Magdelaine Cays –Coral Sea –posted August 2016
Magdelaine Cays are a pristine, untouched wilderness. We soaked it all up during 12 days of sensational exploring.
Magdelaine North turtle graveyard.
We arrived in early December 2013 and carefully picked our way thru shallow coral heads to a well-protected anchorage about 300m behind a strip of smooth sand. It looked peaceful, but on landing, a short walk to the windward side revealed storms had washed away most of the sand from between the coral rocks. Creating almost impenetrable obstacles for the many nesting Green Turtles who were programmed to enter from the southeast shore. Each night a life and death drama unfolded.
A dozen green turtles had recently become jammed between rocks and died. Some had made it across to the soft sand but were too exhausted to return to the water.
We poured water over this mom to keep her alive while we dragged her back to the front beach–it took three hours, but she survived — my back slowly recovered.
Magdelaine North diving
We particularly liked a location on the western end of the reef. To drift along a wall and watch sharks spiral up out of the blackness 70m below was exhilarating. We must have seen 50+ Grey Whalers on that first dive. Behind the drop-off, a labyrinth of coral heads rose from perfect white sand in 10-15m of water. Visibility was 30-40 m. A school of hundreds of Jacks made for the sort of wide-angle photography I like 🙂
Anchoring on the wall — the good, the bad and the ugly.
On day one, the conditions were right, and we were hanging out for a wall dive. I was too impatient to mess about! We found a small broken indentation on the top of the coral wall, which allowed us the tricky possibility of nosing Flash Dancer over crushed coral and dropping the pick in just a few meters. She would be held off the wall by the breeze and current. “An easy drive along the wall was our prize .”
But after two failed attempts, I tired of hearing the complaints from our winch as I retrieved the weight of a 100m of chain and anchor dangling in the abyss, So on the third attempt, there balancing 35m down the wall face, our anchor stayed. Not up, not down, not caught and holding, just sitting there contemplating the fish swimming by.
So we launched the dingy, tied it to the reef and enjoyed our dive.
I’m sure our rubber duck was excited about the possibility of rescuing mom as she drifted quietly toward the Willis Islands. But to our pleasant surprise, she hadn’t moved. Never the less on our subsequent dives to that location, we found a safe sandy bottom not too far away and took the dingy over to the wall by herself. Much more intelligent.
Diving the northern maze — where are we?
I have always admired my first mates diving skills, especially her faultless underwater navigation. When my cylinder gauge shows about 50 bars, like magic, the boat or dingy anchor appears, and we are in the correct exit slot. It suits me fine not having to fuss with my compass and remember twists, turns and visual navigation points. Anyhow, that’s all up till NOW. We arose from a maze of coral canyons on our last dive to find the dingy a tiny spec in the distance — perhaps 400+ m and into a light current. Shit! That was one hell of a swim with my 125cft tank and camera set up. I made it back as my tank emptied. I have changed to a smaller 100cfm tank since then — and started looking at my compass again 🙂
Magdelaine South Cay
It doesn’t have a protected anchoring location. But the island itself is superb. It’s big and round with quite a few trees, a tidal gully and plenty of vegetation. There are no obvious good diving spots in the water, but on land, the Cay is a treat with thousands of marine birds and turtles.
Paper and electronic charts are not accurate for this location. A row of Bommies and small reef areas off footsteps across the western side of what appears to be an open bay feeding into the North Magdelaine anchorage. There is no wide clear entrance in 20 me of water. Vigilance is required as the sun can reflect off the face of small easterly waves making Bommies less than obvious after 1/2 tide. If one was to be lulled into complacency by an incorrect GPS chart, a bruised keel could easily result ..ouch!
The sand cay is about 400 me away from where it appears on my plotter.
To view more of our images of Magdelaine Cays click here.
To view more of our posts from Australia’s sparkling Coral Sea territory, click on the below:
Diamond islets click here
Flinders reefs click here
Herald cays click here
Marion Reef click here
Willis Islets click here
Coringa Islets click here
Osprey Reef click here
Bougainville Atoll click here
Ashmore Reef click here
Lihou Reefn Atoll click here
loved your article on the remote lihou reef (we are diving with Spirit of freedom in November 2024)
Thx Peter. The full article will appear in the next Club Magazine, and I’ll put a full story on this site as well.
Good diving. Cheers Robin
Thanks Robin, i passed on the article to the captain and our other dive friends. They have all appreciated your indepth article. We are also doing the lihou reef and Bougainville. With some others. So your information in invaluable especially with no moorings
Spring, especially November, is the best time for these areas. Good luck 🙂