The coast from Wollongong to Kiama has many excellent shore dives, with reefs covered in a thick carpet of sessile marine invertebrates and associated sea creatures.
In fact, around Bass Point and Kiama, scuba divers will find some of the best shore diving and snorkeling in the State.
Dive shops located in Wollongong, Bass Point, Shell Harbour run shore and boat dives to sites for scuba diving, snorkeling and underwater photography.
This stretch of coastline, known as the Leisure Coast, offers plenty of leisure activities, surfing, snorkelling, diving, bushwalking in rainforest and national parks, as well as relaxing on golden beaches and at nearby lakes. Within easy reach of Sydney, the Leisure Coast is a popular destination for day trips and weekend escapees who stream down the Princes Highway.
Indicative of the southern coasts of Australia the Old Wife Enoplosus armatus is a unique and easily recognised species that may be seen solitary, in pairs, groups or in large schools. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The area from Wollongong to Kiama has many excellent, in expensive shore dives, known as rock hops, along the coastline. In fact, around Bass Point and Kiama, divers will find some of the best rock hops in the State. Dive shops located in Wollongong and Bass Point run shore and boat dives to sites in the area.
The 'Gutter' at Bass Point is an excellent entry and exit as it is protected from the full force of the swells and subsequent wash often encountered directly off the coast. ( photo; Neville Coleman)
A very common resident of the rock pools and shallow reefs, the Waratah Anemone Actinia tenebrosa can reproduce asexually by budding off juveniles which emerge from the parent's mouth and directly settle onto the reef. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
On the northern side of Bass Point is a large bay known as Beaky Bay. You can jump in just about anywhere and have a good dive along the gutters and ledges on the rocky bottom, at a maximum depth of about 12 m. A good range of reef fish are always around and Port Jackson sharks, cuttlefish, wobbegongs and moray eels are frequently part of the underwater scenery. A 100 m-long blue metal loader dominates the bay. The pylons are encrusted with sponges and anemones, nudibranchs and crabs. Globefish, cuttlefish, octopi, stingrays, blue gropers and schools of yellowtail and bullseyes are often found under the pier.
The colour pattern of the male Crimson – banded Wrasse Notolabrus gymnogenis has no relationship to the female. The original name was given to the male, for at the time it was described the female was not recognised as such.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Bushrangers Bay is located at the very tip of Bass Point. On the sheltered, rocky bottom, which levels off at a depth of 15 m, are kelp beds, many colourful sponges, nudibranchs, weedy sea dragons, stingrays and lots of reef fish. The outer edge of the bay drops down to 25 m, and here divers will usually see Port Jackson sharks, wobbegongs, schools of pelagic fish and maybe the occasional turtle.
With the sexes sexually dichromatic, the female Crimson banded Wrasse Notolabrus gymnogenus has little comparison the male.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
All around Blowhole Point are exciting dive sites, but the Blowhole itself is something magic. Its rocky walls drop straight down to 12 m, and sponges and numerous invertebrate species cling to the walls. The Blowhole is a deep cave that creates a lot of surge. Inside the Blowhole and the other nearby caves live stingrays, cuttlefish, moray eels, blue gropers, rock lobster, schools of yellowtail and pike, and a host of reef fish.
This large, rocky reef off Wollongong, which drops from 25-40 m, is a popular boat dive. Reef and pelagic fish share the reef with numerous invertebrates and sponge gardens.
Although the identities of many sponges remain unknown, at least this one has a genus. The Orange finger Sponge Raspalia sp. is a common resident of low profile patch reefs along the south east coast. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
In 1949, the 45 m-long Bombo sank off Wollongong in rough seas, and now rests upside down in 30 m of water. Although the hull has collapsed, the wreck can be entered through various holes. The Bombo has a good coverage of sponges and attracts schools of reef and pelagic fish.
Found all along the southern half coastline of Australia the Maori Wrasse Ophthalmolepis lineolatus grows to 24 cm and males can be recognised from females by a mid lateral black line down the side. ( photo; Neville Coleman)
Gap Island, one of the Five Islands off Wollongong. has steep, rocky drop-offs, blanketed with thick sponge gardens. Gap Island has the most dramatic dive sites, but all the island reefs support healthy fish populations. Resident reef fish include blue gropers, sea perch, leatherjackets, wrasse, red morwong and scorpionfish. Pelagic fish regularly seen are kingfish, yellowtail, pike, sweep, bream and occasionally salmon and jewfish.
This sponge-covered dive site off Bass Point, known as The Humps, consists of three large, rocky pinnacles which rise from 30-10 m. Dense schools of kingfish, trevally, red morwong, yellowtail, pike, sweep, blue gropers, old wives and many other species congregate around the pinnacles. Manta rays and turtles are sometimes seen.
Generally seen in deeper water beyond 15 metres, the Southern Fusilier Paracaesio xanthura ranges along the south east coast to at least Montague island.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Lou s Reef
Directly off the front of Bass point is a brilliant spot known as Lou s Reef, which drops steeply from 15-35 m. This reef has some of the best sponge gardens in the area, as well as gorgonians, sea whips, bryozoans, anemones, sea tulips, finger sponges, sea stars and especially nudibranchs. Reef fish are always around, and you will usually see cuttlefish, stingrays, kingfish, moray eels, wobbegongs and blue gropers.
Ellis's Sea fan Mopsella ellisi can be seen in several colour variations , from red to orange. It is the most common sea fan along the south east coast and inhabits most reefs from shallow to deep water. The species is often the host for small Egg cowries and Spindle Cowries. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
This massive swim-through is located on the southern side of Bass Point. The Archway is in 25 m of water and is covered with sponges, ascidians and anemones. Nearby are brilliant sponge gardens to about 30 m. Reef fish and invertebrates are common, as are blue gropers, giant cuttlefish, blue devilfish, stingrays and large numbers of Port Jackson sharks.
I first found this commensal Bryozoan Anemone in 1964 but is was an undescribed Family, Genus and Species. Although I sent speciemens to many taxonomists over the 40 years, it still remains undescribed. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
While most of Blowhole Point is accessible from the shore, the very tip is best done as a boat dive, and well worth the effort. Here the rocky reef drops to 20 m, and features an array of gorgonians, sea tulips and sponges. Kingfish, mackerel, yellowtail, bullseyes, pike and drummer gather at the point. Stingrays, eagle rays, blue gropers and Port Jackson sharks are often around.
This species is probably a lot more common than realized, due to its excellent camouflage. The Rock Flathead Thysanophrys cirronasus occurs on coraline algae covered low profile reef and rubble patches, and almost matches the patterns.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Neville Coleman's diving expeditions, fauna surveys, photographic fauna surveys and marine life identification courses include every major group of marine life.
Neville Coleman's expertise in living taxonomy and marine life identification extends to the identification of Algae, Sea Grass, Forams, Sponges, Stony Corals, Soft Corals, Sea Anemones, Sea Jellies, Zoanthids, Corallimorphs, Black Corals, Flatworms, Segmented Worms, Crustaceans, Barnacles, Shrimps, Rock Lobsters, Hermit Crabs, Squat Lobsters, Molluscs, Chitons, Univalves, Bivalves, Cephalopods, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Squid, Opisthobranchs, Nudibranchs, Sea Slugs, Bryozoans, Sea Mosses, Echinoderms, Sea Stars, Feather Stars, Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Ascidians/Sea Squirts, Marine Fish, Sharks, and Marine Mammals, all found in the waters around Wollongong, Kiama, Bass Point and Shell Harbour.
( Copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel Marsh)