Thursday, 27 May 2010

Jervis Bay - Ocean Trek 5 day trip

Spent the last 10 days on a diving road trip to Jervis Bay and Merimbula.

Buddy Rich Misquitta and I drove from Geelong to Goulburn (8hrs) on the first day, staying at the Alpine Heritage Motel, $85 budget twin room, right next door to the down market Carlton Hotel. The $10 steaks were excellent but the 3 vomiting Canberra teenagers (also our motel neighbours) were not.

Next morning we drove (2 hrs) down the steep windy road to Huskisson staying at the peaceful Jervis Bay Caravan Park (Bushmans Cabin $80, no ensuite). It's a few ks outside Husky on the river and very pleasant. We could leave our car there for the 5 days of the Ocean Trek live-aboard dive trip. The only alternative is to leave your car in the council car park next to the bottle shop. Apparently it's quite safe but Rich wasn't too keen with his new Sportiva. Dinner was at the local RSL. Large meals served extremely fast, kitchen closes at 8pm.

8.30 Monday morning saw us waiting with all our luggage on the Husky wharf. The other Ocean Trek passengers slowly assembled. First Joy from Eden arrived then a minivan with the mob from Whyalla SA pulled up, making 10 divers and 1 non diver.

Eventually a wild haired seafarer in a small dinghy tied up to the wharf and introduced himself as Mick. 3 trips in his precariously overloaded tender saw us all on Ocean Trek, our home for the next 5 days.

Ocean Trek is a big old 18m catamaran with beds for 23. Many years ago Lee Marvin was a guest on Marlin fishing expeditions. Now it's perfectly setup as a diving liveaboard.

Captain Mick is also the director of entertainment, Lyn runs the diving and Bob is the chef. They make a great team and obviously enjoy it. Dive videos enthusiastically narrated by Mick, stories of their many dive adventures and a game of "Million Dollar Riff" using Mick's iPod kept us entertained during the evening meals.

Speaking of meals, Bob did a magnificent job. I have done a Taka trip on the GBR and the food didn't come close to Bob's efforts. Home cooked, fresh ingredients, amazing variety and nutritionally perfect for a strenuous dive trip. Lasagne, fettucini marinara, roast beef and veggies, Tom Yum soup, 3 course every night with creative desserts, with no course ever repeated. Hot breakfasts, post dive snacks and fruit always available. Just superb.

Lyn's dive operation was thorough, well run and safety conscious. Any diving incidents were dealt with strictly and professionally. Some of the problems experienced were unplanned and missed deco (no diving for 24hrs), possible saltwater aspiration on 2 consecutive dives, headaches, , dehydration (me), earaches, nose bleeds and some sea sickness. All survived and left the boat smiling.

Each day 4 dives were planned with 2 on the last day making 18 in all. Breakfast at 8.00am was followed by the first dive around 9.30, another at 11.30, lunch then 2hrs snoozy time, arvo dive around 3.30 and night dive at 6.00.

Only 1 diver managed to do the full 18 dives, but he had a pit crew non diving partner, who just happened to be a part time masseuse, lucky bugger!

Weather was not kind to us for the first 2 days with rain, wind and swell, but inside the bay behind Bowen Island there are excellent sheltered sites.
Eventually the weather improved allowing us to move outside the south head. Better vis, big schools of fish and a sea cave made these sites memorable. I have no interest in fresh water cave diving but these sea caves and splits are my favourite dive sites.

Each night we moved inside to anchor off Murray's beach. We also did a brilliant night dive here filming a baby PJ shark mauling a scallop, 3 species of seapen and a walking gurnard in full display.

We also dived around the Docks, Split cave (another fave) and Point Perpendicular. The marine life of Jervis Bay is really spectacular. Swirling bait balls, squadrons of squid, bow riding dolphins, wobbegong and Port Jackson sharks, sea eagles, Navy ships, planes and parachute drops kept the photographers busy. Also saw a very long water spout (mini tornado) reaching up hundreds of meters to the clouds.

Most sites were dominated by big boulders and urchins barrens with big clusters of stalked ascidians and striking sponges remaining. But the amazing abundance of fish and spectacular walls, splits and caves make Jervis Bay the brilliant dive destination it is.

For all this we paid a little over $150/day. You could barely sleep and eat for that without diving at all. Amazing diving, amazing value and I will return.

Can't think of any negatives really, unless it's Mick's very daggy sense of humour and music tastes, but they can easily be forgiven.

10 min trip video here
Dive photos here

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