26th – 29th January (Australia day weekend) 2017
I had planned to dive two of the four days, but after seeing how absolutely perfect the conditions were for diving at Manta Bommie, there was no doubt in my mind I would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to film all four days.
Stradbroke did not disappoint again this Australia day weekend, with brilliant blue skies, sun, gentle seas and amazing blue visibility of twenty plus metres underwater.
Over the course of four days I completed four long dives instead of eight one hour dives totalling six hundred and eighty five minutes all up with a maximum depth of fourteen metres.
It was that kind of diving where Manta Bommie was just going off! I saw over a dozen Guitar sharks on one dive alone including a baby Guitar shark about one metre long, Leopard sharks lay in the sand amongst small and large Sting Rays, a school of baby Barracuda hung about in the sandy gutter.
It was mating time for the Common Octopus. I had never seen so many Octopus on one dive site before and they were all getting into it. They were fascinating to watch, it was like sitting in front of the television watching a documentary but with your own commentary. I also saw some very small Octopus about the size of my hand which looked very cute.
Some of the divers found a bright orange Frogfish and a beautiful white Frogfish. Rowan got a video of the orange one stretching out its mouth as if to yawn.
The Mantas were absolutely stunning! I swear every year they get more and more friendly and get closer and closer. So many times I had to move out of the way because the Manta was just heading towards me, and we would both dance about in mid water to avoid each other but yet the Mantas weren’t phased, they just circled and came back for more as if it was a game.
The friendliest one of all was large and had a bent tail, and also a bizarre perfect circle on its back as if someone had stamped it with a cookie cutter.
On a few occasions the Mantas touched the divers by coming so close, again they didn’t spook, they seem to be getting more used to the divers at this site.
On one day we found a stunning large Manta with several Kobia a few metres above it, like opportunists they seemed to be waiting for a good time to swim in for some closer comfort. I had never gotten so close to Kobia before.
I was stoked to see a gorgeous Cat Shark swimming about the rocks and managed to capture this on video. Nick saw a small Bull shark and some of us saw a White Tip Reef Shark which I also had never seen before on this site.
We all had some close encounters with a large Loggerhead turtle who we named Barney Rubble because it was covered in barnacles. It was extremely friendly and would come right up the divers, we also found its favorite sleeping spot which had a school of Catfish hiding in it.
There were Green turtles scratching their shells against rocks and curiously swimming by. There was an abundance of Tropical fish that looked epic with the sunbeams filtering down upon them, bright blues and fluorescent oranges and yellows popped out all over the rocky terrain.
On the last day of diving the visibility became a little cloudy but was still decent. There were literally hundreds of large white Jellyfish floating up near the surface which looked brilliant against the light blue water and sun streams.
A few unfortunate Jellies had been pecked off and were dragging themselves half eaten along the sea bed floor trying to escape the hungry fish munching down on an easy snack.
When we weren’t diving I got some aerial shots from the beach on my way out to Shag Rock. A pod of about thirty Dolphins, a mother and baby, played on the surface as the sun bounced off their backs.
I also filmed some Manta Rays from above, a Guitar Shark, and Barney the Loggerhead Turtle who was basking in the sun at Manta Bommie one morning.
The swimming alone off Home beach was just stunning, so relaxing, you could not ask for better swimming conditions.
The water was crystal clear and so far out from the beach when we were lying on the top of the water looking up at the blue skies we could have been anywhere, the Maldives, the Philippines, Hawaii, you name it, it was simply breathtaking.
The water temperature diving was a balmy twenty seven degrees and the first time in a long time I have been back in my freediving 3.5mm suit.
We are so lucky to have Stradbroke Island at our back door step it really is a slice of paradise and I will definitely be angling to get back there as soon as possible!