Thu 20th July 2017 – Mon 24th July 2017
On Thursday the 20th of July some fresh-faced divers flew north from Cairns doing a low level scenic flight up the coastline and into Lizard Island to join Spirit Of Freedom and her crew. Once we were all aboard and done and dusted with the meets, greets and safety briefs it was time to go diving!
Our first dive destination was at the bottom of Ribbon Reef #10 where we would do three dives over two different dive sites, the first was at Pixie Gardens which is our customary check out dive where everyone gets familiar with the equipment, our procedures and also gives those that need it a bit of a refresher. The next two dives of the day where up around the corner at Challenger Bay, one of these dives was going to be a night dive. Challenger offers both a reef wall and a nice bay area with an array of marine life both big and small. The transition of life from day to night is something to behold where during the day it has your typical reef fish species with some rays and turtles in the mix but come nightfall the predators come out in search of a meal. Both Giant Trevally and Red Bass follow the divers torch lights while reef sharks worm their way through the reef trying to find something to eat.
The forecast for the next few days wasn’t looking too flash but that wasn’t going to stop us from heading out to Osprey reef, so it was batten down the hatches and get some travel calm in us as we steamed over night out east to Osprey.
We awoke to a beautiful sunrise out over the reef as we headed in to moor up at for our first dive of the day at a fun little spot dubbed Castles. Here, like many of the sites at Osprey has spectacular topography which was created by larva flow back when Osprey was an active volcano. Castles has some swim throughs and caves accompanied by cracks and crevasses. After breakfast it was time to hit ‘The Gap’ which has a nice little out crop of pinnacles protruding off the side of the 1000m+ wall which creates a pressure point of the tidal current which in turn many fish species congregate in hope for a meal.
Admiralty was up next, here lies a large admiralty anchor wedged down in one of the many swim throughs littered in hydroids, on the outskirts schools of jacks circled while a large Dogtooth Tuna did laps up and down the reef wall waiting for it’s opportunity to strike.
Our final dive of the day was just down from the last spot, Nautilus Caves. As the name suggests there is the odd cave or five. These caves are right on the deep steep reef wall, as a group exited one of these caves a Manta Ray majestically glided over head and off into the blue.
After a long day of diving it was time to pull up at our overnight mooring for a marvelous meal from our chef Sam and then it was time to lay our bubbly heads for a good nights rest.
Saturday morning was looking good, the wind had dropped and the sun was shining as we moved up to the North Horn where we would do two drift dives and also the infamous Shark Attraction dive. The first drift was along Blue Marlin Wall where there was a soft current, which made for a relaxing drift and several Grey Reef Sharks accompanied the divers back towards the boat. Next up was Soft Coral Wall in which is protected from the prevailing weather and as you’d guess it is littered with all sorts of soft corals which bring in many beautiful small reef fishes in the way of Anthias, Bassalets and Damsels to name a few.
After lunch it was time for the Shark Attraction dive! As all the divers patiently waited in the natural auditorium while a couple dozen sharks circled all in anticipation of the cage full of tuna heads to be lowered down to where the divers sat. Once they calmed down a little, both the sharks and the divers, it was time to open the cage. Once the lid popped open all hell broke loose as the sharks went ripping and tearing at the tuna. It was all over far too quickly but as you can imagine the sharks make quick work of the heads.
The last dive out at Osprey reef was at Silver City, here we have large sky rise like structures coming up from around 30m. The topography here is the epitome of Osprey, the old larva flow has turned this place into a playground.
Unfortunately our time out at Osprey had come to an end as we prepared ourselves for the overnight steam back to the Ribbon Reefs.
Once again a beautiful sunrise up over the Coral Sea shining down upon SOF and Ribbon Reef #3, namely Steve’s Bommie.