Sunday, January 04, 2009

Perth, January 2009

I spent New Year’s week in Perth and Margaret River and for the last 3 nights stayed with Justin and Belinda. Justin and the Perthboys have come twice now for our annual GUE Dive Extravaganza and we’d discussed organizing some diving when I visited.

I got to Justin’s house on Thursday night. Friday morning we made the 10 min drive to Fremantle to get on a charter boat for a 2 dive trip to Rottnest Island. The dive boat, apparently quite typical for Perth diving, was huge, with 40 people on board comfortably.

Our boat, the Lionfish IV

Among our group were Justin, Belinda, Richard, Andrew, David, Peter, and a couple visiting from Sydney, Steve and Laura. We made the 45 min boat ride to Rottnest and did our first dive at Jackson Rock, a craggy limestone reef with lots of scenic swim throughs. I did the dive in Leon’s TLS 350 (my 30/30 still hasn’t arrived yet) and a set of borrowed AL80s, my first dry dive in more than 2 years. It took some getting used to but slowly the skills came back to me. Vis was good, probably 10-15m, and there was lots of light as our max depth was only 14m. The bottom was covered in kelp and sea grasses, which moved back and forth in the surge and gave the disorienting impression that the bottom was moving. The marine life was decent, with a fair number of reef fish, a few crayfish, and a large octopus hiding under a rock. Water temp was around 22 degrees C and was quite pleasant on a warm and sunny day.

Bay at Rottnest Island

Lunch was served during the surface interval and the boat anchored in a bay at Rottnest Island. Our second dive was right off Rottnest, at Philip Rock, which was similar to the first site but shallower still, with a max depth of 7m. The highlight of the dive for me was watching Justin catch 2 crayfish; one of them made the cut and made part of our dinner that night. A snack and watermelon were served as we made our way back to Fremantle.

Dinner that night was at Justin’s house and I got to meet most of the Perthboys and their significant others over wood-fired pizza and a few drinks. A great time was had by all.

We spent Saturday doing a tour of the coast and river, and eating amazingly fresh seafood. Saturday night we met Robo down at the Swan River for a night dive. At about 8.30pm we started gearing up and walked down to the water’s edge. We dove nearby a restaurant, among a few moored private boats. It’d been a while since I’d been in such poor vis (maybe 2-3m) and I spent part of the dive straining to see the bottom. At one point we came across a huge silt cloud created by another diver that left me completely disoriented, trying to find my bearings. It didn’t help that there were quite a few really weird looking jellyfish (I later found out they were harmless) floating around. Even so close to shore, the life was quite impressive. We saw prawns, crabs, scallops, starfish and a couple of flathead (all edible except the starfish).

Justin, Belinda and the Perthboys were great hosts, sorting out the accommodations, food, diving, gear, and gas beautifully. Thanks again for the warm welcome. Hope to dive with you guys again soon. Stop by anytime, we have pretty good diving in our part of the world too. :)

Lovely hosts Belinda and Justin

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