Far Northern Expedition – Northbound
So it’s that time of the year again, Spirit Of Freedom departed Cairns on her annual ‘Far North Expedition’.
We left the wharf in the afternoon and commenced a 120 nautical mile journey on the first night up to Ribbon Reef #9 & #10. Our first day of diving consisted of four dives in the upper Ribbon region, at Challenger Bay, Lighthouse Bommie & Pixie Pinnacle. Before we departed the Ribbons we were joined by a pod of dolphins, which played in the wake of the boat as we sailed into the sunset.
After another long journey overnight covering 125 nautical miles we had arrived in the Creech Reef area, once we got north of Princess Charlotte Bay we could see a considerable difference in the quality of the reefs. Due to its isolation the corals seem untouched while the fish life though more plentiful a lot more skittish as well. We did some exploring in this region diving a couple spot where Spirit hadn’t been before and at both places Leopard Sharks lay resting on sandy slopes while a enormous Logger Head Turtle graced us with his presence.
That evening we once again steamed further north to the Great Detached Reef covering another 120 nautical miles. On Thursday morning we had a quick look at Raine Island and decided to wait for calmer sea conditions before we had a swim with the turtles so we went to the opening of Great Detached and dived ‘Deep Pinnacle’ a miniature sea mount from over 50m/165ft up to 16m/50ft from the surface, acting like an oasis in the dessert it had hundreds of schooling fish, a number of sharks while littered in macro life. After a couple more dives in this area we then moved south to Wood Reef where we would do our first night dive of the trip as we had no more long overnight steaming ahead of us.
Friday was another stellar day kick started with a rip-roaring drift dive at Turmoil. Here the incoming tide is bottle necked into a small channel with an un-even bottom in which makes the current do all sorts of crazy things like unpredictable up-wellings and down currents with also a few back eddies in the mix, not a dive for the faint hearted. With everyone back on board safe and sound we headed south into the Five Reefs area to finish of the day of 5 dives and another night dive and ‘Magic Kingdom’.
With Raine Island having to wait until Sunday for optimum conditions we did tender drops on the outside northwest edge of Great Detached before making our way over to Epic. With an intricate tie up process done only the mad dogs jumped in as the giant seamount had insane oceanic currents rushing over the top and around the sides, but with big currents comes amazing marine life as giant Dogtooth Tuna circled the reef and Silver Tip Reef Sharks buzzed the divers as they battled the currents to observe the remarkable coral formations that encompassed the top of the reef. After lunch was a relaxing drift down part of the Five-Reefs system where Stag Horn Corals fielded the white sandy slopes inside the reef. We then decided to pop back up to The Pinnacle for a dusky dive and a later night dive to give all the creepy crawlies a real chance to emerge from all of their day hiding spots from inside the bommie.
Only two morning dives could be done on Sunday as we all had to fly from Horn Island the next day so we saved the best till last, Raine Island. Every year more than 15,000 Green Sea Turtles travel from thousands of miles to lay their eggs on this tiny island. Some are more than one hundred years old and have come here for the last time, dying of exhaustion they make easy prey for Tiger Sharks. Dive the eastern point of the island we witnessed hundreds of turtles making their way to the sandy shores where at night they’d dig hole to lay hundreds of eggs, bury them and leave the for safer waters.
It truly was a trip of a life time with Raine Island apart some of the underwater interactions were second to none, Chris spending his 30th birthday with us while also himself and his partner Bella completed their 100th dive as well as Peter the pumpkin eater while also Hiroko ticking off her 300th.
Thank you all for making it such an exceptional trip, Spirit Of Freedom will never forget you.
Far North Baby!!