The clear, temperate waters around Governor Island, Bicheno feature abundant sponge gardens, prolific fish life, caves packed with invertebrate life and impressive kelp beds make it ideal for scuba diving, snorkeling and underwater photography.
This area is so rich in marine life that 60 ha on the eastern side of Governor Island was declared a marine reserve in 1991, ensuring the future of this valued marine environment.
The rich heritage we have on southern Australias little known, yet fantastic reefs, is illustrated in this image generously shared by Dave Warth who pioneered much of the deepwer waters around Bicheno.
( photo and Copyright: Dave Warth)
The clear, temperate waters around Governor Island, Bicheno feature abundant sponge gardens, prolific fish life, caves packed with invertebrate life and impressive kelp beds. This area is so rich in marine life that 60 ha on the eastern side of Governor Island was declared a marine reserve in 1991, ensuring the future of this valued marine environment.
Little Penguins Eudyptula minor can often be seen in the waters around Bicheno. There is a colony at the National Park on Diamond Island.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Bicheno is a small holiday and fishing town on the east coast of Tasmania, roughly halfway between Hobart and Launceston. This part of Tasmanias coastline, known as the Sun Coast, boasts the warmest climate and the most sunshine in Tasmania. The area around Bicheno has uncrowded sandy beaches, spectacular granite headlands and numerous rocky islands washed by the Tasman Sea.
Thousands of tourists come to Bicheno each year to fish, dive, snorkel, surf, sail, beach comb, bushwalk or just relax. For many years abalone divers were the only people enjoying the rich diversity of marine life, however all that changed in 1983, when the Bicheno Dive Centre opened. The shop runs daily boat dives, operates a live boat to avoid anchor damage to the delicate sponges, and provides basic accommodation. The operators have pioneered many excellent dive sites, and regularly visit over 30 locations
Other attractions around Bicheno include the Sea Life Centre, East Coast Birdlife and Animal Park, and National parks. The closest National park is on Diamond Island, where hundreds of little penguins nest.
Trap Reef is a pinnacle north of Governor Island located in 35 m of water. The reef here is a solid, multi-coloured carpet of sponges, sea whips, ascidians, sea fans, zoanthids and bryozoans. This garden is so dense that good buoyancy control is essential, as there are few places to settle on the bottom. Banded morwong, magpie perch, jackassfish, butterfly perch, nannygai, bearded cod, Shaws cowfish and perhaps a few stingarees are permanent reef residents.
Common inhabitant of kelp covered reefs, the Blue – throat Wrase Notolabrus tetricus grows to 60 cm. Juveniles frequent the shallows, while the adults are generally seen in deeper water. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Situated between two walls, in 36 m of water, is a valley full of sponges called the Rose Garden. This immense sponge garden is a patchwork of colour reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, purples and whites are revealed by flashlight. The fixed marine life includes rose and finger sponges, dusky sea ferns, ascidians, anemones, southern sea whips, sea fans, zoanthids, solitary corals, tube worms and bryozoans. Sea perch, rock cod, and magp9ie perch rest on the sponges. Long-snouted boarfish, giant boarfish, butterfly perch, bearded cod, jackassfish, scaly fin, banded morwong, Shaws cowfish, goatfish, john dory, trumpeter, gobies, blennies and many species of wrasse and leatherjacket are typical inhabitants of the valley. Basket stars and draughtboard shark eggs are sometimes found clinging to the sponges.
Bichenos most famous dive sites are these two 10 m-tall pinnacles, found in 40 m of water. Absolutely covered in sea whips, sponges, ascidians, bryozoan, and masses of yellow zoanthids, these pinnacles are a breathtaking sight. There are so many zoanthids that the pinnacles appear to give off a golden glow, even without a flashlight. You could spend hours photographing the invertebrate species sea stars, nudibranchs, basket stars, shrimp, crabs, sea spiders, molluscs and cuttlefish. These pinnacles also attract large numbers of fish. Commonly seen are boarfish, old wives, banded morwong, pike and schools of butterfly perch.
