Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, 1770 and Bunker Group

Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay is one of the most important estuarine embayments in Australia.  It is one of the largest in Australia and is biologically very rich.  This large sandy embayment, offers lots of shelter but not much natural reef. The downside of shelter is that it reduces the flushing effect of the ocean and much of the inshore areas are silty. Exposure and siltation limits coral growth to certain silt resistant species, more like those of Moreton Bay. In Hervey Bay, the sediments from the Mary River are swept north into the bay by strong tidal currents, and fine-grained sediments accumulate in the south-west of the embayment near Big Woody Island. They allow mangrove swamps and seagrass to flourish in the southern part of the bay.

The Great Sandy Strait to the south of the bay is a sand passage estuary, the least modified of three in Queensland. It has the largest area of tidal swamps within the South East Queensland bioregion. The Ramsar-listed Strait is an exceptionally important feeding ground for migratory shorebirds and important for a wide range of other birds, and marine animals including sea turtles dugong, and dolphins. The northern part of the bay is also an important humpback whale aggregation area. The ‘must do’ non-diving activity is to get on the very well-organised whale watching tours. At the right time of year, you will get very close to these animals and it’s an unforgettable experience.

Hervey Bay is also one of the major feeding grounds for loggerheads in eastern Australia.  Almost all courtship and mating of loggerhead turtles occurs in Hervey Bay

Hard coral communities fringing the mainland coast are relatively rare in Eastern Australian waters and Hervey Bay is no exception. More southerly and inshore sites like Point Vernon and Big Woody Island have high algal cover and relatively low hard coral cover and are dominated instead by colourful soft coral. Timed correctly for the best visibility, they still offer interesting reefs with different species to those usually encountered in the open ocean. There are still some good sites in the southern part of the bay and a large artificial reef for a bit of variety. Further offshore it is slightly clearer and hard corals are more likely to be encountered. There is some interesting hard bottom over at the northern end of Fraser Island.

Although Hervey Bay is quite sheltered, boat owners still have to be cautious. South Easterlies are the prevailing winds and Fraser Island provides reasonably good shelter for anything under 25 knots. Anything from the North and North West over 10 knots will dirty the waters of the bay and makes for an uncomfortable journey through the chop in smaller craft. If these northerlies increase they will cause a swell in the bay.

Westerly winds are more common in the winter months and make it difficult to journey to Fraser due to the lack of shelter. In poor weather groups are confined to the mainland shore.

The bay has a significant tidal range and strong currents run over most dive sites. Drift dives are popular, but smaller sites need to be dived at slack water, approximately one and a half hour in total around the turn of the tide.  Sea temperatures ranges from 18?c in winter to 26?c in the summer months.

For the family, the town of Hervey Bay has good facilities and is quite picturesque with nice beaches.

 

Gataker’s Reef, Pt Vernon

1-8m

-25.247110, 152.799350

In this inshore site offers a rare opportunity for an easy snorkel or shore dive, but the quality of the dive is dependent on the visibility. Plan to visit on the last hour of the top of the tide on a windless day and preferably a neap tide. While often cloudy it offers a colourful reef with high coral species diversity on a silty bottom. Gataker’s Bay, a popular inshore fishing site and dive site and has a public boat ramp and restaurant/cafe nearby. There are a few hard coral species at this site, but the soft corals in the shallows are the most colourful, and dominate a third of the reef.  Fitter divers can swim out a few hundred metres to the deeper reef. This is better done at low water slack but it is a long struggle over shallows studded with obstructions. The dive is about the novel soft corals and there aren’t many big fish in this heavily fished area.

 

Simpson Artificial Reef

10-16m

 

Simpson Artificial Reef is located in waters near the Outer Banks, 7nm from Urangan Marina in Hervey Bay. During construction, fifteen reef structures were distributed over an 80ha area in five clusters. Each cluster is made up of three reef structures. Diving is permitted, but this is a small site made mainly for fishos.

