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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Whale Sharks at Christmas Island

There were two reasons that drew me to Christmas Island. The first was the supposedly spectacular Scuba diving.

After diving there for a week I can say that I enjoyed the diving, but that it might not be for everyone.

We encountered many beautiful and intact hard coral reefs with quite a few smaller fish. Some of them are endemic to Christmas Island such as the Christmas Eviota, as well as special Hybrid Angelfish and Hybrid Triggerfish.

There is also a resident group of Silky Sharks which can be encountered while Snorkeling and Diving at Smith Point, which I did to a great extent :).

The upcoming Crab Migration also signified the appearance of Whale Sharks at Christmas Island. The Whale Sharks wait for the Crabs to spawn to feed on the planktonoid baby crabs. On two days we were lucky enough to encounter Whale Sharks on our way to the dive site and I was able to snorkel with a Whale Shark three times :).

After we lost sight of the last Whale Shark we spotted something else in the water. Swimming closer we detected that it was a huge Purple Crown Jellyfish!

Christmas Island is mainly composed of a coastline of sheer cliffs, in which a fair number of Caves exist as well. The highlight of these was Thunder Cliff Cave. A Cave where we could swim into at the surface and take a look at the spectacular stalactites and rock formations.

What I expected more to see was wall diving. But most walls around Christmas start at 22 meters, with a gently sloping reef leading down to them, and we were often limited to depths of 25 meters, which meant we were just able to glimpse the start of these interesting walls.

Overall it was a very nice dive experience, although not necessarily the best diving I've done so far.

More pictures can be found in my web album.

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Rowley Shoals

The Rowley Shoals are three remote atoll-like coral reefs, 260 kilometers from Broome. Due to adverse wind and weather conditions, diving is only possible in the month of November.

After a rough crossing we arrived at Clerke reef, where we were greeted by perfectly blue water. During the dives we saw many fishes, from small to big and a lot of Coral, both Soft and Hard Coral. In fact, I saw more Soft Coral here than in some parts of Fiji!
Other highlights included a large number of Reef Sharks, mainly Whitetips but also a couple of juvenile Greys, two Silvertip Sharks and even a Hammerhead Shark. Unfortunately the later ones were too far away or appeared to surprisingly for good pictures.
Also present were large schools of Big-Eye Trevally and Teira Batfish, who were extremely inquisitive and followed us for the better part of a dive!

One of the most interesting dives was a Blue Water Dive. We were given a long rope with a surface buoy. On that we descended to 40 meters and waited what turned up. We had a Silvertip Shark checking us out and two huge Tuna swim by. Another group got even luckier, they spotted a Tiger Shark!

On this trip I reached my 400th dive. The crew was very excited about this and gave me a special prop for the dive ;).
There was also a fair bit of Night Diving in the area, where in addition to the traditional shrimp we also spotted a couple of snails and an Octopus moving across the reef :)

For people more interested in Macro Diving there were a fair number of Nudibranch around, although most of them belonged to two different species. On our last day we then found a big and special specimen.
In between the diving there were several times where we could go snorkeling as well. The highlight there being the drift-snorkel in the Channel of Clerke Reef, where we spotted a large school of Double-headed Parrotfish.
Snorkeling was followed by a Drift Dive through the Channel which was very adventurous :).

There was a lot to see at Rowley Shoals and I was sad that the trip ended after a week, even though my ears were probably quite happy to finaly get a break ;). I can highly recommend this trip to any advanced diver!

This trip was undertaken with The Great Escape. A very luxurious catamaran whose main job isn't scuba diving. And that showed in a couple of things that were missing, such as a camera area with enough electrical outlets and a bit more space on the dive deck to gear up. On the plus side, there was a lot of space in the living room and the food was fantastic! It definitely played its part in this being such an enjoyable trip :)

More pictures can be found in my web album.

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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Broome and The Kimberley

Scuba Diving the Rowley Shoals brought me to Broome, the South-Western gate to the stunning Kimberley region, at the start of the Wet Season. This means that both temperatures and humidity were on the incline and not many tourists are left in the area. Unfortunately, this also meant that most of the tour organizations had already closed for the season, so all that was left to do was a flight with King Leopold Air on a small plane over the Southern Kimberley region.
Rather than sitting around and sweating all day long, I decided to go along with it. From the plane we had some amazing views over the Broome region, which got more and more deserted the farther North-East we flew.
The goal of this trip were the horizontal waterfalls. Due to the enormous tides in the Kimberley region, the water streaming through two narrow channels looks a bit like a waterfall. A truly bizarre sight!

Flying back along the coastline we made a snack-stop at Cape Leveque, where we had time to admire the beautiful red cliffs and go for a quick swim in the ocean. In between those two activities I also managed to find a Geocache ;).
Further following the coastline we saw beautiful scenery, until we finally reached Broome again.
This excursion was definitely worth it :).

Coming back from Rowley Shoals coincided with a day with very low tides. That was important to see one of the other highlights of Broome. Ancient Dinosaur footprints!
They don't seem so big in the picture, but they were longer than my foot! From that position I could also enjoy another beautiful view of Broome's intriguing coastline.
More pictures from the Broome area can be found in my web album.

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