By James Dean
Nothing says “Easter Celebration” like sharks and underwater caves so to celebrate the long weekend twelve divers (plus family) made the drive up the coast to South West Rocks to dive the famous Fish Rock Cave and visit with the resident Grey Nurse sharks. Easter thursday kicked off with fantastic weather and most people escaped from Sydney before the traffic and were pleasantly surprised by the new bypasses on the highway at Bulladelah and Kempsey that cut some travel time. As we arrived we bunked down in the roomy accommodation above the dive shop grabbed some dinner from the fish and chip shop next door.
Early Friday morning we leapt out of bed (some already awake after overnight winds set off a nearby burglar alarm) and set up our gear so when the South West Rocks dive centre team arrived we just had to throw the gear in the boats (Seawold and Viper) and go and by 7:30am we were heading down the river, out to sea and to fish rock cave. Seas were quite clean and a breeze kept the famous mozzies at bay. For the first dive we swam down the mooring line and around to the blind gutter were around 20 grey nurse sharks were congregating and started taking photos whilst being very careful not to bump into the “soft rocks” (wobbegong sharks) almost perfectly camouflaged against the rock walls and ridges.After around 25 minutes we started moving back to the mooring line where a bit of current was running so a few divers headed to the surface up another mooring and used the wind (running opposite) to push them back to the boat. After changing tanks and enjoying some morning tea we reentered the water to make a run through the cave.
Entering the cave at the deep end (24m) we encountered a bull ray, 2 wobbegongs and a black cod before heading up the chimneys to the shallow cavern (10-12m) where there were Hairy lobsters , more wobbegongs and a few bubble caves on the ceiling after around 20 minutes we exited the cave into the gutter and had a quick search in the shell debris for sharks teeth and took photos of the little eels. We then popped over the ridge into the aquarium and watched the fish life as we made our way back to the mooring line encountering a giant turtle with it’s head under a rock and a “fever” of around 7 cownose rays. Back on the boat we headed back into the boat ramp, unloaded and headed back to the dive shop for a shower and some lunch.
Friday night we all got together at the dive shop for a BBQ sausage sizzle plus spicy chicken skewers, fresh rolls, salads, fruit and icecream and most importantly a few beers and wines. A very filling dinner was capped of with fantastic company that soon popped off to bed to get a good nights sleep.
Saturday morning we were up again were out on the water nice and early. The wind had died off leaving smooth 1.5m rolling waves that gently raised and lowered the boat on the mooring line. We quickly jumped in and went back to visit the sharks again who were back in residence in the gutter so we followed the same pattern but this time exploring a bit more on our way back to the mooring line. This time the divers who were on nitrox got to enjoy a few extra peaceful minutes on the bottom and on the mooring line after the rest had surfaced. Due to the surge for the second dive we entered the cave at the shallow end and explored the shallow cavern to avoid the surge in the chimneys then proceeded back round the ridge to the aquarium and the playful clownfish near the mooring line.
Saturday afternoon saw people exploring the town and driving out to the old prison and the lighthouse and checking out the kangaroos at little bay. Saturday night we met back up at the Sea Breeze Hotel where we enjoyed a pub dinner looking out over the main beach.
Sunday morning saw the arrival of the easter bunny delivering chocolate eggs and flat seas and the best viz at around 30m (only haha 20m on friday/saturday) and we proceeded to repeat the dives from Friday starting with a visit to the sharks and a photo session with bunny ears. Followed by a second slow dive through the entire length of the cave where we encountered 3 black cod plus more assorted schools of fish and eels. Again the nitrox divers got to spend an extra 12 minutes after the others left so we did a short tour down the ridge looking for turtles. Once back aboard we headed back to the shop packed up and had showers then started the drive back to Sydney.
Big thanks to the South West Rocks team for looking after us so well and a huge thanks to the Easter trip team whose company made it a fantastic weekend.