These bright yellow commensal zoanthids Parazoanthus sp. bring a maze of bright colours to the deeper reefs, shady sides of bommies and cave habitats.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Two huge granite boulders jammed together form the structure known as The Castle. At the base of these boulders is a long swim-through at 30 m, which is usually packed with fish. Schools of bullseyes and cardinalfish fill the entrance, and among these are banded morwong, bearded cod, ling cod and nannygai. Shine a flashlight along the many ledges in the cave and you will see numerous red legs and antennae. Dozens of southern rock lobsters shelter in the cave, but only take photos as this is a marine reserve. Once out of the cave, there is a huge overhang to explore. The bottom here is packed with sea whips and the ceiling is lined with yellow zoanthids. Deco stops around Bicheno are usually fun, as they can be done of the kelp-covered peaks of pinnacles. Search the kelp as abalone, crabs, sea stars, weedfish, octopi, cuttlefish and other species are plentiful in the area.
Male Toothbrush Leatherjackets Acanthaluteres vittiger have an exagerated patch of bristles just in front of the tail. They are found all along the southern Australian coast and grow to 32 cm. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Kanuck is similar to many areas off Governor Island, with large boulders forming caves, gutters and walls. Dense kelp beds and sponge gardens, which support masses of reef fish and many invertebrate species, can be found at 20 m a good place to see pot-bellied sea horses, red velvet fish, leatherjackets, cowfish, morwong and cuttlefish. Have a look in the caves for rock lobsters, shrimp, sea spiders, bullseyes, ling cod and bearded cod.
Found all along the southern coast, from northern New South Wales to south Western Australia, the Short – tailed Ceratosoma Ceratosoma brevicaudatum grows to 150 mm and feeds on sponges of the genus Euryspongia sp.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Bird Rock features many interesting caves and swim-throughs in depths from 10-20 m. In a cave known as The Elbow lives a 2 m-long southern conger ell that is regularly hand fed by the staff of the Bicheno Dive Centre. When a few fish pieces are produced, the eel slowly emerges, and heads for the free meal. With a powerful suck, the bait disappears into the eels mouth. Another cave nearby is known as The Ballroom. The roof of this wide cave is completely covered in orange jewel anemones. The fish life in this cave can be quite impressive. Long-snouted boarfish, banded morwong, magpie perch, bullseyes, blue throated wrasse and chinaman leatherjackets are all common.
Granite walls, coated with an incredible collection of sponges, ascidians, zoanthids and sea whips, drop to 20 m just off Alligator Rock. The sea whips are particularly beautiful, encased in delicate, pink jewel anemones. Butterfly perch, blue-throated wrasse, sea perch, toothbrush leatherjackets and perhaps a draughtboard shark are highlights.
The male Barber Perch Caesioperca rasor is one of the southern waters most attractive fishes and is usually seen in waters below 20 metres. The females swim in schools and are pink in colour. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Outside the marine reserve are a number of interesting dive sites. Around Muirs Rock, in 15-20 m of water, lies a huge jumble of boulders, forming caves, swim-throughs and gutters. An interesting variety of marine life is found here, including cuttlefish, rock lobsters, boarfish, nudibranchs, sea stars, leatherjackets, morwong, bullseyes, abalone, sea perch and globefish.
Usually only seen with its arms exended during the night. However, in the deeper, darker waters of Tasmania, the Southern Basket Star Conocladus australis can be seen out feeding during the day. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Over winter, when the conditions are just right, a number of kelp beds can be explored around Bicheno. The most popular one lies south of the marine reserve, and stretches from 18 m to the surface. It is a surreal experience swimming through these underwater forests. The plants are usually spaced far enough apart to make entanglement a slim possibility. You are likely to see reef fish, molluscs, shrimp, sea stars and draughtboard sharks among the kelp.
Between autumn and spring the waters around Bicheno are frequently visited by Australian fur seals, humpback whales, minke whales, orcas, southern right whales and pods of bottlenose dolphins.
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 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 Bicheno.
( Copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel Marsh)