Underwater Images, liveaboard on Taka, Great Barrier Reef, Jan 08

The trip, boat, food, diving and (scroll down) Photos
One of my old professors at Purdue once remonstrated a student, "Other people learn from their mistakes, but you just learn your mistakes." The student may have later joined Qantas Airlines logistics - they lost our bags on the trip out from HK to Cairns; the missing bags were re-united with us when we returned from the liveaboard trip. And then Qantas lost a bag again on the return journey back to HK. Luckily, one does not need much stuff to get by on a liveaboard, and the rental scuba gear was ok. So we shopped for some swimming trunks and toiletries during the four hours we had in Cairns before jumping on board the good ship Taka.

About the boat and food:
It is fairly large, with capacity for 30 divers, and it was full. There are 12 crew, half of whom dive (usually 2 are teaching courses, one video guy records the dives on DVD for sale, and 1-2 guides). The dining+lounge area gets a bit crowded with 30-40 people, but not uncomfortably so. They do have good facilities for camera, computer support etc. Our room was ok, with a double bed and attached bathroom/shower.
Food was good. Breakfasts are great (cereal, tropical fruits, plus the usual toast-bacon-sausage-eggs); most lunches were very good too; dinners were ok (a decent tex-mex one night, hamburgers and hot-dogs another, pasta/rice with meats and veggies on other nights).

About the Diving:
This being summer in Australia, the waters were warm enough for 3mm short-suits. Taka takes 30 divers, and many are beginners. Divers can request guides, but are encouraged to dive unguided. No surprise therefore that they pick mostly novice dive sites. We encountered no currents (though some sites had surge) and the deepest we went may have been 24m. They like to keep dives to 50min (esp. if you go with a guide); we went unguided on most dives, and our max dive was 60min. Visibility ranged from 15 to 20m. For most dives, we giant-stride off the boat, swim approx 30m to the site, dive, and swim back to the boat on return. If there some surface current, they use the two rubber dinghy's to drop us off and pick us up: only needed it couple of times. In summary, if you have decent diving skills, Taka may not be the best choice to do GBR.

Underwater we saw more hard coral than soft, moderate populations of reef fishes, and quite a bit of broken coral and rubble on many sites. The overall reef scenery therefore is no match to that in Indonesia, Malaysia or even Philippines. Comparing the photos to those from earlier dives, probably the only new things were the potato cods; I do wish the epaulet shark gave us a better view of itself. We did get a little more experience navigating and searching for stuff without a guide, which was nice. An approaching storm kept us from traveling to the Osprey reef, so we didn't even do the shark feed dive.. bummer. The dives:

Day 1, Dive 1. Challenger Bay. [usual reef fishes, pipefish, barracuda, maori wrasse]
Day 1, Dive 2. Cod hole (cod feed). [potato cod, sea turtle, white-tip sharks]
Day 1, Dive 3. Cod hole. [potato cod, bumphead parrotfish, maori wrasse]
Day 1, Dive 4. Pixie's wall. [night dive; not much]

Day 2, Dive 1. Ribbon reef #8 (wall along the inside) [nice site, colorful]
Day 2, Dive 2. Andy's postcard. [a tiny bommie, shark or two, maori wrasse, snappers]
Day 2, Dive 3. Ribbon reef 2-1/3. [sloping wall, lots of broken coral]
Day 2, Dive 4. Ribbon reef 2-1/3. [night dive; feeding hard corals].

Day 3, Dives 1, 2. Steve's bommie. [decent bommie, probably the best site; lionfish, leaf scorpionfish, shark, stonefish].
Day 3, Dive 3. Ribbon reef 2-2/3. [reef fishes]
Day 3, Dive 4. Ribbon reef 2-2/3. [night dive, a 1m white tip shark, some reef fishes].

Day 4, Dive 1. Split bommie. [larger bommie, interesting topography but sparse reef life and dirty rubble below 15m]
Day 4, Dive 2. Split bommie. [epaulet shark].

In a nutshell: it's GBR so it had to be done. But... once is enough.

About the photos:
Once again I was using my Canon G7 in its Canon WP-DC11 housing, with a single Inon Z220s strobe on slave. The thumbnails below are linked to larger photos. The photos were edited (sometimes a lot) using Photoshop-Elements -- they look clean but there really was a lot of back-scatter.







































If you want the original of any of these, send me email.