 

Hardie Artificial Reef

10-16m

Hardie Artificial Reef is located 2nm north-east of Little Woody Island. Fifteen reef structures were distributed over 160ha in five clusters. Diving is permitted, but this is a small site made mainly for fishos.

 

Roy Rufus Artificial Reef

18m

24 16.144 152 58.130 approx

In 1967, 3 marine biologists from the University of Queensland were employed by the Maryborough Skin Divers Club to find the ideal spot to set up an Artificial Reef, and enhance a major fish nursery. They picked a spot off the coast between Hervey Bay & Fraser Island. Business people from all over the Maryborough and Hervey Bay area supported the idea. Over 63 drops were made between 1968 and 1987. Ships, barges, car bodies, tyres and smaller items form the structure. The reef was named after Roy Rufus, who lost his life whilst diving the Artificial Reef.  Roy had been instrumental in the early days of the Artificial Reef.

Since then the reef has been partly dispersed and more recently new items were added. The hulks of some steel hulled vessels formerly used in removing timber from Fraser Island have been placed on the Reef.

The reef is now home to masses gropers, coral trout, kingfish and scorpionfish. Other marine life observed on the reef include, wobbegongs, sea snakes and turtles. Some of the larger items are,

 

Pelican, built1880.

Otter, 25 16.450 152 58.154, a tug built in 1884

Lass O’ Gowrie, 25 48.458 153 02.731, a 40 metre steel barge built in 1885.

Kgari, 25 16.182 152 57.866. a 43 metre vessel built in 1897.

Goori 25 17.021 152 58.230

 

Rooney Point Snail mounds

28-29 Low water, 30-32m high water

Approx. 24°45’4.51″S 153° 5’38.87″E

John Wright’s “Diving Southern Queensland” includes a reference to a shallower depression known as the “Rooney Point” site. This is a relatively rarely visited dive site about an hour from the ramp at Urangan. The site was first found by fishermen and word got out of a deep hole filled with large fish. A few divers have visited it, although it is tricky to find. Divers noted large brown “rocks” sitting up off the sandy bottom, about 3 or 4 metres wide. Some are scarred by anchors and reveal that the dark rock is a maze of worm tubes. Apparently the bommies were identified in 1988 as vermetid worm mounds. They lie in a shallow depression about 80-100 metres long about 3 or 4 metres deeper than the surrounding seabed. They have holes and ledges in them occupied by wobbegong sharks, olive sea snakes and moray eels. There are lots of fish, with the bommies attracting plenty of pelagic school fish, trevally, snapper, coral trout, hussar, shark, tuskfish, cobia, mackerel, sweetlip, emperor and cod. Resident smaller fish include colourful Moorish idols, scribbled angels and butterfly fish. The site is exposed to currents of up to 4 knots and any adverse weather. It has to be dived on calm days at slack water. The currents allow the worm snails to sift food out of the water column and grow more quickly. The mounds may be hundreds of years old.

The Great Sandy Marine Park’s ‘green’ zones were recently extended to protect this area, and an important breeding aggregation for loggerhead turtles off Rooney Point.  A boating ‘go slow’ area has also come into effect from 15 October to 30 April each year to protect the turtles.

While this site is obviously well-known to Queensland Parks, it’s interesting that this unique site isn’t better known more broadly. Recent scientific publications on these reefs don’t refer to any modern living vermetid “boundstones”, and they say living vermetid ‘reef’ finishes at 17M tops. There is no on-line published material about the biology of this site, and only scant reference in Great Sandy MP management publications.

The area has lots of fishing holes up to 40m deep. This site may be what the fishos call the Rooney 4 Mile, in which case it is around 24 46.188s 153 04.263e. Local help will be needed.

 

Moon Ledge

10 to 21m

This is a dive on a ledge of coffee rock, a crumbling alluvial sediment that didn’t compress enough to form proper rock. The rock has eroded into strange spires and craters, with boulders and crevices. The ledge has reasonable marine life including turtles, angelfish, cod and snapper. The ledges house some nice invertebrates including patches of interesting soft coral and feather duster worms. It is often done as a drift dive. The top of the ledge flattens off into a coral and sandy reef. Visibility is variable and after a big blow can be as low as 3 metres.

