Butterfly fish, Lord Howe Island, New South Wales
You could be the first person on Earth to dive a coral reef – then give it a name.
By Deborah Dickson-Smith
Published: 6 March, 2017
Australians are finding new ways to explore the country’s coastal and aquatic treasures. On one Australian island you can take that exploration to a new level by discovering and naming your own patch of coral reef.
Lord Howe Island – just a two-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane – is home to some of Australia’s most exquisite diving experiences. Amazingly, many of the waters surrounding the island have never been explored.
Visit famous Lord Howe dive spots
“On one side of the island most of the reefs and dive sites are charted,” says Aaron Ralph, owner of the island’s dive shop, Pro Dive, “but on the other side there are many scattered reefs that just aren’t as convenient to access. As a result, one whole half of the island hasn’t really been surveyed or even explored – all we’ve got are these unknown blips on the sonar.”
Lord Howe Island’s existing dive experiences are pretty special. You can swim with turtles off Old Settlement Beach, find yourself surrounded by large schools of trevally near Neds Beach, dive through a series of underwater arches at the bottom of deep gullies at the lagoon, see rock lobsters the size of piglets at Red Point, and swim with an entire school of Galapagos sharks at Balls Pyramid – an experience that “leaves a deep and lasting impression”, Ralph says.
Some of the area’s marine life – including the double header wrasse, the Lord Howe butterfly fish and the Ballina angelfish – is found nowhere else on Earth.
The Island's untouched side
The island’s unexplored diving treasures are likely to be just as breathtaking – if not more so, Ralph says.
“From what we can see on sonar, the terrain appears to be dotted with hundreds of reefs, caves, archways and other underwater formations. And where there’s interesting terrain, there’s usually lots of interesting marine life. Because this side of island is so rarely visited, we also expect to see lots of curious Galapagos sharks and maybe even the very rare conspicuous angelfish.”
With so many uncharted sites, the idea of asking visitors to name the sites that they explore was an obvious one, Ralph says. “Explorers have been responsible for naming the sites they come across throughout history.”
Sharpen your explorer skills
Exploring uncharted waters requires a certain level of diving ability – and Pro Dive has come up with a solution. In conjunction with island resort Pinetrees Lodge, the company is offering a Dive Week experience in which you’ll get the training needed to navigate unknown waters confidently. You’ll learn skills such as buoyancy and air consumption, and dealing with strong currents, before venturing to areas where no diver has been before. After the exploration, you can name the reef you’ve explored.
Name your own section of reef
Coral reefs are usually named in official surveys, but the names of smaller sections of reef and other dive sites are traditionally maintained through the dive community. Those of particular merit are eventually transferred into guide books.
Exploratory diving can be challenging, but offers rewards that make it worthwhile. The rewards on Lord Howe Island are not just the opportunity to name a dive site, but the incredible marine life that you’ll encounter while exploring it.
Dive Week packages starts at AUD$3063 including six nights accommodation at Pinetrees Lodge, 10 dives, all dive gear, all meals and island transfers.
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