First dive for over two weeks because of flooding and brown water coming out of all the bays and rivers. First dive with my boat since 27 Feb because of bad weather too. Flat seas and little wind. Water a bit green on top but below 18 m it went cleaner, about 10 m but a cold 16C. Very dark though as sunrise only 0709 and dirty water. Anchored on NE corner, went W first then back and then S to SE corner. Huge amount of yellowtail, most I have ever seen anywhere I reckon. A few seapike mixed in with them. One donut nembrotha and a siny gurnard. Really enjoyable dive, far better than I expected it to be. Saw a seal a few times when back on the boat. Visibility fair.
3 April 2021 - M & K Reef
Similar conditions to yesterday above water, slight current from N which increased while we were down. Anchored off cave, dragged anchor to rock. Viz was between 10 and 15 m, could see surface from 22 m, a bit of surge at times. Then N and to back of the reef. Saw two blue devilfish, two wobbegong sharks, five pygmy pipefish, one yellow boxfish, four enormous cuttlefish, lots of seapike, yellowtail, silver sweep and more. A really nice dive. Visibility good.¬†
4 April 2021 - M & K Reef
Club boat dive, only my boat. All female crew! Similar conditions to yesterday above water but no current at all. Anchored off cave. Viz was between less than 10 m and much colder at 18C No surge at times. Then N and to back of the reef and a bit further N and then E over second wall. Saw one blue devilfish, the same two wobbegong sharks, one pygmy pipefish, only two enormous cuttlefish, lots of yellowtail and some silver sweep. Not as good as yesterday, but still a nice dive. Visibility fair.
5 April 2021 - Bare Island 15 Metre Reef
Stronger S wind today meant no boat diving. Water much cleaner on top now, not even brown at low tide. Went thru Pool, then via Short Cut to sand, then to 15 Metre Reef and back normal way. Water a cooler 19C at depth of 15 m, also much cleaner here. Got a bit dirtier on way back but then again clean less than 6 m. Lots of red-lined flabellinas, three upsidedown pipefish, five tiger pipefish (2 of each near SHC), one RIF, octopus guarding eggs and many other nudibranchs. Also one pinkish yellow boxfish. I rescued a small moray eel with a hook in its side, used knife to pull the hook out. Was damaged a bit here and elsewhere, but seemed in good health. Only one sea horse near Sea Tulip Rocks. A very good dive. Visibility fair to good.
6 April 2021 - Bare Island Right
Bigger seas today so had to go in near Carol's Plaque. Water much dirtier on top than yesterday. Went via Short Cut to sand, then along 7 m level to near SHC. Water warmer than yesterday, mostly 21C. Clean water in some spots, dirty elsewhere and reasonable other places, weird. Again lots of red-lined flabellinas, three upsidedown pipefish, four tiger pipefish (2 of each near SHC), saw the octopus guarding eggs better today. Many other nudibranchs. No sea horses near Sea Tulip Rocks. Another very good dive. Visibility poor to fair.
8 April 2021 - Middle Ground
Tried to do Tuggerah but no go. There was a very strong current, at least 2.5 kts. This also made it rough out there with wind against current and a lightning storm. Came back here and calm but later rained. Anchor was off reef and we had to drag it about 10 m against a slight current from N. Was on SE corner so went to NE corner and around a little and then back. Huge numbers of yellowtail over NE corner and W and S of there. Some medium sized kingfish too. Two donut nembrothas. Back to anchor and then over to the rocks off there for a bit. Had to move anchor as it was now hanging to E and under a rock. Dirty on top and boat hanging very strangely, point N but wind from S and current not really that strong. Visibility very good.
9 April 2021 - Inscription Point
Went in a few hours after high tide. Water fairly clean (7 m) till 42 mins when it got dirtier (4 m). A bit of ENE swell every few minutes so had to time entry and exit. Saw one sea dragon, four big belly sea horses, four PPH, two yellow boxfish, one black painted anglerfish. Some yellowtail, a few black reef leatherjackets. A nice dive. Visibility fair then poor.
10 April 2021 - The Monuments
Huge seas from S, Bare Island Bommie was raging. Even here a bit of wave action at entry/exit, so decided part way thru dive to go all the way into the outgoing tide and exit on beach. Not too hard. Visibility 2 or 3 m at most, far worse than yesterday. Also surgy. No sea dragons seen, two big belly sea horses and a few different nudbranchs. One small moray eel, some small mirror leatherjackets and that is about all. No a great dive, but at least it was a warm 21/22C. Visibility very poor.