 

 

 

Wreck of the Chang Chow

-24.7824166 153.26635

In 1884, the 82m steamer Changchow left Newcastle for China with coal, 70 crew and 119 passengers. Due to careless navigation the Chang Chow hit on rocks near Breaksea Spit, but managed to reverse away severely damaged. She was sinking and the captain decided to beach her on Fraser Island to prevent her from foundering. Just behind the breakers, the fires were put out by rising water and she settled on the bottom. She had on board some Chinese passengers, on their way back home after success on the gold diggings. It was now dark with a nasty easterly swell rolling in, and the lifeboats capsized in the surf. Seven Chinese were missing presumed drowned. It is believed they were dragged down by the gold sewn into their clothing.

At this time the White Australia policy was coming in to force, and the Chinese were being actively discouraged from staying in Australia. The Chinese survivors were taken away to the police immigration barracks, where they were locked up in case they absconded. As they were not citizens, and had landed in Queensland, they were asked to pay a poll tax levied against Chinese arrivals. This they refused, along with other attempts to find out how much gold they were carrying. One of the survivors included a Chinese woman, a rarity at the time as Chinese family migration was actively discouraged.

The wreck was salvaged for a while until destroyed by storms. It now lies just beyond the surf, four kilometres from its charted position, and is more or less buried depending on recent sand movement. In the early 1980s local divers explored the wreck.

 

Deh Marloo

 

 

Wreck of the SS Marloo

8m

The ‘Marloo’ left Mackay for Brisbane on the 26th of September 1914 with a general cargo and passengers. The vessel struck Sandy Cape Shoal off the northern tip of Fraser Island and the ship began to founder. The ‘Marloo’ was then deliberately beached approximately 3 miles north of Waddy Point. Ore, copper and piping were salvaged from the wreck before she broke up.

Similar to the Changchow this steamer wreck lies just beyond the breakers and buried by sand. In exception weather it can be dived from the shore. Parts of the hull is still visible, the amount depending on recent sand movement.

 

Bundaberg

Bundie’s coastal reefs are recognised as some of Australia’s best tropical shore-dive sites, a diver’s oasis among the mangroves and shallow sand that dominates most of the mainland Queensland coast. Divers are attracted particularly to the Barolin Rocks and Hoffman Rocks in the Woongarra Marine Park. These are actually at Bargara, basically Bundaberg’s seaside suburb.

The Burnett River often has relatively low wet season rainfall and as a consequence, lower pollutant and sediment discharges to the nearby coastal coral reefs. Thus, the Woongarra coast between the Burnett Heads and Elliott Heads has the most southerly coastal fringing coral reefs on the eastern Australian mainland.

Extensive coral reefs (both hard and soft coral) are found adjacent to the rocky foreshores, a rarity on the southern Queensland mainland. These reefs support a high diversity of invertebrate marine life including lots of colourful nudibranchs. The reefs also support a wide variety of fish species due to their close proximity to nursery areas in local estuaries and wetlands (the fish have also attracted heaps of olive sea snakes that are scary looking but harmless). There are more sea snakes in winter, when the weather is also often the calmest.

As well as natural reefs there are also artificial reefs. Bundaberg’s artificial reefs were made by a group of dedicated divers. Bundaberg’s dive sites are suitable for snorkelers and divers of all levels of expertise. It is an exposed coastline, so expect to wait for a break in the weather.

There is plenty to do in the area, from family beaches, coastal picnic sites, coastal walks, a bird filled botanic gardens which even has a train for the kiddies. The adults can indulge in a rum distillery tour. Don’t miss the spring to summer turtle breeding season. The nesting events can be seen on guided tours at the nearby Mon Repos Sanctuary, one of the few sites in Australia where you can get up close to nesting turtles.

