Manta Bommie, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia

Saturday 19th December 2015

It was a beautiful hot sunny day and the water temperature was a balmy twenty five degrees Celsius, Summer was here and we were heading out to dive Manta Bommie at North Stradbroke Island.

Nick R. and I decided to do one long dive instead of two dives as we were diving  Sidemount and the depth is quite shallow and ranges from three metres down to fourteen on the sand.

As we descended I found my camera monitor was having a fit probably due to the challenging beach launch in the boat thanks to low tide. At first I really couldn’t be bothered surfacing to fix it but then we started seeing all sorts of things, Manta Rays, an awesome big Bull Ray getting cleaned and being ultra friendly, big Stingrays and Leopard Sharks.

So alas I surfaced and Ken helped me reset the monitor on the boat whilst I instructed from the water and back down again to get some footage this time.

I went back to where I saw the Bull Ray being cleaned. It kept coming up to me fast then suddenly stopping in front of me as if to almost intimidate me into leaving it’s patch, obviously prime real estate. I spent a good thirty minutes here and realised Nick must have gotten bored and tottered off.

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I didn’t have to go far one, two, three then a dozen Manta Rays started coming about as if it was the Manta Ray highway. I even saw a Manta train here with three Mantas.

Lots more to see such as mating Octopus, Barracuda, Tropical fish, Flute fish, Puffer fish, Nudibranchs, Leatherjack fish, Leopard Sharks littered all over the sand, Guitar Sharks swinging by and Nick saw a school of fifteen Eagle Rays.

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Visibility was fifteen metres but lovely clear water and no current.

One hundred and twenty minute dive at fourteen metres.

Sunday 20th December 2015

Today Nick K. and Tom W. joined myself Nick R. and Mark S. to dive, so the whole gang was back together again which was great! I went to scout for the cool Bull Ray again with Nick K. but didn’t find it.

Instead I found an even cooler Bull Ray which was so pregnant I thought she was going to burst right then and there. I couldn’t help but take a punt and spent about forty minutes with her just behind her, almost getting a face full of her private bits at times!

She was massive and acting quite strange as if to try to find a shallow place to rest or birth, she wasn’t phased by me in the least. In fact when I tried to go and film something else she seemed to be creeping up on me from behind as if she wanted a companion.

Visibility was down today compared to yesterday and there were quite a few floaties in the water but it was still blue and warm and man was it going off down there!

I saw more than a dozen Manta Rays which after a while I got bored of as they were everywhere and not a challenge to film! There were also four boats of divers at the site and way too many in the water for such a small area so I wanted to get away to a quieter place.

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So I left the abundance of divers with the Manta Rays and filmed some Leopard Sharks, lots of Guitar sharks moving about in the water. The Guitar Sharks looked legendary when they swam above the sand, their fins slicing through the sand like a razor causing a fine line of sand plume in the water column.

Nicks gauge was leaking after an hour and a half so we went back to the anchor and he surfaced. I hurried back to the pregnant Bull Ray thinking the whole time I had a feeling she was going to give birth and how amazing it would be to capture that in the wild.

The current had picked up and I hung out by the sand where all the action was happening whilst all the other divers were playing with the Manta Rays. Six, Seven maybe more Guitar Sharks swung in onto the sandy gully, eight Leopard Sharks, two big Sting rays rested in a hollow with a Wobbegong Shark, my friend the pregnant Bull Ray hovered close by.

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Then one, two, three….seven large meaty Eagle Rays zoomed in for some current action. They were close and surprisingly unphased by my presence even whilst blowing bubbles. I could even see one opening its little mouth and feeding in the current.

Two more Bull Rays swam by circling one another a few times as if to dance. Then a school of Barracuda came in and circled me a couple of times before moving over the sand and out of vision. I also saw Green Turtles, lots of Tropical fish and Nudibranchs.

Although the Manta Rays were obviously beautiful this weekend and all the divers were buzzing from many close encounters with them. It was the Bull Rays that were the highlight of the weekend for me, with the Guitar Sharks coming a close second.

One hundred and forty minutes, fourteen metres

*Disclaimer: Dive times are within NDL’s I am also solo diving qualified. I always recommend a buddy unless qualified or experienced with redundancy.