15 April 2021 - Bare Island Deep Wall¬†
Flat seas although a few small waves coming over the platform due to high tide. Went in from W point and out to Deep Wall. Very dirty on top but a little better below 4 m. Then around rocks and back normal way. No sea horses out here or at Sea Tulip Rocks. No RIF, only one PPH. Three tiger pipefish, one with eggs. One upsidedown pipefish. A few nudibranchs, including some opera house. Lots of red-lined flabellina. Some yellowtail schools. An average dive. Visibility very poor.¬†
17 April 2021 - Henry Head
Club dive day, four boats, two runs each. About 38 attending all up. I dived second run. Sloppy swell from S and long 12 second period. Dirty on top and bottom, only 2-3 m viz at best. Pretty terrible dive. Went NW from anchor then S and then back to anchor and NW and N again. One PPH, bright red, one sea spider, some black reef leatherjackets. Not much else seen due to conditions. Visibility very poor.
22 April 2021 - The Split
Club boat dive. Wind well over the 10kts W forecast and from SW and swell much bigger than the 1.2 m. Anchored just E of S end of The Split. Viz very good, 15 m in spots, 12 m mostly. Warm 20C. Went N up Split to end, here I had ear problems and could not go to sand. Tried to clear by going up five times, cleared eventually after four minutes. Swam along the reef top rather than sand, found one donut nembrotha on reef, never seen one here. Then to N end of the Barrens gutter, no bastard trumpeters, but lots of red morwong. Back to anchor and up. Large school of yellowtail came around me on safety stop. Would have been a very good dive except for the ear problem. Visibility good.
24 April 2021 - The Leap Deep
Club boat dive, two boats. Was supposed to be Whale Watching Platform but large swell with long period. Protected here. Anchored in 16 m, at least 10 m viz here. Went E to just past Phil's boat with slight current following. Shear wall for most of this with excellent sponge life. Then back to anchor and W for five minutes. This is the normal Leap start section. Then back to anchor. Some very active bream, a few yellowtail, four large porcupinefish. Other saw some PPH and an upsidedown pipefish. My mask was foggy for some reason, so could not see little stuff. Viz dropped off last 10 mins. A nice dive. Visibility good.
28 April 2021 - Barrens Hut/The Split
Club boat dive. Calm seas but a bit sloppy. No wind or current on top, but slight current from N on bottom, a little surge at times. Visibility at least 15 metres. Anchored normal spot. Went N along Split and then to Donut Heaven. Saw 9 donut nembrothas here. John said he saw a dozen under boat as he dropped to sand. Back S to anchor. Lots of bastard trumpeters and red morwong in normal spot and also in Cave. Back towards anchor and up. Could see boat from 22 m. Great dive. Visibility very good.
29 April 2021 - Marley Point
Another club boat dive for weekdays. Much calmer than yesterday, full speed to Marley Point. Anchored in normal spot. Visibility 20 m, could see the boat from 22 m from anchor. A seal on surface and when I jumped in it came close, got some video. Had to move anchor as it and all chain went into a hole. Went NE for 15 mins, thru the large cave, not much fishlife here. Then back shallower at 10 to 15 m. Then past anchor and back to sand line. Lots more fish shallower, yellowtail and ladder-finned pomfrets, but not as many as normal. Back to anchor and near there and then up. Nice dive. Visibility very good.
Next three dives at Port Stephens
30 April 2021 - The Pipeline
Weekend away for a few birthdays. Track allegedly closed because of landslide next to cafe. Went around fence. Pretty clean, perhaps 7 m. Could not find sea horse hotels, probably did not go far enough. The area shallower than 7 m is missing all vegetation caused by flood. Saw two sea horses, three pipefish (girdle 2, tiger 1), one platypus spindle cowrie, dozens pygmy leatherjackets, a large school of large drummer, one blue-lined octopus. A few moray eels, John found the robust ghost pipefish we saw in March at 9.1 m. Back to exit. Really nice dive. Visibililty fair.
1 May 2021 - Fly Point
Went in right on high, drifted in as normal, turned at 32 mins. Viz from 10 to 15 m, varied a bit. Lots of red-lined flabellina, a few orange-tipped ones, one opera house, a few others. Hundreds of bream, thousands of yellowtail, three large kingfish, plenty of ladder-finned pomfret, some sea pike. Three pineapplefish, a dozen large crayfish, five pipefish in the one hole, lots of small wobbegong sharks and blind sharks. A really good dive. Visibility good.
