Lia Barrett strikes Fish Rock Cave off from her bucket list as she braves the cold waters of Australia to explore Fish Rock Island in New South Wales (Text and Photos by Lia Barrett)
Why it’s always a good idea to man up, pile on that neoprene, and get back in the water for another go, even if cold water diving is not your thing.
It’s a personal life goal of mine to sneakily try to get myself to do things I don’t want to do. Sometimes this means tricking myself by planning something well in advance to the point that by the time it comes around, I’m already thrown in the deep end. Literally. And so when I finally noticed that I was spending heaps of time in Australia, I knew it was time to bite the bullet and start doing some of the true grit Aussie diving, some of the most interesting diving in the world which, to my dismay, means piling on lots of neoprene.
Yes, folks, the secret is out: A lot of Australia’s best diving is rather chilly.
From the shores below Brisbane skirting all the way down and over to lower Western Australia, the undergarments of Aussie diving require, well, warm undergarments. And so after seeing images of Fish Rock Cave, the type that make you salivate with envy and pull your hair out in excitement, I knew that atop my Australian bucket list was this little island that attracts a most spectacular aggregation of grey nurse sharks.
The first day did not fail to meet the area’s reputation, which, as we were told, is one of being a bit temperamental. We jumped into a raging current, low visibility, water cold and green as pea soup. A bit dejected, I almost called off the next day’s diving, thinking we’d head back down south in search of seals or perhaps a few consoling beers and mince pies in Sydney. But, something kicked me into touch, and I decided we’d give it one more day.
Sure enough, the next day, we had crystal clear conditions, a slack current, gutters overflowing with plump, snaggletooth sharks, wobbegongs of all sizes practically lying on top of one another forming a carpet along the gutter floors, a school of cow nose rays, eagle rays, swarms of schooling fish, whales singing themselves deaf in the distance… I can genuinely say that it was one of the top dives of my life. I didn’t even notice how cold I was.
As I exited the water, I couldn’t help but feel silly at the notion that I had almost missed this most spectacular symphony of Nature. So lesson learned: Sometimes pushing oneself isn’t so convenient: However, occasionally, efforts and discomfort pay off in sweeping displays of worldly splendour.
Fish Rock Cave, which pretty much never moves, offers a thrilling respite from the outside ocean traffic. Inside the cave are critters including crabs, nudibranchs, juvenile wobbegongs, and much more. Outside the cave, coral, rock, and natural “gutters” house teeming life of all sorts. As I exited the water, I couldn’t help but feel silly at the notion that I had almost missed this most spectacular symphony of Nature. So lesson learned:
Depending on the season, grey nurse sharks are usually present during their season, as are wobbegongs. Cow nose rays, eagle rays, guitar sharks, turtles, nudibranchs, and perhaps even a glimpse of one of those passing whales during whale season are all possibilities.
Theoretically fluctuates between 18 to 26°C, although I believe it was about 16°C when I was there. Prone to strong currents, temperatures can change day to day.
Visibility also fluctuates, as one day we had maybe six metres, and then the next day, it was crystal clear, and I felt like I could see sharks at least 20 metres away.
Entrance of the cave (which runs 125 metres in length) is at 12 metres at the shallow entrance, and 24 metres at the deep entrance. Gutters where sharks aggregate range from 15 to 30 metres around the island.
Lia Barrett is an underwater, travel, and fine art photographer. Her work has appeared in numerous international scuba diving and travel magazines, newspapers and blogs. Inspired by life underwater, Lia is the creative mind behind the clothing line Prawno Apparel, a brand geared towards ocean lovers with an emphasis on conservation. Lia is also the Photo Editor of DivePhotoGuide.com www.liabarrettphotography.com
This was initially published in Scuba Diver Ocean Planet 6/2014. With stunning photos and articles covering conservation to the best diving destinations –get the latest issues by subscribing here or check out all of our publications here.