Freshness in the Tropics
By David Haintz
It was six months ago when my wife and I decided to leave our jobs to opt for a sea change from the big city of Melbourne. Our direction was 4000 kilometres north to the renowned city of Cairns. At last! We were finally living in the tropics, absolutely sweating and the kids were running around like mad. It is inevitable that one will want to cool down amongst this climate. First choice is pool out the back, or down the beach protected inside the stinger nets. Stinger nets are to prevent the Iraganji jelly fish from stinging. Of course then there is also the reef which must be spared a day to visit. To my surprise there are even more options. Fresh water holes and lakes with no crocodiles and jelly fish.
You can never beat the Great Barrier Reef for what it has to offer, and it is definitely worth seeing. But if your budget is on the low side, don’t like boats or you prefer to have your own time schedule, these fresh water holes and lakes are a great place to visit and to dive. Local dive instructors use these places for their students from recreational level up to technical diving. To get to these places you will need transport – especially if you plan to dive. Some local tour operators do day trips, but remember you will be stuck to a schedule, so hiring a car or van could be a better option.
It is around an hour drive south of Cairns along the Bruce highway. Located just out the town of Babinda heading in a west direction. I have dived here a few times. It is a shallow dive at max 4m. The best time I find is midweek where there can be just a handful people. Expect to see turtles, eels, shrimp and platypus, which offer some great photo opportunities. Any fit diver will get two dives out of one tank. So in between dives you can cook your lunch on the electric barbeques, or take a walk further downstream.
Located up in the tablelands with a scenic drive up the mountain. Allow one and a half hours for travelling. If you plan to dive, you will need to be aware of the tourist ferry. You can check the time schedule at the restaurant. If your buoyancy skills are not up to date, maybe give this one a miss as you might sink a metre into the bottom and be silted out. As someone quoted to me: “I had an idea you was in that area, all I could see was silt.” I have been told the eels in the lake can be up to five inches round and three metres long. I’ve heard about but am yet to see it.
Don’t be deterred by this, as you can simply hop in your car and drive up to Lake Eacham if this isn’t your choice of dive.
As you turn off to head into Lake Eacham. The drive towards the lake I find is absolutely beautiful. It has an enchanted forest feel to it, so by the time you get to the lake you are already relaxed to dive. It’s a great place to spend the whole day and with plenty to do. Swim, dive, paddle, walk and free barbies. Keep in mind those fresh yabbies down around 18 metres but you’re not allowed to be taken, darn I saw one last time at least 25cm. If you do choose to dive these lakes, you will need to be aware that they are an altitude dive. The average temperature is around 22 degrees, but as you descend past the thermocline at 16-18 metres you will notice a change. I still wear a one-millimetre body suite. Max depth is 72 metres, which should keep any tech diver happy. My favourite thing about diving Lake Eacham is calling back into the roadhouse for a coffee and real homemade pie. They bake no more than 50 a day.
Blue Water is a magical oasis in the Daintree rainforest. I was lucky enough to meet a photographer who had just visited it and who showed me an image he took. From that moment I was hooked on seeing this place. Getting here was a bit of a journey as there are no signs or maps to find it. You have to be given directions, and must allow two hours of driving and cross a river. It is definitely a local water hole, so its exact location is a carefully guarded secret. It’s no deeper than three metres, so taking scuba gear isn’t necessary. Please keep in mind to observe all signs when entering these waters and observe the conditions before entering