N I G E L M A R S H P H O T O G R A P H Y
U N D E R W A T E R I M A G E S A N D A R T I C L E S
DAY TRIPPING TO THE AGINCOURT REEFS – PART 2 SILVERSONIC
by Nigel Marsh
Many divers think that you need to get on a liveaboard vessel to see the best of the Great Barrier Reef. But on a recent trip to Port Douglas I found the Agincourt Reefs, accessible via day boats, offer spectacular diving as good as the nearby Ribbon Reefs. In Part One I travelled to the Agincourt Reefs on the wonderful Poseidon, and in this article I joined Silversonic to explore more of this amazing part of the Great Barrier Reef.
Owned and operated by the Quicksilver Group, Silversonic is run on similar lines to Poseidon, with an 8.30am departure, a 4.30pm return and three dives scheduled at three different dive sites. Slightly larger than Poseidon at 29m long, and also marginally wider at 7.8m, Silversonic powers out to the Agincourt Reefs at a remarkable 27 knots. Surveyed for 130 passengers, but limiting the number to 85 for passenger comfort, Silversonic is an impressive dive boat with a large dive deck, two large lounge rooms, a wide sundeck and even change rooms.
The weather for my trip on Silversonic didn’t look good. Overnight a southerly change had come through and we had grey skies, strong winds and rough seas. But Silversonic powered through the choppy seas, and with built in stabilisers it was a remarkablely smooth trip, taking less than an hour and a half to reach the Agincourt Reefs. With the dive briefing done on the way to the dive site, we were all geared up and ready to hit the water as soon as we arrived at the first dive site, Turtle Bay.
Similar to Poseidon, all dives off Silversonic are guided, which I generally hate, but once again I was impressed by our guide Yukito. He took it quite slow and gave us plenty of freedom to explore. Our group consisted of six divers, but with 25m visibility it was easy to keep an eye on everyone.
Turtle Bay proved to be another lovely dive site, with beautiful coral gardens in the shallows for the snorkelers to enjoy and numerous bommies in deeper water for the divers. We explored about a dozen bommies in depths to 20m and found many decorated with pretty gorgonians and soft corals. The fish life was a little sparse, but we did see sweetlips, batfish, trevally, fusiliers, red bass, lionfish and a lone turtle. It was an interesting dive, but our second dive was just spectacular at a site called Nursery Bommie.
Rising from 26m to almost break the surface, Nursery Bommie is an impressive dive site. We started at the base and did several circuits of this large bommie, encountering schools of snapper, barracuda, trevally and numerous reef fish. The top of the bommie was swarming with thousands of snubnose drummer that were quite a sight. Sea whips, gorgonians, sponges, soft corals and black coral trees coloured the walls of the bommie, and searching its many ledges we saw coral cod, anemonefish and a lovely leaf scorpionfish. We ended the dive exploring the wonderful hard coral gardens in the shallows, a feature of all the dive sites I explored at the Agincourt Reefs.
After lunch, another great spread of cold meats, salads and some hot foods for a cooler day, we moved to our final dive site of the day, Castle Rock. I had dived Castle Rock the previous day from Poseidon, but was happy to return to this wonderful bommie. Similar to the nearby Ribbon Reefs, dwarf minke whales are seen on the Agincourt Reefs over winter and one had been seen at Castle Rock only days before. No minke today, but I was happy to see Colin the Malabar groper again, and I spent more time in the shallows photographing the wonderful corals and schools of fish. Castle Rock is better than some of the sites I have dived on the Ribbon Reefs.
Returning to Port Douglas after three wonderful dives I can easily say I was impressed by Silversonic and the Agincourt Reefs. Choosing between Poseidon and Silversonic would be difficult, as they are both great dive boats with very professional and friendly crew. If forced to choose I would give the nod to Poseidon, but only by a whisker, as I couldn’t fault either dive boat.
As for comparing the Agincourt Reefs and the Ribbon Reefs, well I have dived a lot more sites on the Ribbon Reefs and I only sampled a small number of the forty odd dive sites on the Agincourt Reefs, but I was surprised how good the diving was. The bommies were especially great and the fish life was outstanding, but what really impressed me was the hard corals in the shallows, these are easily the best I have seen on the Great Barrier Reef, and I have explored almost every section of the reef over the last thirty years.
Both Silversonic and Poseidon are excellent dive boats, providing a high standard of service and taking divers to some of the best dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef, the magic Agincourt Reefs.
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