Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - The Crater
In March 1998 I travelled to Darwin in the Northern Territory. While this was not primarily a diving trip, I took the opportunity to do some dives while I was there. The majority of the diving in Darwin is on wrecks but there are also some reef dives.
I have decided to dive with Cullen Bay Dive which is located on the Cullen Bay Marina. This is a very new construction and there are luxurious houses and apartment blocks surrounding land. The marina itself has some excellent restaurants (I can recommend Buzz Cafe for the great view and excellent food) and some other interesting shops. The marina itself has created an artificial harbour and the inside of the small harbour is protected from Darwin's six metre tides by a lock. To get out of the marina means that you have to pass through the lock, either rising or dropping depending on the state of the tide. Quite an experience in itself.
The dive we have planned for the day is The Crater. This is located off Larrakeyah Army Barracks which is on the north-western edge of the city centre. This dive is right in the harbour and it only takes a few minutes, perhaps five minutes once you get out of the Cullen Bay Marina lock, to get to the site. The seas are millpond, absolutely flat and mirror-like. We anchor and find a slight current running into the harbour. We gear up and descend the anchor line. The visibility drops and by the time we get to the bottom the visibility is about two metres. Not great, but I can live with it. The bottom is a sandy slope, the anchor is in 27 metres, with not too many natural features to assist navigation.
I am diving with my friend Maret McGlasson and I decide to use my reel (which I hardly ever carry in Sydney) to assist with finding the anchor again. After attaching it to the anchor, we head off across the slope, gradually getting deeper until we reach 31 metres. The sea floor is covered with a fair amount of fixed marine life. As well as many different types of sponges (of all colours), there are plenty of colourful sea squirts and quite a few gorgonias. We turn around after 8 minutes and return to the anchor and then go off a bit in the other direction.
The fishlife on this dive was not prolific, but there were a few wrasses of various species as well as other fish. There were some tropical species that also made the dive interesting. At the start of the dive the current was from the north (an incoming tide) and by the end of the dive it was from the south. The tide here turned fairly quickly, I thought that there might have been a longer slack period. However, the current was not very strong on the bottom and made no impact on the dive.
We end up doing a bottom time of just under 20 minutes. This is about all you will get here without going into decompression. While this was not what I would call an exciting dive, it was not too bad.
The water temperature when I visited was 30°C and I only wore a Lycra suit as protection against the deadly box jellyfish.
While I travelled to Darwin at the end of the Wet Season, I would recommend avoiding this time for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the days and nights are unbearably hot and humid, with temperatures of 35° and humidity of 95% most days. Even just sitting around you sweat profusely. The cost of travelling to Darwin is also quite high, with a 21 day advance purchase airfare costing $730 from Sydney. If you can travel at relatively short notice, then you can get this airfare down to $470 or thereabouts when the airlines offer special prices. For example, in April to June 1998 two people could travel for $457 each.
During my visit I dived with Cullen Bay Dive (08 8981 3049) and can recommend them for their excellent service.