Christmas in Cairns

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WetPup

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Poor flight planning on my part, but I'm getting into Cairns on Christmas Eve, and flying out for my actual dive holiday (in PNG) on Boxing Day, leaving me with Christmas Day all alone. Not wanting to be stuck in my hotel room for the day, I figure I may as well make the most of being in Cairns and go out diving for the day. All suggestions indicate that Tusa is probably the best option for a day trip, but despite having previously lived in NQ, I've never actually been diving off Cairns. I've done a few trips to the outer GBR/Coral Sea on Mike Ball, but never any of the inner reef day trips.

What's the diving actually like? Can anyone link to a semi-recent (post-Yasi) trip report? Seem to be unable to find many photos of the diving on these day trips. Obviously I'm not expecting it to be like the Ribbon Reefs or Osprey, but I'd hope there's still some decent coral and fish/turtle/shark life to photograph?

Also, as I'm heading out alone, presumably Tusa will just give me an insta-buddy for the day?

:coffee:
 

WetPup

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Rather than start a new thread...

Trip report for diving with Tusa T6 on Christmas Day, 2014!

Logistics:
I pre-booked the trip with Aquapro who is here on the forums. Tusa were offering a 3 dives for the price of 2 deal, which sounded good. Paid the deposit in advance and the balance on the boat on the day. Arrived at the marina around 7.30am for a 7.40am boarding to deal with paperwork and money before getting underway around 8am.

I was paired up with an insta-buddy on board, someone who Tusa told me was of the same experience level as me. I trusted their judgement. I don't know what their definition of "same experience level" is, but I've got ~300 dives, my new buddy had ~50 (most of which weren't even ocean dives). I didn't think much of it until later in the day.

We returned to Cairns around 4pm, having spent Christmas Day doing something more fun than sitting around a hotel room!

The Diving:
I hired most of the gear from Tusa, because mine was packed for a flight the following day, and I didn't really want to fly with wet gear. I took my own computer, mask, and snorkel. Everything else was hired. Their gear is in pretty good condition, and they supply computers on their consoles for those who don't have their own. Was mildly surprised that they had open foot fins with booties instead of full foot fins like most places, but I wasn't complaining!

Dive briefing was that we had maximum 45 minute dives. I wanted to groan. But it's to keep to their insanely tight schedule for the day, rather than anything safety related. I chose to go unguided with an insta-buddy, because I'm happy to do my own thing. Dive site briefings were: "there's the wall, pick a direction and be back on the boat in 45 minutes!". Yep, enough said.

I was buddied up with someone on board who I was told had the same experience level as me...300 ocean dives vs. 50 dives which were mostly in lakes and quarries? Uhuh. First dive of the day, we're about 20 minutes in, I'm on about 130 bar, and I signal my buddy to see where they were at, I get the signal for 160 bar. Didn't think much of it other than "they're good on their air". Kept going. Five minutes later I'm seeing them giving me the out of air signal and they're surfacing. WTF??? Turns out that they didn't realise that giving the half tank signal followed by the 60 bar signal means 160 bar, not 60 bar. This was something that was very clearly covered in the pre-dive briefing. So, with no buddy, I stayed under and followed them back to the boat. A 30 minute dive - not impressed. My buddy said something about "strong current", I was thinking "what current?".

Similar situation on the 2nd and 3rd dives, despite me intentionally keeping us shallower to allow a slightly longer dive. I was surfacing with 100+ bar, my buddy on 10-20. I suppose this is the luck of the draw with insta-buddies, but I was still befuddled that Tusa thought it was an appropriate buddy pairing. Such is life.

We dived at Norman Reef and Saxons Reef. Visibility on the first dive at Norman Reef was 15-20m, with turtles, WTRS, and typical colourful fish. Visibility decreased on the second dive at the same site, but we saw more turtles, another WTRS, and more tropical fish. Third dive at Saxon's Reef the visibility was maybe 7-10m, and not much of note that we saw. There was an octopus hiding in a coral bommie, but it was playing hide and seek - it was hiding, and I was seeking (unsuccessfully).

Having dived the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef on a liveaboard before, the sites off Cairns don't compare. But hey, any diving is better than no diving, right? It was a fun day, and got me out of my hotel.

A few photos can be found here.
 

jake11

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Great photos!! Have fun in PNG!!!
 

Wobbegong wannabe

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Was mildly surprised that they had open foot fins with booties instead of full foot fins like most places
Noticed that myself. I think it's a FNQ day boat thing! I take my own gear because I usually drive, but if I ever fly up there it will be with a set of fins and boots.
As for the 'similar experience' thing, playing Devil's advocate were there any other single divers with 300+ dives? I've dived a few times in FNQ and for the most part, even with 70ish measly dives (and I consider myself a novice:dork2:) each time I was one of the more experienced divers on board. The tourist boats get a lot of newbies and very out-of-practice divers, so I wonder if it was more a case of 'okay, both of you can dive without drowning' rather than a proper 'you have requisite experience' thing. Was there a better instabuddy available? Maybe not. That said, it sounds like your buddy was a bit of a Hoover.
Glad you had a pleasant dive anyway, and have a great trip in PNG. Nice photos!
 
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WetPup

Weedy Sea Dragon
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Noticed that myself. I think it's a FNQ day boat thing! I take my own gear because I usually drive, but if I ever fly up there it will be with a set of fins and boots.
As for the 'similar experience' thing, playing Devil's advocate were there any other single divers with 300+ dives? I've dived a few times in FNQ and for the most part, even with 70ish measly dives (and I consider myself a novice:dork2:) each time I was one of the more experienced divers on board. The tourist boats get a lot of newbies and very out-of-practice divers, so I wonder if it was more a case of 'okay, both of you can dive without drowning' rather than a proper 'you have requisite experience' thing. Was there a better instabuddy available? Maybe not. That said, it sounds like your buddy was a bit of a Hoover.
Glad you had a pleasant dive anyway, and have a great trip in PNG. Nice photos!

I returneth to the land of internets!

There was one other lady on board, a DM with a couple of thousand dives who would have been more appropriate as a buddy. They let her dive solo *sigh*

Not the end of the world, just frustrating.
 

jamesdiving

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15 years ago I had a similar experience diving the Yongala out of Townsville. For various weather and boat related reasons the trip kept getting cancelled so I'd spent a week in Townsville waiting to dive. I spent total 6 weeks in Australia, so a week in Townsville was a big chunk of time. And no disrespect to anyone from there, but...

Anyway, we finally get out there, me and my insta-buddy jump in, and 5 minutes into the dive he panics and disappears to the surface. Part of me would like to say I took the moral high ground and aborted my dive to look after him, but, well, I didn't. He made it back to the boat ok, I enjoyed what at the time was the greatest dive of my life. I got a huge telling off when I got back to the boat, but what can you do?
 
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