2 May 2021 - Little Beach
Really dirty on top near beach, leftover water from flood. Much better out past wharf. Went at 8-10 m to barge. One sea horse on the way, two spindle cowries, one flatworm, lots of opera house nudibranchs, a few small wobbegongs and a large one, some small moray eels, some small cuttlefish. Back under the wharf huge amount of yellowtail, seapike, ladder-finned pomfret and more. The biggest flathead I have ever seen too! Amazing. Nice dive. Visibility fair.
4 May 2021 - Bare Island 15 Metre Reef
Eight members. Went in from Carol's plaque, via Shortcut to sand. Then across from reef edge to 15 Metre. Back normal way. Rain and heavy cloud so dark. Hundreds of red-lined flabellina, a few other interesting ones. Two or three upsidedown pipefish near SHC, also two pipefish. Another upsidedown and two pipefish on 15MR. A large wobbegong shark, some small cuttlefish and more. Torch died after 45 mins, so did not see much last bit of dive. Very good dive. Visibility fair.
13 May 2021 - Middle Ground
First dive for over week due to rotten weather. Club boat dive. Large swell with longer period than forecast, surgy on bottom. Very dirty on the way down but perhaps 5 m viz on bottom. However, very dark, like a night dive. Anchored on N side near donuts, saw two. Went clockwise to S side and then backtracked. Two large wobbegong sharks. Huge numbers of yellowtail, especially on N and NE sides. One nice six-spined leatherjackets. Not the best dive but not too bad. Visibility poor.
16 May 2021 - Clifton Gardens
Forecast for very big seas so cancelled club boat dive. First dive with new strobe, but wrong settings. Need magnet in. Went to net and saw a brown painted anglerfish. Then through the hole in net (one of dozens) to old swimming enclosure remains and the 9 sea horse hotels. Not a single sea horse there or even on the nets. Plenty of pipefish, two species. Jason later found a black painted anglerfish near the huge tyre. Then across to net again and then out to the end of wharf. Another black anglerfish there. Wharf has some broken pylons, bottom no longer connected to the top section. A huge bullray swam past here. Back to main pool net area, then I left as I only started with 140 bar in my small tank. Still dive 82 minutes. Nice dive. Visibility poor.¬†
18 May 2021 - Bare Island Right
Large SE swell which meant a bit of surge. Supposed to get to be a 16 second period tonight! Went in at Carol's Plaque and slowly went down main reef. Only got to The Cave. Has ear problems at 50 mins and had to ascend to 5 m to clear. Saw 2 RIF between Sea Tulip Rocks and Sea Horse Rock. On SHR Carole found a grey Bare Island anglerfish. Some interesting nudibranchs, a larger yellow boxfish, a large school of yellowtail, no sea horses or pipefish though. A huge bullray went past just before cave. Used new Inon S2000 strobe, worked well with magnet in and on manual. Got great photos of the anglerfish. Pretty good dive, although a bit cooler at 17.9C. Visibility poor.
22 May 2021 - Pizza Reef
Club boat dive, two boats and 9 divers. A bit sloppy even though little wind and slight current from S. Anchored on N side. Went to Cave and then around. Did not see any donut nembrothas but second group did. Huge numbers of yellowtail and silver sweep all over the reef. Some black reef leatherjackets and also one six-spined leatherjacket. Extremely nice dive. Visibility good.
23 May 2021 - Bare Island 15 Metre Reef
Cancelled dive to Tuggerah as had a person pull out sick and could not get a replacement. Six of us dived, but I had a leak so got low on air (still did 69 mins). Went in at Carol's Plaque as some waves going right over W point. Went via Shortcut, then back normal way. Lots of red-lined flabellinas, one pipefish near SHC, one RIF, I could not find the Bare Island anglerfish, has moved, but was on the second rock past SHR. Some other interesting nudibranchs, lots of silver sweep near the Cave. Nice dive. Visibility fair.
26 May 2021 - Middle Ground
Club boat dive. First dive this year with drysuit. Large swell but period decreased from last night. No wind when we arrived but by the time we finished it was over 20 kts W. Anchor was on sand and could not see reef at all, even when I swam 5 m away. Dragged it (easily) NW and found the reef after about 15 m. Viz only 5 m at most, lots of sand floating. Was near SE corner, went around reef anti-clockwise as normal. No donuts seen, but plenty of yellowtail on NE corner as usual. Back to anchor and a large wobbegong shark near anchor. Hung around here for a while then up. Could see boat from 20 m, pity it was not like that on the bottom. Visibility poor.
