Australia Part Five: Dry Land and Sea Snakes

Filed under: — Anastasia @ 4:30 pm

Monday morning, I woke up a few minutes before the daily door-pounding wakeup call. We were moored off Lizard Island, and looking forward to a morning exploring the place, hopefully with the same sunny conditions we’d had over the weekend at Osprey Reef.

Sadly, it was not to be – at least, not how we imagined it. A drizzle of rain was splattering against the cabin window, and the skies were gray with no hint that it would let up anytime soon. And I was feeling sicker.

Since our only alternative to hiking around the island was sitting in the lounge while the crew busied themselves cleaning up, swapping linens, and getting ready for the next batch of guests, we decided we’d still give it a shot. Hey, what’s a little rain? We’d been wet most of the trip anyway, right? About a dozen of us made the trip over to the island, most with various amounts of rain gear.



And then… we walked around. It would have been gorgeous on a sunny day; in the drizzle, it was just – uncomfortable. It didn’t help that my lungs weren’t up to even the slightest of uphill walks. Or that the mosquitoes were out. Or that Jeff and I nearly got ourselves lost trying to find the meet point after we split off from the rest of the group.

We did get to see a big lizard, though – some type of monitor or goana. And there were bats. And big burrowing crabs. There would have been lovely lookouts, if the sun was shining.


Back on board, the mood was a little down. Apparently one of the engines had died during the night, and the crew was waiting for a replacement part that would come along with the new guests. In the meantime, the divers were getting grumpy from sitting around (or from walking around in the rain), and were ready to get back to diving.

Jeff and I passed the time by signing up for a Nitrox classe, and zipped through most of the reading before lunch. It probably would have made more sense to take the class at the beginning of the trip, so we could dive Nitrox all week… but we figured better late than never.

At last, the new divers were aboard and briefed, and the engine was repaired – temporarily, as it turned out, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We ate lunch and headed out to a dive site called Snake Pit for the first of three Monday dives.

I’d assumed the name of the dive site was whimsical, or perhaps relating to some sort of feature in the rocks and coral. But no – it turns out the main attraction of this site is the friendly population of olive sea snakes. Yes, the highly venomous ones. No, they’re not aggressive.

We followed the anchor line down to the dive site, where there was a whopping current and crummy visibility. It would have been fairly crummy even by Southern California standards; I’d say 15′ or so. The water was a murky brown, and I was instantly NOT impressed with the dive site.

Until a snake swam over.

It turns out that sea snakes are extremely curious, cruising up to divers’ masks and cameras or between their legs. This one was immediately mobbed by photographers, so we continued on in search of our own snake.

Much like Lizard Island, it would have been a pretty dive if there was sun and clear water. Instead, it was just a frustrating fight against current, with the occasional pretty fish. Which was hard to photograph in the current.

We worked our way back over to where we’d first dropped down, and the camera-friendly snake was still puttering around. This time there were only two other photographers in the area, and the snake seemed quite happy to share his time between us. It moved so slowly and non-threateningly that I never felt at all scared; I was simply fascinated by the sinuous way in which it moved. And by how it looked just like a big snake on land; sort of cobra-like, but with a paddle-tail.

Our snake eventually tired of toying with photographers and retreated into a hole. I caught myself just short of waggling my fingers in front of him to try to draw him back out – that’s how quickly I’d forgotten they were venmous.


Our next dive was back at Cod Hole – or actually, around the corner at Cod Wall. The tender boats dropped us off up-current to ride back towards the main part of the dive site and rendezvous with the boat. At first, there wasn’t any current at all, and Jeff and I took our time looking at little fish along the wall. The visibility was much better than at Snake Pit, and we saw plenty of bannerfish hiding under ledges, pufferfish munching on algae, and the usual anthias, anemonefish, and juveniles of various species.


As we got closer to the corner of Cod Hole, the current picked up… and picked up… and picked up. Within 100 feet we went from a leisurely dive to an E-ticket ride. When Jeff decided to stop and photograph a puffer, I could barely hold myself in place by kicking, even if I ‘cheated’ with a hand on the rock – and since I was a little under the weather, I couldn’t keep it up for long. We finally gave up the effort and just let the current take us.

As we zipped around the bend into Cod Hole, the current dropped back to nothing. We were able to relax and enjoy the schools of anthias clustering out in the current, and I spotted a little lizardfish who posed for the camera. I thought we’d have a nice lazy safety stop before making our way over to the boat.

Nope. 50′ beyond the corner the current started dragging us along again. I no longer had the energy or desire to fight it, so we kept an eye on one of the divemasters and let him (and the current) lead us to the boat’s mooring line.

I marshaled the energy for a night dive; we rounded up one of the DMs to guide us, since we hadn’t had much luck on our own at night. I was still sort of unimpressed – aside from schools of jacks trying to hunt by our lights, there wasn’t anything video-friendly. Jeff, with his macro lens, had a slightly better time, as Shea pointed out all sorts of microscopic little crabs and shrimp, and even some pipefish.


Despite only doing three dives (again), I was WIPED. My cough had gone from being an itchy-throat sort of cough, to a phlegmy-lungs sort of cough. Diving Nitrox makes some people less tired than diving air; we’d be trying it out for the first time on Tuesday, and I wondered if maybe it would make me less sick!

1 Comment

  1. Aww, I’m sorry you were feeling sick! :( You really have a knack for catching colds at inopportune times! I like the pictures, and I’m glad you didn’t get bitten by those snakes. :)

    Comment by Kathy Brantley — 3/19/2007 @ 5:25 pm

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