Published: September 6th 2010September 4th 2010
Pelorus and Orpheus Islands
Not one to rest when I could be having fun, I tacked on a weekend dive safari onto my two week trip to Sydney and Canberra. That's right, as soon as I landed in Townsville I packed up and got ready to spend a weekend on a remote island scuba diving four times a day.
The first day, we went out to Pelorus island. It's uninhabited except for a couple whose sole job is to maintain the beach for a cruise ship that stops nearby. Apparently they are complete hermits and fire warning shots over the bows of ships that get too close to "their beach". Needless to say we steered clear of that
side of the island.
Our Pelorus campsite was beautiful, and even had a small harem of wild goats! We were so busy diving that I didn't have time to take any photos with my not-waterproof camera. Perhaps I'll consider purchasing a cheap underwater camera - we'll see. I really enjoyed the comradeship of the camp fire and stargazing on the wild island. Remote area dive (RAD) has special permits to camp out their permanently. Most of the divers were American tourists, but there were a few local Aussies that I hope to see again as I dive with RAD. My tent didn't actually close, so when I came back from the last dives of the day I was greeted by a frantic rustling, and burst out laughing when I saw it was a huge Skink. Egernia frerei
, common name Major Skink, seemed to have a hard time finding it's way out of my tent despite my persistent cajooling. After a bit of stomping, I used my board shorts to pick it up and chuck it gently out the door. The poor thing was quite stressed by the end of it, and it was certainly large enough to bite me - hence the board shorts. That night I slept in a Swag (sleeping bag type equipment made for sleeping under the stars) but stuck my feet out of the bottom of the door to discourage future visitors. As far as I know, nothing else bothered me in the night.
The first days dives were great. Dives 1 and 2 were around the corner of Pelorus, and 3 and 4 were at Twilight and Night respectively right in front of our campsite. As I was swimming out to the boat carrying my full tank for dives 4 and 5, I turned to the side in time to see a bluebottle, also known as a Portuguese man-o-war. I quickly kicked away, and looked around frantically to realize that another was a meter behind me. Further searching of the area made me realize there were five man-o-war off to my left and several more heading towards the boat. I quickly yelled out "blueys in the water" and everyone looked around to realize that the currents where bringing in a fairly sized group towards us and the boat. (Sidenote: at least in Queensland, Aussie's don't call man-o-war bluey's as Bill Bryson indicated, but they call them bluebottles or man-o-war). I made sure those who were just entering the water were informed as well, as the trajectory to the boat put you in treacherous water. A few mates got stung, including the captain, but no one had a severe reaction. The captain was in for a rough night since he put vinegar and freshwater on the wound when you were supposed to use saltwater to clean out the cnidocysts. Luckily I avoided getting stung.
The next day was jellyfish free and we dove on Orpheus. We also drove to a site the crew deemed "shark bait" where you can jump off a 10+ meter boulder into the coral sea below. The joke is if you jump left or right you become "shark bait", but in reality it's an easy plunge between the two. Since I've been jumping off of cliffs and rope swings since I was seven, I was keen to climb up the cliff and jump. Only me and a Canadian guy were "brave" (maybe reckless belongs here) enough from among the passengers to jump. I guess it's no surprise that I was the only woman who went, but I needed help scaling the cliff since I was a good 10 cm short of having an easy climb. For once I didn't mind accepting help and the free-falling plunge was wonderfully nostalgic. Overall it was a successful diving experience and I am keen to take more trips with RAD.