This area offers volcanic basalt reefs. The area from the Burnett Head to Elliot Heads can be snorkelled and there are many small rocky outcrops in 5-10m. Around the Burnett Heads and Bargara the outfalls from the river affect visibility. The area is also heavily spearfished. There are still plenty of smaller tropical fish, blue zebra angels, red emperor, surgeon fish, estuary cod, wire netting cod, butterflyfish, damsels, cardinals, batfish, coral trout, stonefish and sweetlips. There are large varieties of nudibranchs and shells. Currents run parallel to the shore but are usually manageable. Bundaberg has green Montipora coral, one of the few places in the world to show this colour variation. Further south you go the clearer and the more soft and hard coral varieties there are.

Average annual temperature id between 25°C to 31°C. Average sea water temperature is between 20°C and 27°C. The average visibility is 10 to 30 meters on offshore sites. Bundaberg is still only 15m deep, four kms from shore.

Burkitt’s Reef

2-8m

 

If you don’t mind a long surface swim, and the wind is rising and making the Hoffman Rocks uncomfortable (under 1m swell), there are reefs just of Baraga Beach that provide a little more shelter.  You can enter at Shelley Beach and swim around the edge of the reef and exit at Bargara Beach or do it the other way around. Even in these shallows there are schools of barracuda, trevally and even queenfish. The visibility is often poor in the shallows, but it will usually improve with depth. This site has a boulder wall varying in depths from 3m to 8m, and is decorated small corals. It has more hard corals than Barolin, tube worms, anemones, sea pens, sea stars, feather stars, honeycomb moray eels, stingrays, gropers, wobbegongs and sea snakes. The area is renowned for varieties of nudibranchs but abundance and diversity varies day to day. Burkitt’s Reef is suitable for snorkelers and divers of all levels of expertise. It offers some great drift diving near the shoreline. Like all nearby coastal sites, heavy rains and swell can severely reduce visibility. The 2011 floods had little permanent impact on the Woongarra Coast except that Birkitt’s Reef suffered 56% coral loss. The site is now dominated by soft coral. It is slowly recovering.

 

Barolin Rocks

2-8m

There are three good entry and exit points on the Woongarra Coast, Barolin Rocks, is the most sheltered dive site in the area. This site is south of an elevated headland near a park, it gets busy on calm days. A surface swim brings you to some of the deeper areas where lots of soft corals, some hard corals, gorgonians, ascidians and sponges abound. Fish life includes rabbitfish, butterflyfish, moray eels, brown-spotted gropers, squirrelfish, grubfish, morwong, goatfish, wrasse, snapper, sweetlips, scribbled angelfish, clown fishes, sea horses, boxfish, wobbegong, stingrays, pufferfish, bream, turtles and hawkfish. Look out for spindle cowries on the gorgonians. Olive sea snakes are very common, very curious but harmless. It is excellent for night and drift dive.

 

Hoffman’s Rocks

2-12m

The most popular dive site in the area, Hoffman’s Rocks. This site is a little more exposed to the weather and affected by a slight current. The rocky reef at Hoffman’s Rocks is very similar to Barolin Rocks. This site also has small bommies beyond the rocky reef that rise a few metres out of the sand and attract a great assortment of marine life. It tends to get even more pelagics including, spanish mackerel, batfish, eagle rays, sweetlips and turtles, due to the more exposed position.

 

2 Mile Rocks – Bargara

15 metres

This site is a 10 minute boat ride from Burnett Heads. The small reef is only five metres high and 150 metres across on a sandy bottom. This hard projection appears to attract marine life from miles around and there are lots of fish as well as colourful sponges and spiked coral. The average visibility is about 10 metres.

 

4 Mile Reef – Bargara

13 metres

24 59.430 152 33.220

This site is about 3 miles offshore and it often offers slightly better visibility that the coast. The reef sits a few metres off the bottom but attracts lots of fish. There are cod, banner fish, many varieties of angel fish, butterfly fish, turtle and even mantas in Winter.

