East Coast of Australia: Boxing Day dive at South West Rocks

I love Boxing Day at home but as we weren’t having our usual Christmas this year we decided to do something we both love and go diving! Whilst diving the Great Barrier Reef we were recommended South West Rocks. With the opportunity to see sharks and rays we couldn’t wait!

We drove south from Byron Bay on Boxing Day morning, arriving at South West Rocks dive centre for 10.30am. We tried on our dive gear then made our way down to the harbour to meet the others divers.

The boat over to Fish Rock Cave was interesting. As we made our way out onto the open sea the waves became really choppy. The little boat we were in was being thrown around all over the place. The waves lifted us 6 feet high and then dropped us back down with a thud. This happened over and over, it felt like we were on a rollercoaster!

This was my first time diving with Nitrox. Nitrox is air mixed with a percentage of oxygen, which in theory is meant to increase a divers bottom time. Less nitrogen also means there is a reduced risk of getting decompression sickness, otherwise known as “the bends”. Usually divers should be certified when using Nitrox but because the dive site we were diving in has a known maximum depth, we were unable to go beyond the safe dive parameters for the Nitrox being used.

A few days before our dive we searched Mermaid Inn for a red filter to use with the GoPro underwater. We had no luck so the pictures aren’t as clear and colours not as vivid as we had hoped for but I think they still give a good idea how great both dives were.

Fish Rock Cave: Dive 1

The water was absoluetly freezing but we soon got used to it and the drysuits kept us warm(ish). We were given gloves before we jumped in so they would protect our hands from the sharp rocks. This was a bit confusing as Sam and I had recently taken our PADI Advanced and learnt how to control our buoyancy underwater, i.e. not use our arms and legs.

It all made so much more sense during the dive. The underwater current was ridiculously strong. Our newly learnt buoyancy skills went completely out of the window as we held on to the large rocks to pull ourselves along the sea floor. We literally would have been taken away by the current otherwise.

There were some really playful fish, one in particular who followed me around for most of the dive. A great big blue grouper! He was super friendly and very playful. There were times I thought I got rid of him and he would pop up again, trying to nibble at my gloves.

It didn’t take long until we finally found what we had come diving to see… Sharks!!! We had to wait around for a few minutes until they got used to us being there and then we were able to swim near them without any problems. It was so amazing. I’ve always been fascinated by sharks and in the past have wanted to do a shark dive, so this was awesome.

There are two types of sharks at Fish Rock Cave: Grey Nurse and Spotted Wobbegong.

Both are completely harmless, the nurse sharks are just way more active. The wobbegongs are camouflaged and slept on the sea floor, making them really difficult to see against the seabed. We had to be really careful not to knock them. Apparently waking them up doesn’t go down well, but then again who ever likes to be woken up?! 🙂

The nurse sharks looked like mini great whites. I noticed one behind us heading in our direction. I pulled Sam’s fin to get his attention and we both watched in awe as the shark swam straight past me and over Sam’s head.

A grey nurse shark swimming past me


After the sharks followed the Bull Rays.

Bull ray at Fish Rock Cave

We were hoping to see Manta Rays but these were just as cool. They swam past so gracefully whilst we were clinging onto the rocks trying not to be taken away by the current!

Towards the end of the first dive most divers were ready to surface, except for me! I still had 70 bar remaining so continued the dive alone with the dive master. I have never been on a dive where they have allowed that. It was really great and I definitely felt I got my monies worth!!

Fish Rock Cave – Dive 2

I was ready to get back in the water after my third chunder. During the surface interval the boat was gently rocking from side to side which led to a series of vomiting. Yuck! I knew being off the boat and back in the water would make me feel heaps better.

After we descended for our final dive we made our way down to the cave. I haven’t been cave diving before so this was something new. The cave was really dark and we had flashlights to help us find our way. The cave tunnels were also really narrow and we had to weave through them towards to exit – it was like a maze. Whilst we were in the tunnel a green turtle swam above us. I always enjoy seeing turtles when we dive, they’re so beautiful.

A turtle which we found in the cave

As we approached the exit a bright blue light filled the cave. It was like a vortex. Shark and fish shaped shadows were swimming around the mouth of the cave. It was very cool and looked amazing.

The exit to the cave

We were absoluetly buzzing after the dives. Definately the coolest dive ever! Would 100% recommend, but suggest taking travel sickness tablets beforehand. You’ll definitely appreciate them when you’re on the boat 🙂

We finished off our day by enjoying fish and chips near the beach in South West Rocks.

Post dive fish & chips




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