Known as one of Australia’s best dive sites, this remarkable location has some of the most sought after marine life the world has to offer. This dive site named, not from the diverse marine life that inhabits its temperate waters, but from the shape of the exposed rock above the site, Fish Rock Cave offers the only true ocean cave dive down the east coast of Australia. The cave its self runs125 meters through the rock island, and is widely known as one of the largest ocean cavern dives in the southern hemisphere. This is one spectacular dive that does not disappoint.Located off the sleepy coastal town of South West Rocks, NSW, Fish Rock Dive Centre offers a truly local, personal and professional service. Catering from intro divers and open water course to drift and cave diving, they have something for everyone. Owned and operated by Jon Cragg, who’s only rule for your trip out to the rock is “to have fun!”, provides you with a great service from beginning to end.
After a thrilling bar crossing through the Macleay River mouth, you head out into the open ocean where the continental shelf lies only 13 nautical miles off the coast. On the half an hour ride to the rock, you have the opportunity to see any number of pelagic marine life from schools of Cow Nose Rays, Hammerhead sharks and coastal Bottle-Nose Dolphins and a rumoured whale shark in the summer months.
Effected by the East Australia Current, more colloquially know as the EAC which runs from the Coral Sea in Australia’s far north bringing warm nutrient rich waters to with in 5 or 6 kms of the coast, which boosts Fish Rock Cave’s fish stock. Never knowing quite what to expect when diving here, you jump into the water with an anticipation that anything could happen.
The Grey Nurse shark (Carcharias taurus), was the first shark in Australian waters to be protected in 1984. Reaching over 3.5 meters they can be a quite ominous looking shark, however being nocturnal hunters, day time encounter usually comprise of a rather lazy swim by in a sleep like state and are commonly referred to as the Labradors of the sea.
These sharks are one of the main attractions of Fish Rock Cave, and when you enter the water it is obvious why. There can be at one time over 40+ individual sharks all taking shelter around the rock. These sleek sharks cruise through gutters, overhead and around soft coral structures giving you a great look at these peaceful sharks.
At 24 meters below the surface we were faced with a crack in the face of the rock, around the size of a double doorway.
With hundreds of Black-tip Bulls-eyes hanging in the gutter at this entrance we pushed through into the darkness that is the cave. Once inside it is like entering the rabbit hole and going to a divers wonderland. There are huge crayfish, cuttlefish, bull rays, eels, wobbigong’s and colorful sponges that cover the inside walls of the cave. Only being able to see as far as you light will allow you never know what you will be faced with next.
After entering the cave you travel up the chimney into a large cavern where Matilda, the resident Hawksbill turtle usually hangs out feeding on the tunicates and sponges inside the cave. Hairy Lobsters nudibranches, spider crabs and any number of different macro life can be found as you follow the shaft of the cave towards the exit.
You can then pop up for a breath of air from inside the bubble cave or have a chat to your buddy about how great your dive is going! Beautiful Soft coral fans line the limits of the light penetrating zone near the exit of the cave, as they rely on this light for their energy, and sea anemones cover the rocks on the cave floor.
To greet you as you leave the depths of the cave eagle rays swim overhead and a fish soup of sweepers, pomfred and batfish all feeding in the current. You can make s stop on your way back up to the boat to the resident anemone fish ‘Bert & Ernie’.
All in all Fish Rock Cave is a top dive spot, and has something for everyone. Whether your hunting an encounter with a large shark or looking for something on the macro end of the scale Fish Rock has it all.