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Scuba Diving South West Rocks, Australia
Dive Site: Fish Rock Cave
Location: South West Rocks, New South Wales, Australia
Description: Cave and shark dive
Depth: 26 metres (85 feet)
Visibility: 10 - 20 metres (30 - 65 feet)
Fish Rock Cave is pretty much the only dive at South West Rocks. There are variations on the dive depending on how/if you go through the cave that go by different names but they essentially all end up with you looking at the grey nurse sharks that live here. Fish Rock is an island that breaks the surface of the sea that has a big fissure the entire way through it, conveniently big enough for divers to squeeze through.
Although not a cave dive in the true sense of the term, it is still a dive where you will spend a considerable amount of time in an overhead environment and while we were there, this proved too much for one diver who bailed to the surface with a panicked look on his face. There is an alternative dive around the side of the island to reach the gulley on the other side, but this is not really why you come.
Inside the cave itself there are lobsters, nudibranchs everywhere and hermit crabs as well of thousands of fish that flash in front of your torch beam in swathes. The grey nurse sharks are almost guaranteed although typically when we did our dive through the cave they had decided to go out for the day. On the second dive though they were back but because of the aforementioned panicked diver we headed around the outside of the island so didn't get so up close and personal as I would have liked, but such is the way of things when diving.
Also of note are the wobbegongs, we saw one that must have been 2 metres long, and we also saw a tiny juvenile cuttlefish that was very cute. Fish Rock Cave is an excellent dive site, but unfortunately for us we didn't see it at its best.
As the rest of the group parted the curtain of fish that hide the entrance to the cave I was mesmerized by the grey nurse sharks. Around a dozen had skirted slowly past us as we disturbed them from their resting place in one of the deep gutters running up to the entrance. As we turned on our torches and headed into the darkness they were quickly reassuming their positions though, hovering near motionless in the water column with their teeth bared.
This is a truly great dive. I dived the cave four times in two days and clocked two of the largest loggerhead turtles I have ever seen (two different ones, not the same one twice I might add), the largest eagle ray I have ever seen (and I have seen plenty), at least a hundred crayfish (big ones too), an enormous bull ray (huge!), around a dozen wobbegong but these weren't even the highlight. On each of the four dives I came within touching distance of no less than twenty grey nurse sharks (and almost certainly a few more than that).
It was raining, the water was rough, there was some grizzly surge and it was cold and green. It was relatively clear though and with all the action I really didn't care that I'd had to trade my 2.5mm for a 7mm farmer john and that I spent most of the surface interval with my teeth chattering. It was diving heaven - a large, double-ended cave that necessitated a deep-ish dive and more fish than you could reasonably take in in one go. It took me two dives to notice the crayfish and three to notice the wobbegong and I put this down simply to the fact that there was so much of everything else to distract me.
Rick Davies, SSI DiveCon Instructor
Back in March this year I was working as a dive guide in Byron Bay, Australia while I was doing my dive con training. I had a friend come and visit me for a while and while he was there he'd come diving with me. Julian Rocks off Byron is still one of my fave dive spots in the world as on a good day you can see turtles, nurse sharks or leopards (depending on time of year) wobbegong sharks all yr round, so many fish, sting rays, blue spotted rays, shovel nose rays, blue groupers, moray eels, manta rays if your lucky (unfortunately I was never that lucky and still haven't ever seen one but don't get me started as it's becoming a bit of an issue between me and my partner who has just come back from doing the manta ray night dive in Hawaii which looked incredible).
As much as I could rave about this dive site all day, while my friend visited me we travelled down the coast to South West Rocks to Fish Rock Cave. My friend hadn't yet seen a shark other than wobbegongs and leopards so thought I would take him to see the nurse sharks as they can look pretty real. Oh my god, within minutes we were in a channel on the way into the cave surrounded by, well I think I counted to 25 sharks before I gave up counting them. My dive buddy was freaking out a bit as having a nightmare with weights and the current but as I was off duty as a guide I was paying no attention as mesmorised by the what seemed like millions of nurse sharks gliding past me eye to eye. Absoluetly incredable. I just turned over on the bottom and starred up through the sharks. Never seen or likely to see anything like it again. Oh my mate was fine by the way, he'd chilled out by the end of the dive and enjoyed the second one much more!
Fish Rock Cave! What a fantastic site!
We dived in February 2008 with South West Rocks Dive Centre. They are definitely the friendliest and most professional shop in the entire area! Other fantastic dive sites we visited at South West Rocks were Black Rock and Green Island. The variety of fish life is truly amazing... thanks for the great time SWR Dive Centre!
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