Yes another diving trip, it has to be done whenever possible! This time we packed up and headed down to Byron Bay to dive Julian Rocks. Julian Rocks is so close to the mainland of Byron Bay but we had to launch the boat from Brunswick Heads. The bar crossing is a bit notorious for boats capsizing so if you are gonna go it alone in your own boat be aware! But we survived! I would estimate the boat ride to be about 15 – 20 minutes, but sometimes once you are out in the ocean time just seems to slip out of your mind. The conditions were good so no chop and just a little swell.
There are a number of secure moorings at the rocks so once there it was just a case of picking a mooring, we chose one in the Nursery Area of the Rocks, a fairly shallow area, starting around 7mts, and I reckon a good place to begin the dive. As per usual it was don the gear, buddy check and away we went. The vis was great, probably up there with the best yet, the water temp was a fairly comfortable 23 degrees and the surge just carried you along.
My first sight was the carpet of Wobbegong Sharks, the main types we saw where Hale’s and Ornate, but they were everywhere, just lying on the bottom generally motionless. We swam east towards Cod Hole and as we did there was a myriad of marine life, huge Queensland Grouper, bat fish and goodness knows what else (I am trying to learn to ID the fish we see, but there are so many!!!) Blue Seastar starfish lay across rocks, sea urchins and nudibranch are all around, as we approached Cod Hole we swam over my very first Leopard Shark as it lay on the bottom.
When we got to Cod Hole I had to pause for a little while and assess the situation. Once I realized it was a hole and you could swim through as opposed to a cave that would be dark and a bit scary I went down. The first thing I saw was a huge turtle munching away on whatever it is growing on the rocks, it just seemed to hang there upright swaying back and forth with the surge of the water. It was the most amazing thing I have seen so far, he/she was not perturbed by our presence and just continued with his/her lunch! There was a huge school of fish that seemed to be sheltering in the hole and it was then that we noticed the huge Black Cod among the school of smaller fish. It hung around for a while before swimming off, it really was quite huge.
We took off again and encountered another two leopard sharks swimming around. I always thought I would freak out, but these sharks don’t look particularly scary, you can tell that they are sharks, I am still not sure how I will feel when I encounter the more menacing looking Grey Nurse Shark even though I know they are placid sharks – but I do intend to dive somewhere where I will see one, one day!
We continued exploring until we were down to 100 bar then it was time to turn around and begin to head back and a great opportunity to try out my navigation skills. I knew we needed to head west and I thought I had it sorted! We did the whole safety thing and up we came, yes in the right direction but about 150 – 200mtrs away from the boat almost at the next buoy! So that is a skill that I think needs to be a bit more polished. We swam back to the boat for a surface interval. We sat and chatted about the dive and the experience and as we did we saw something in the water. At first all we saw is what we thought was a fin and thought mmmm shark???? but know as we looked closer and harder we realized we were being visited by a Manta Ray. It glided through the water right near the surface so majestically. It’s one of those moments for me when I realise that much of my fear around the ocean is about awe rather than being scared. It was so magnificent, and by far the most amazing thing I have seen from the boat and a sight I would love to experience in the water, I watched from the boat as it swam back and forth, as it turned you could see it’s huge mouth – it really is an amazing experience.
The guys went in for the second dive, I decided to sit on the boat, which seems to be a regular pattern that I am developing, enjoying both above and below the ocean. They had an amazing second dive and then it was time to head back to Brunswick Heads to pack up. I got to drive the boat back and face the return over the bar. I don’t think my heart has beat quite so hard. As instructed I got onto a wave keeping the speed just right, I heard the nervous laughs behind me and turned to see a huge wave which was beginning to break behind me, so I knew then I had to keep the speed just right – there was a huge sense of relief once back in the river system, particularly from me!
We rinsed and packed the gear and headed into Byron Bay for the night, we booked a dorm at Nomads Backpackers which was reasonably priced, very comfortable and in a great location. After a welcome hot shower it was time to head out for food and check out the local nightlife before resting our weary heads.
If you dive check out this spot, apparently in winter the Grey Nurse Sharks head to this spot, the leopard shark most often in the summer, but I reckon you won’t be disappointed! Alan made a video with his GoPro and can be viewed on Youtube http://youtu.be/kJkDgSmn4xg