FISH ROCK CAVE
South West Rocks, New South Wales
Type of dive: Reef
Access: Boat only (30 minutes)
Minimum qualification: Open Water (Advanced recommended)
Depth: 9-30 metres (30-100’)
Visibility: 15-30 metres (50-100’)
Water temperature: 20°C (68°F) – 25°C (78°F)
Best time to visit: November – May
Snorkelling: No, too deep.
Australia’s famous Fish Rock Cave is located on the mid north coast of New South Wales off Smokey Cape, a short two kilometre (just over a mile) boat ride from shore.
Fish Rock, and nearby Green Island, are aggregation sites and critical habitats for the docile and protected grey nurse shark, Carcharias Taurus, now an endangered species.
Grey nurse populations are now on the rise after their numbers were drastically reduced to only several hundred by commercial fishing prior to their protection in 1984, and Fish Rock is a great place for a close up-and-personal interaction with these graceful, slow-moving docile sharks.
Fish Rock Cave is a 125 metre (400’) long tunnel or swim through that penetrates Fish Rock in a roughly east-west direction.
There is a shallow entrance at 12 metres (40’) where divers can see beautiful gorgonian fan coral and a deep entrance at 24 metres (80’). It is at the ‘Deep Entrance’ where grey nurse sharks can be found, often in quite large numbers, more than ten.
Inside the cave, there are two ‘bubble’ caves at a depth of around five metres (15’) where divers can have a brief conversation.
A torch is essential because about 80 metres of the cave is out of the light zone. Care must be taken – there are some offshoots that lead nowhere.
The cave is teeming with fish and the walls are covered in soft coral. It is not unusual to see wobbegongs, black rays, cuttlefish and turtles.
Around the rock there is abundant fish life as a result of the prevailing currents providing nutrients to the area, and the sponge gardens around Fish Rock provide shelter for colourful sea stars, delicate nudibranchs, intriguing cuttlefish, banded sea perch and red rock.
Strong currents can be avoided with adequate planning or taken advantage of by a drift dive.
In the winter months humpback whales are common to the area and an in-water encounter on the way to the dive sight is not unusual.
Copyright C 2015 Steve Sinclair
Other great dive sites to visit while you are there:
The Pinnacle, Black Rock, Green Island, Bait Reef and Lady’s Reef.