Ayr to Home Hill

This is a rather short post in terms of days and distance travelled, but I wanted my Great Barrier Reef dive to be a pretty much stand alone post. It definitely deserves it, the dive was amazing, definitely worth the price no matter how steep it was!

In Cairns, and Townsville, we had agonising decisions about when the dive and what site to choose. Everything seemed equally as expensive, so we weren’t sure who to choose. While in Townsville, we settled on a dive that went from Ayr to the SS Yongala. I was a litle unsure t first as it is not the outer reef, but a sunken 100m wreck that now is covered by an artificial reef of equal beauty. The potential animal viewings however swayed our decision, nd we were still diving in the Great Barrier Reef Marine park and seeing uthentic coral and wildlife.

After staying overnight in the rest stop next to another spaceship, we got up early and had weetabix for breakfast once again. Despite the vague risk of roos that time int he morning, we drove the 30km to the dive shop and parked outside. We ended up being way too early, but after filling in all our paperwork and sorting out ll our kit, we were sitting round a table awaiting our dive brief. We were told all about the wreck, and the potential wildlife we would see (sharks, turtles, rays etc.)

It took a small 4×4 beach drive to reach the tiny boat that would ride the waves out to the dive site. Considering how small the boat was, and how choppy the sea could be, the waves were small and the ride smooth enough that I didn’t get sea sick. When we arrived, we were buddied up (I was obviously with Jade) and we were given our dive guides. We were diving with instructor John, and dive master Beau, and 3 others. We kitted up pretty fast and rolled off the boat and into the water.

As we began our first descent, we were stopped at 5metres, and John did the sign everyone simultaneously loves and hates to see: shark. Below us was a 2/3metre bull shark that could be slightlly indistinctly be seen circling below. It disappeared almost immediately, but was possibly the best thing we saw down there. Once we were down at the wreck, and I realised my camera didn’t like the depth, I occupied myself straining my neck looking at the huge numbers of fish around us.

The seas snakes (olive and banded) were very cute swimming around us. We saw a huge volume of fish swimming from stern to bow, before cathing the current and floating alog the top side of the wreck. About half way down, the turtle signal was brought out as we saw a hawksbill turtle feeding a metre or two below us. As we were swimming back to the ascent line, we saw the indistinct shape of a stingray below us, that once we were on the surface, we were told was a marble ray.

While we were all recovering and revelling in the awesome dive, Azza, the boat’s skipper, gave us a history lesson aboout the SS Yongala and the aritficial reef created once she sunk. It was really interesting and explained a lot of the questions we had regarding hte wreck itself, and the abundance of wildlife at the site. As we prepared for our second dive, we debted whether we would see as good a range of wildlife, and how the dive was a great use of birthday and Christmas money.

The descent down was much less interesting this time until we hit the wreck, when we saw a clearer Marble ray below us.. Once we started the dive around the boat, the number of big fish seemed to have increased. We saw Maori Wrasse and Queensland Gropers that grow the the size of VW beetles, and shoals of barracudas. One the way back along the wreck, we got to see inside the wreck; the old toilets and bath tubs were still visible inside the wreck. We couldn’t go inside (the wreck is a seagrave for the 122 people who died) but it was still amazing to see a bit of the ship itself. The two dives, the whole dive day, and the Great Barrier Reef really didn’t disappoint.

Once we got back and had a proper shower, we set about filling in all our log books and paperwork while Trent the dive instructor cooked us food. The BBQ that they cooked for us was really nice; it was good to have proper food that wasn’t out of a can of a cereal box.

In the evening, we went to the next town south of Ayr called Home Hill. It was an RV friendly town, so it had a dedicated street for RVs and campervans to stay on with complete facilities, excluding plugs. We had to go to the local library and plug our stuff in to get a little bit of charge, but it was better than nothing. I also got to speak to Mum on the phone which was pretty good, even if it was to mainly brag about my dive that day, which was awesome!

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