Stradbroke Island Diving

Stradbroke Island Diving

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dive scuba diving
Main photo: Tourism Queensland. Other photos: Tony Isaacson

I left the Sunshine Coast at dawn to join diving group Scuba Buddies Brisbane at the North Stradbroke Island ferry terminal. It was a perfect day and everyone was excited about the exceptional Stradbroke Island diving conditions.

Most of the best things to do on Stradbroke Island, such as fishing, swimming and surfing, involve water. The holiday crowds had gone home and this paradise was all ours for our Stradbroke Island diving adventure. 

Stradbroke Island Diving

Manta Lodge

On Stradbroke Island, we were transferred from the passenger ferry terminal to the Manta Lodge and Scuba Centre.

We had come to the island hoping to film manta rays and had been encouraged by a dive a few weeks earlier in Byron Bay, where I had some close encounters.

Manta Lodge and Scuba Centre offer great value dives on Manta Ray Bommie. Dives can be done as a day trip from the mainland.

The cost of a double dive (including tanks, weights and the ferry crossing) is less than a double dive on the ex-HMAS Brisbane, which is a former Royal Australian Navy warship that was sunk off the Queensland coast to the north.

Related posts: 40 Things To Do in Queensland and all the best things to do on the Sunshine Coast

Manta Ray Bommie

Manta Ray Bommie is part of a rocky reef community next to a sandy channel used by sharks, rays and other sea life.

The channel is used by marine life to enter and leave Moreton Bay, gateway to the river port of Brisbane.

It is peaceful at the top or bottom of a tide but the channel becomes a sandstorm as tidal flow picks up.

Divers must carry ‘safety sausages’ or surface marker buoys in case they get caught by the outgoing tide.

New Zealand is the first stop across the ditch!

Manta Ray Bommie is also near a corridor used by bull sharks and not far from Amity Point, where a young girl was badly mauled by several bull sharks while swimming in waist-deep water in January 2006.

It’s a fatality that should never have happened.

Drum lines, shark nets, Clever Buoy technology and the NSW-Qld shark control program is a blog for another day.

Beach boat launch

Our double dive off Manta Ray Bommie began with a tractor moving the dive boat from Manta Lodge to the north facing beach.

It is unusual in Australia to go on diving charters with a boat launch off a beach, although this method is the norm when diving in South Africa.

Stradbroke Island diving
Our boat being towed for our Stradbroke Island diving adventure.

As a digital diver, I had my GoPro HERO 3+ Black edition mounted next to a GoPro HERO 2 (with a red filter and 2800 lumens of i-Torch Video Pro 4 led lights).

My diving buddy, Geoff Davey, and I were first to backward roll off the boat.

Geoff is a dive buddy I had met on Facebook and we were diving together for the first time.

scuba diving
Stradbroke Island diving is well worth the effort.

Divers who get buddied up with photographers and videographers draw a short straw in my opinion.

Undaunted by my constant need to stop and film, Geoff drifted effortlessly and was always nearby.

He smiled at me and so did the sand below.

I did a double take and realised there was a large flathead camouflaged in the sand peering up at us.

Stradbroke Island diving
S smiling face in the sane captured on my Stradbroke Island diving trip.

What we saw while diving Stradbroke Island 

A parade of leopard sharks, wobbegong sharks, white-spotted shovelnose rays, bull rays, stingrays, stingarees, a big grouper, clown triggerfish an octopus and an extended interaction with a juvenile green turtle followed.

Stradbroke Island diving
Stradbroke Island diving reveals a trove of underwater treasures.

Octopus

The octopus was quite a find as they are often shy and hard to spot.

What made this encounter extraordinary was that the octopus was actively foraging in bright daylight.

I had a close encounter of the tactile kind when one of its exploratory tentacles made contact with my fingers.

I’m sure it must have thought I was an alien marine creature of sorts, as it made a quick retreat.

Wobbegong or Carpet shark

We spotted a well-camouflaged wobbegong (or carpet shark) sheltering from the current in a rocky hollow.

