noticed a humpback whale had surfaced near us and cruised in for a closer look.
Thursday - Gorges & Coral Bay
A group of us went with Mitch and Bryon in their 4WD’s to check out the gorges of the Cape Range National Park and one of WA’s first oil exploration wells. Then it was onto Coral Bay for lunch, a drift snorkel and the excitement of sunset quad-biking!
Friday – Paleontology and Snorkelling in the Cape Range National Park
We headed into the Cape Range National where Karl found the hidden megalodon tooth with his treasure map. The area was also rich in fossilised coral. Then it was off to check out the Visitor Centre and a drift snorkel at Torquoise Bay with its lazy turtles and reef sharks. We ended the day watching the sunset from the lighthouse.
The 2017 UWAUC Exmouth trip was a fun-filled adventure and creature-extravaganza! We enjoyed perfect weather and got to see interesting parts of the Cape Range National Park that we would probably miss out on our own. A special thanks to Mitch and Bryon for the 4WD adventure and Karl for the geology/paleontology lesson. Thanks to everyone who cooked, BBQ’d and heated pizza for dinner. It was delicious!
Thanks Bryon for organising the trip. Looking forward to doing it again next year!