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The bouncy ride over to Rottnest Island (named by early Dutch explorers who mistook the islands Quokkas - a small species of Kangaroo - for gigantic rats) on the Dorado is skippered by Bill, a friend of Viv's from the WA UW photo club. after a short search for a site with diveable conditions, we decide on Philip rock, and backflip into the water.

Dive 1 - Phillip Rock
Max depth 5.7M, 54 min. Viz 5m.

Greeted by gritty 10 metre visibility, my first impression is of the variety and colour of the encrusting life: sponges, ascidians, bryozoans, kelp, sargassum, etc etc, hordes of red and black starfish, schools of Old-Wives and Cleaner Wrasse. Viv has the Nikonos along, but doesn't take a single picture and comes out grumbling about the conditions. Natsuko and I are just delighted to be getting wet!

Dive 2; - Little Armstrong Bay
Max depth 12.5M, 62 min Viz 10m.

After popping into the island settlement to grab a bite for lunch, we motor round to the next dive site, Little Armstrong Bay, and kit up to the sight of a group of divers rather tentatively giant-striding off a cliff! 'Lemming Diver' certification anyone?

Viz is better - about 15 metres - and we thread our way through a small labyrinth of caverns and canyons in a long thin reef between rippled sand dunes. Schools of Big-Eye flit beneath the rocks silhouetted against glowing green light.

Natsuko finds an octopus hiding behind a collection of discarded shells, and I offer it a finger in a 'we come in peace' gesture. After a couple of minutes lulling me into a false sense of security, this behemoth (which must have been more than 12 inches across!) lumbers out of its lair and fastens on my finger with obvious malice in mind! As you can imagine, I jump, at which the beast realises his cover is blown, and slinks back to his hole to await a less vigilant victim!

Natsuko and Viv, who had been swimming hither and thither with nary a thought for my plight at the hands (tentacles?) of this Kraken return just in time to have a most unsympathetic chuckle.

The next day, sea conditions dictate we head for Carnac Island, where a big gang of Australian Sea-Lions slumber on the beach. One game young male swims over to the boat looking to play, and we are happy to oblige! While the girls got affectionate fin-chews and kisses on the forehead, our boy (obviously jealous!) bites me on the bum!

Dive 3 - Carnac Island
Max depth 7.2M, 72 min. Viz 5m.

The last dive of the weekend is circling an islet round the corner from the Sea-Lions, with some rollercoaster surge and really mucky water. There are plenty of Nudibranchs, biscuit stars and Black Damsels darting about among the swaying Kelp and Sargassum, and Viv finds a beautiful Blue Devil, black with shimmering electric blue details along his flowing fins. A big shoal of large, silver Southern Drummer circle mysteriously round the rocks on the deep side.

After seventy-odd minutes, we are all pretty chilly, and starting to get queazy of being pushed up, down, left, right and backwards by the surge, so we head back to feast on Tim-tams and coffee before the ride back to Perth.

Also, see Viv's Trip report.

On to Travel Tales - Western Australia.

All content © COPYRIGHT Huw Porter.