November 2018 on the Great Barrier Reef

Change things up

Captain Trevor Jackson

I play in a band in my spare time. We play a bit of everything, folk, rock, Irish… and we like to change the sound up a bit too. You know when you go see some live music and after a while the songs all blend in together… We’ve tried to combat that by… well… changing our sound as the night progresses. So we might start a gig with just an acoustic guitar and voice, then add drums, then add banjo, throw in an accordion, drop the banjo and accordion and bring in a distorted electric guitar… go back to the acoustic guitar and voice.  Changing it up makes things interesting, for us and the audience.

I was thinking about this very concept the other morning on our way south from Raine Island. A mile or two to our east, we were passing a Sand Cay that looked like it had deep water right up to its edge. This isn’t that common, usually sand cays are surrounded by a few hundred metres of shallow water. This spot looked like it had a deep water dive site right off the beach. I wrote a note on the plotter ‘Check for possible dive site/cay visit next year”… and we kept heading south.

An hour or so later we were at the fabulous Catchers Mitt area at Tijou reef. Divers were coming back raving, literally raving… Hammerheads, Turtles and even a Whale Shark. The day shaping up really nicely, in fact we had already ticked so many boxes by lunchtime that I decided to throw caution to the wind and not wait till next year, I was going back to that cay then and there… we were taking a punt, changing things up… sometimes you just gotta take a chance.

At four that afternoon we were floating above the most stunning garden of plate corals in the history of plate corals. A short 30 second swim had us standing on the gleaming white sand of a pristine cay, then back into the green and blue for more untouched beauty. I remember thinking, almost out loud… ‘the future of our company lies here, in places like this, in doing the out of the ordinary, in doing more than simply providing the best diving in the world’. The following day really drove the point home.

We’d talked about it for a few years ,  we’d never been there before, but this day we were really doing it. After three fabulous dives at the iconic “Pirates Cove” we shaped a course to the west… 14 miles to Stanley Island… and the mysterious cave art hidden amongst the stony cliffs. For centuries aboriginal painters had recorded the islands animals on the cave walls and it is here that some of the earliest known indigenous depictions of  European ships, will literally take your breath away. ‘Imagine seeing aliens land from outer space, that’s what it would have been like”…Stanley Island was a vision splendour. It wasn’t just the cave paintings… the cliffs, the caves, the untouched beaches… all of it… a magical way to end a week in the far north.

When I fired up the Nav computer that evening, there were a few things to sort out…first,  I plotted a course for Lizard island,  then I removed the ‘check next year’ from the sand cay, and finally I  drew a crude map of how to get to the cave art at Stanley Island… as the anchor came up and we put the island to our stern , the thought crossed my mind… ‘its just like playing a gig with the band… change things up, and the house will rock’.

Turtle Spectacular – Far Northern Reefs 2022

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