Wobbegongs blend in well with temperate reef habitats.

Wobbegongs are nocturnal.

On daytime dives they are usually resting, docile and easy to approach.

Because of their harmless appearance, they cause a high number of undocumented shark bites to snorkelers and divers as they are often grabbed by their tails.

When grabbed by their tail, they are capable of turning on half their body length and can easily grab you with a mouthful of needle-sharp, slippery teeth.

My advice is to keep your distance.

Stradbroke Island diving
One of the creatures on my Stradbroke Island diving

Bull rays

Bull rays can glide with ocean currents but they often hide on the ocean bed beneath the sand.

A fan-tailed bull ray (commonly known as a stingray) was responsible for the death of Steve Irwin.

Fan-tailed bull rays are approachable, confident and trusting.

But they are also pre-programmed to gut or slash the jaws of large predatory sharks with their venomous barb that’s protected by a fleshy sheath halfway along the tail.

Approaching them from above is not recommended.

Stradbroke Island diving
Stingray on a Stradbroke Island diving trip.

Shovelnosed rays

Shovelnosed rays are shark-like in appearance and have two erect dorsal fins and an equally well-proportioned tail. They pose less of a threat than wobbegongs or bull rays to divers.

Green turtles

The best experience occurred near the end of our dive.

As we were heading back to the safety stop, we spotted a juvenile green turtle. Juveniles are usually shy and prefer to stay away from divers.

This little greenie seemed to be quite the dude and curious.

The turtle beckoned us to follow it to a favourite spot, where it seemed to be rubbing its shell beneath a rock shelf to relieve an itch.

I decided to assist by giving it a vigorous back rub and shell clean.

Patting a turtle Stradbroke Island diving
A special turtle moment during my Stradbroke Island diving experience.

I thought I had finished but clearly, the turtle had other ideas.

It came out from under the rock shelf and moved from side to side to get me to scratch the rest of its shell.

It followed us for a while and when we were done, it was cheeky enough to approach another diver.

dive scuba diving

Best time to go Stradbroke Island Diving

This is a seasonal dive site.

Manta rays visit in the warmer months and Easter marks the end of the season.

Grey nurse sharks begin to arrive around April and can be found here throughout winter.

This area is a transition zone bathed by the warm East Australian current and the tropical species that ride it south and the temperate currents associated with species like the old wife fish and blue gropers.

More Queensland diving and snorkelling

manta diving north stradbroke island

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As a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor, AWARE shark conservation specialist and adventurer, I have dived in some of the most amazing diving locations on the planet. I’ve logged over 3000 dives in more than 20 countries around the world and have explored the depths of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. I’ve documented the marine diversity in exotic locations like Komodo, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti and the Galapagos Islands. I have been scuba diving since 1970 and have a Certificate IV in training and assessment. I am a registered teacher of marine studies since 1977. In 2002, I won the "Best School in Australia" for Marine Education and the BHP Science Prize for Marine Science Teaching. I was the inaugural President and a founding member of the Marine Life Society of South Australia. In 2013, I inspired Navy Clearance Diver and bull shark bite survivor, Paul de Gelder and a 60 Minutesfilm crew to dive with bull sharks at the Ultimate Shark Encounter in Fiji. I was a consultant on the making of documentaries on Leafy Seadragons (for Channel 9), The Great Barrier Reef (with Richard Fitzpatrick for the BBC) and filmed underwater footage in Indonesia and off the Queensland and New South Wales coasts for Travel2Next. Last year, I came nose-to-nose with a 4.5m tiger shark. Isolated from my diving buddy, the adult female swam directly towards me. I made sure I was vertical in the water and prepared to scream loudly, shove the camera, mounting and lights at the shark. Fortunately, I wasn’t destined to be on the menu that day! In July 2014, I will lead an international group of diving adventurers for big shark action, the sardine run and great white sharks from Durban to Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a great advocate for sharks, sustainability and ecotourism, and I regularly volunteer for Reef Check and Grey Nurse Shark Watch in Australia. Read more about my adventures on my blog DiveCareDare.

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