A little over ten years ago while visiting the Caribbean island of Dominica, I met Jules Morton and Glen Holmes, the divemasters at Castaways Hotel and Dive Center. We became friends and talked about diving in various places in the world that we loved. A few months later, Jules and Glen came up and visited Christine and I in Massachusetts for a few weeks. We did some New England diving, showed them our favorite dive sites in Eastport, Maine, and had a great time sharing dive stories. Glen told me that some day I needed to go to Australia to dive the Gold Coast—his favorite diving. Ten years later, to the exact day, Glen took me, Julia and Kerry diving in the Gold Coast area. Glen promised some of the best diving ever. Well, we were not disappointed! We went out diving with Herb Ilic from Palm Beach Dive on his boat Evolution on a private charter with Glen as our divemaster. We were looking for some Wobbegong sharks for a segment on benthic sharks (sharks that live on the bottom), and boy did we find them. Dozens upon dozens of Wobbegongs of two species covered the sea floor at dive sites filled with clouds of silvery baitfish. The sharks have obviously been gorging themselves on the baitfish, and they were bloated from all the food.
At a site called Windara Banks, we dropped into crystal clear water, about 70 degrees and descended to 75 feet where we found the top of a seamount. It was a deep dive. At 120 feet I found a solitary Sand Tiger shark (they call them Grey Nurse sharks in Australia). Although the dive was visually stunning, we were not seeing as many sharks as we liked, so we switched to another site called Julian Rocks. I have never seen so many Wobbegongs anywhere in one place! And as we dropped deeper, there were about 10 Grey Nurse sharks cruising in the gulleys between the rocks.
The diving around Gold Coast is unusual because it blends critters found in more northerly tropical waters with the critters found in the temperate waters to the south. For example, you see temperate algae and Wobbegongs living alongside tropical crinoids, soft coral and Eagle rays. Very interesting diversity!
This exciting diving, although a little chilly, was a wonderful way to wrap up a magnificent trip diving around Queensland! We shot several segments for Blue World and explored a region that none of us had ever seen before. We would like to extend a grateful thanks to Tourism Queensland for their assistance in putting this trip together and helping us pull it off. Kerry and I can hardly wait to get home and start editing the video into some new, exciting segments for season 3 of Jonathan Bird’s Blue World!