2 June 2021 - Middle Ground
Club boat dive. Huge swell again over the weekend, still some big ones today. Really the only place we could dive. Little wind and large rolling swell from NNE and SE, very mily on bottom but clean above 28 metres, Anchored on N side. Went clockwise around reef. Huge number of yellowtail and lots of mado too. The large wobbegong we saw last Wednesday was still in same spot on S side. Back to anchor and then up. As I ascended towards ladder, 4 or 5 dolphins swam past and buddies saw them. I did not! Bummer. Nice dive. Visibility poor.
Next six dives at North Solitary Island
7 June 2021 - The Boulders to Bubble Cave Drift
Club dive trip. Dropped in on E side of North Solitary Island and after swimming south, went thru the gap in the island to the W side. Saw a stack of barracuda as we went down, then four or five small turtles in gap and a few more once thru. Then two eagle rays. Went to Bubble Cave mooring and then W and back to mooring. Some egg cowries, a few nudibranchs, one peacock mantis shrimp. Lots of fish as well. A great dive. Visibility excellent.
7 June 2021 - Anemone Bay
Moored on inner mooring, went out to the E one. Saw a few GNS as we went along and then plenty N of mooring. Saw at least 10 here, all males. Also a firefish. Then to SE of mooring and back to E in gutter, another GNS here. Then to blowhole gutter and back to mooring. Another GNS here. Plenty of other fish as well. A great dive. Visibility excellent.
8 June 2021 - Fish Soup
Wind less than forecast, NW about 12 kts. Sloppy here but okay. Went thru gap to Fish Soup as normal. Lots of fish, hundreds of bream especially. Many species seen, some Queensland groper, a few wobbegong sharks, all swimming around. One large firefish, plenty of flutemouth, different colours. Some egg cowries too. Nothing extra special seen. Very good dive. Visibility excellent.
8 June 2021 - Anemone Bay
Dropped in at Shark Mooring, then swam back via gullies to inner mooring. Heaps of grey nurse sharks, at least 16 different ones. Very active to N of mooring. All males. Then back via the gullies, no GNS seen till near the blowhole gutter. Went a far way up the gutter, then to mooring and on flatter bottom. Very good dive. Visibility excellent.
9 June 2021 - The Canyons
Saw more humpback whales today on the way over. Lots around. Swam N from mooring into a slight current, viz got awful so turned around. Back past mooring and via gullies to one large hole. Nothing in there. Then over to back of the mooring where I found the leaf fish, same spot as March 21 and November 20. A large wobbegong in the cave too. Then to mooring and up. Good dive. Visibility very good.
9 June 2021 - Bubble Cave
Went from mooring over to W and then to the Bubble Cave. Bit surgy. Back down the gutter and back to mooring and then S. Then to mooring. Nothing special seen really, a few nudibranchs. A reasonable dive. Visibility excellent.
12 June 2021 - Shark Point
NW wind and flattish seas, so ran north to Shark Point. Anchored in 21 m to the N of the crack. Then mostly dived to the N. Similar to the main dive site, saw a small grey nurse shark and a large wobbegong. Stayed mostly near the sand edge. A huge boulder just on reef edge, lots of ladder-finned pomfrets and yellowtail here. Went a bit past it and then back to anchor. Then to E to a bit deeper reef edge. Then back to anchor. Saw a huge bullray. Second dive saw a large seal on the bottom, we saw it above water. A great dive. Drysuit dry! Fixed after last dive by removing inflator and reinstalling. Was wet last 6 dives. Visibility good.
13 June 2021 - The Leap
Flat seas and W winds. Not much of an incoming tide, so very slow. Blue water at entry but once on bottom bot as blue. Viz was 12 to 15 metres, mostly 12. Some surge at the start. Lots of things seen, at least 10 sea dragons, including 2 juveniles. Also 6 big belly sea horses, some nice nudibranchs, a few yellow boxfish and all the normal fish. A really great dive, pity our air got low so we had to end dive after 81 minutes. A great dive. Visibility good.
17 June 2021 - The Split
Flat seas and little wind, although just before we pulled up anchor it blew at over 20 kts W. Lots of whales about, one surfaced 30 m away. Whales heard thru the whole dive, very loud at start. Very clean, blue water, 20-25 m viz and 18.0C. Anchored on flat reef top and dragged anchor to near Split. Went N and then to Donut Rock. Saw five donut nembrothas here. Then one on sand, one near Split end and one near the fuel tank. This was more uncovered than anytime in past 20 years. A large bullray with short tail seen. A lot of yellowtail and silver sweep seen. Great dive. Visibility excellent.
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