 

Cochrane Artificial Reef

Average 15m

This newer artificial reef has been set up inside Woongarra Marine Park 3 nautical miles from the rocky coastline near Bundaberg. It covers an area 400m by 800m.
It is now home to very large groper, hard and soft corals, nudibranchs, sponges, hydroids and gorgonia fans. Scuba divers also report regular sightings of turtles, manta rays, wobbegongs, leopard sharks, batfish, over 140 different species of fish have been identified in the area. The largest objects include,

Porteur 77, a 130ft long gravel barge, 770 tonnes.

The Dredge, a 50 metre long, 350 tonne gravel dredge.

Ceratodus II (which takes its name from the lungfish that inhabit the Burnett River, and are also found in the Mary and Brisbane Rivers) The 164 feet (50 meters) long barge scuttled in 1992 and now it lies in 10 to 20 meters of water. The wreck is home to large schools of baitfish, tuna and barracuda.

 

Mohawk aircraft x 2, Two Mohawk aircraft were sunk in this site in 1996. It is at a depth ranging from 16 to 18 meters. Now it is home to large grouper, turtles and large rays.

Kingair plane, a 15-seater plane wreck has also been dumped there.

The 2 Light Ships were sunk in 2000 at a depth of 59 feet (18 meters).

The Barge was sunk in 1999 at a depth of 49 feet (15 meters). Now it’s fully covered with corals and sponges. You are bound to see lots of different kinds of schools small fish.

A landing barge, a water tank, numerous concrete pipes, and steel prisms, and a small ex-trawler, Nirvana, have also been dumped there.

Cochrane Artificial Reef is also used by many fishermen so expect discarded fishing line.

 

Evans Patch

21-23M

24° 45.399960 152° 37.410000

This is a popular dive site in the area. It is suitable for experienced divers and is home to many species of marine life and is renowned for visits by large schools of pelagic fish at times.

 

Beaufort Bomber

23m

-24 45 145 152 35 750

RAAF Bristol Beaufort, A9-322 of 32 Squadron which was then based in Bundaberg. The aircraft crashed into the sea 15 km off the Burnett Heads on Christmas Eve 1943. All crew were saved. This site was once popular but has recently been dispersed by storms and is mainly for the aircraft enthusiast. As it is small and distant you may experience trouble getting an operator to take you there. The engines and tyres were visible and more or less of it is exposed by shifting sand. She is situated just West of Evans on a gradual slope. She has been home to a large array of marine and coral life. There is good visibility on the site and slight currents.

 

Wreck of the Barjon

She was a small fishing vessel that caught fire and sunk in 1986 on a sand/silt bottom, 18kms from Bundaberg. Due to the age of the wreck, she is starting to break up, but there are still some large pieces. Schools of baitfish cover the wreck. There are also groper, moray eels, scorpionfish, snapper, toadfish, Moorish idols, mackerel.

 

Wreck of Althea 2

Max Depth- 41m
GPS- 24 33 57s 152 49 45e
This fishing trawler wreck lies on a sandy bottom near the tip of Fraser Island. Having only sunk in 1991 her hull and superstructure are still intact. As the surrounding area is largely lifeless, she has attracted lots of fish, giant trevally, barracuda, spanish mackerel, kingfish, queenfish, leopard sharks, wobbegong sharks, stingrays, spotted eagle rays, manta rays, cow rays and large Queensland grouper. Many Moray eels live in the holes of the wreckage as well as lion fish and several invertebrate species. She is best dived in July and August on a high tide, use the tide times for Hervey Bay. Some current will prevail between the tides but it is usually manageable for experienced divers. A tiny wreck, home to an incredible amount of fish.  Average visibility is about 10m.

 

Bustard Head/1770

Outer Rock – Bustard Head

20-30 metres

23:58:723 151:46:151

Outer Rock lies between 1770 and Gladstone.  There’s a boat ramp that you can use at Turkey Beach. It is tide affected and exposed, with high tide slack water providing the clearest conditions. Visibility is approximately 15 metres. It lies close to the Nautilus and is sometimes done as a second dive. Beware, the locals reckon Outer Rock is a haunt for bronze whalers and tiger sharks.

