He came back with tales of pirates and thrash metal… Armed with little more than a soggy bread roll, I’m half expecting a crazy-eyed Captain Jack Sparrow to jump out at me from a passing porthole.
I’m paddling between the jagged carcasses of ships long past their prime. A majestic white-bellied sea eagle keeps a watchful eye from atop the crumbling masts, while all around me a multi-coloured cloud of tropical fish are feeding frenziedly from my hand.
I catch sight of a very strange, beaked fish beneath my toes – it turns out to be a hungry cormorant diving down to hunt.
The whole scene is surreal and spectacular and quite possibly the best place I’ve ever been snorkelling. I’m splashing around the Tangalooma Wrecks off Queensland’s Moreton Island, a place that enjoys the enviable status of being just over an hour from Brisbane, but without the crowds that normally invade such easy city escapes.
In other words, it’s kind of a win, win situation really. The wrecks are the rusting hulks of 15 once seaworthy vessels that now huddle together on the western side of the island. They were all purposely sunk, from the 1960s to 80s, to create some sort of creaking Pirates of the Caribbean-style harbour for boats looking for shelter when big storms made the final push to Brisbane too dangerous.
But in the decades that have followed, Tangalooma’s eerie edifices have transformed into an artificial reef that has resulted in a dramatic natural playground and a hotbed of marine activity. At last count the site was known to be home to at least 120 species of fish, but that number is growing each year. And judging by the swirls of colour in every direction, I’m getting to meet most of them.
We dive down to look through sunken portholes while fish zip one way and then the other, giving me only the slightest of furtive glances from the corner of their boggly eyes. The best is saved for last however, when just as we enter the final straight, a stunning lionfish regally refuses to pay us any attention.
Even if I did nothing else on Moreton Island, the snorkelling alone would have made the trip worthwhile.