On Saturday morning Pete and I got up early, had breakfast and headed off to Busselton to the Dive Shop, leaving mum and Dad cwched up in bed. Arriving at the shop, we filled in paperwork then I spent about an hour getting into my wetsuit, but it was the right fit and I was able to leave it on. As there were learner divers as part of the group, they had to do all the prep work, leaving us to chat to Megan, the proprietor, who would be our guide for the day.
Strangely, though we were a short walk from Busselton Jetty, we had a 10 minute drive to the marina, where we would take a 15 minute dive boat ride back to the Jetty! This is because we were to dive at the end of the Jetty, which was 2 km long – you almost can’t see the end of it from the start. As we left the marina, the water cleared and we could clearly see the sandy bottom. When we asked Daz, the skipper, he said it was about 4-6 meters deep between the marina and the Jetty – and all perfectly clear.
We dropped anchor in about 6 meters, near the Underwater Observatory, which we had to stay clear of while diving. The perimeter was marked on one side by a huge anchor and on the other by an old engine block, ensuring divers stayed at least 10 meters from the windows. Megan explained the dive site and the plan, with a group that were experienced and would guide themselves, a group of learners with instructor Polly,and then Pete and I and another Pete, known for the day as “RePete” to distinguish the two, who would be guided by Megan. Our first dive would be about an hour, because we were only in about 6 meters, and this would be the longest continuous dive Pete and I had done.
On entering the water, my first submerge was a bit too fast and I had to stop, reverse and equalise, but once down the vista was amazing. The visibility was around 15 meters, and whilst the sandy and weedy seabed was not colourful, there were plenty of fish, starfish and octopus around. The best however, were the jetty pylons, old and new, which were completely festooned in a welter of beautiful coral, of all shapes and colours. Around the pylons, all sorts of fish gathered to nibble on coral or hide from other fish. We saw a school of Globe Fish, which are similar to puffer fish, and are unusual for being the only fish of this type to school, and only in this region. They were so cute, with their googly eyes and almost boxy body, with a large mamma globe looking after a school of small globes. There were also colourful fish which were reminiscent of the tropical fish we saw last year on the Reef, in their variety of shapes and iridescent colours. We saw several cuttlefish, with pretty, fluttering petticoats, and several nidibranchs, tiny, colourful sea slugs with many different hues.
The water was between 19 and 20 degrees, so by the end of an hour we were ready for a break, despite the 7 mm wetsuits. Exiting the water with a steel tank was pretty hard work, but Daz gave us a helping hoist! We were thirsty and starving, and quickly ate lunch, with a couple of cups of tea to help warm us up as we sat in the sun. I think I bolted my lunch a bit quickly, as I struggled to get comfortable back in the water, and it took me a while to stop burping and put my regulator in. However, I had a much better descent this time, and managed to equalise easily as we explored the very end of the jetty underwater.
There was some interesting debris, including a big round tube with no roof and a doorway you could swim through. Both Pete and Megan had a go, then for my turn I first bumped my head on the doorway, then my cylinder, but finally got through! I decided to have a go with the camera, but multitasking was too much, my goggles filled with water, and my attempt to clear them failed. I panicked a bit, but Megan helped me surface, clear, then descend again, I gave the camera back to Pete, and continued comfortably, just admiring the scenery. All too soon the second hour ended, and we had to surface, though it was good to get out of our wetsuits and warm up in the sun. Back at the store we uploaded our dive logs then headed to The Goose, a great pub overlooking the Jetty, for a drink and some food, before heading back to camp, where we had a swim in the solar heated pool with mum and Dad.