 

Wreck of the Cetacea

30 metres

24 03 04S 151 55 28E

The Cetacea is an 13-metre long fishing trawler that sank on a sandy bottom in 1992 off 1770. This wreck is absolutely teeming with fish like most of the newer trawler wrecks in the area. This wreck is home to at least 40 estuary cod. Queensland groper, bull rays, leopard rays and large cobia can be seen resting on the sand. This wreck is accumulating soft coral growth, sponges and algae too. The Cetacea wreck is 11.4kms from the bar at 1770.

 

Wreck of the Barcoola

44mtrs

-23 47.086 151 55.576 WGS84

The Barcoola is claimed to have better marine life that the famous SS Yongala wreck. The comparison is not as odd as it sounds. All these wrecks are on empty offshore sandy bottom where any bump in the seabed attracts pelagic fish. This part of the inner reef seems to still hold vast schools of pelagic fish, and lies close to pristine well-protected and well-managed coral reefs. The Barcoola is an old steel fishing trawler that sank in 1994. She is quite deep and would suit experienced divers. Massive school of baitfish usually cloud over the site. The wreck is home to many large estuary cod, Queensland gropers, red emperors, snapper and coral trout. Circling the wreck are kingfish and cobia “the size of sharks”. It has been known to be visited by big Bronze whaler sharks too.

Barcoola is a long 44km journey from the bar at 1770. There is a noticeable tidal movement and high tide slack is the time to dive. Visibility can get to 40 metres in winter.

 

Wreck of the Karma

27 metres

-24.3664880816 152.221069336

The Karma is a large 42m long, 450 ton gravel barge that sank off Agnes Waters in 2003. She was owned by a scrap metal dealer and was on her last voyage. The engine broke down and she ran aground on a beach south of Agnes Waters. Karma was high and dry for a few weeks before being dragged off by salvage operators. She was in dire straits, so permission was given to sink her nearby and she settled upright on a sandy bottom, 28 nautical miles north-west of Bundaberg and 15miles south of the town of 1770. Within a year of sinking huge amounts of fish life were attracted to the wreck, often big schools of golden and big-eye trevally. Divers often find they can’t see the wreck for bait fish as they descend. Giant estuary cod live near the prop and large crane. Large leopard rays can be found in the sand. Divers can explore the inside of the hold and wheelhouse.

 

Wreck of the Shannon II

46mtrs

This trawler sank in 2004, capsizing after hooking an obstruction. She floated upside down for a week before finally sinking only 4nm away from the Barcoola wreck site. She is a fibreglass trawler 18.6mtrs in length but probably won’t last as long as some of the steel trawler wrecks. She is already attracting fish.

 

Wreck of the Nautilus

-23 53 24S 151 38 65E

Max Depth: 27 m

The Nautilus was originally built in 1880 by J Walker & Co., Maryborough for the Queensland Government as steam hopper barge.  She was refitted by J.Burke and Co. in 1917 when it appears her engines were modernised and the wheelhouse enclosed. In 1928, she had been considerably damaged while stranded on a training wall in the Pioneer River. Holes in the hull had been temporarily repaired with cement. This 260 ton iron coastal steamer was being towed from Mackay to Brisbane for repairs. She hit heavy weather and broke adrift off Bustard Head and was not seen again. The Navy found this barge during a mine sweeping exercise in 1999. The barge is intact and its 135ft long hull is penetrable.  It is covered in huge numbers and sizes of fish, large grouper, cobia, eagle rays and just about every species of pelagic fish in the area. Local divers rate this alongside the “Yongala” in terms of fishlife, quite amazing for such a small wreck. After rough weather visibility can be limited but it averages 10 m. It can be affected by a slight current.

 

Bunker Group

The Bunker Group is the southern-most of the reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. It is accessible to the major population centres of the south and is also in good condition. So far, it has been largely unaffected by outbreaks of Crown of Thorns Starfish and coral bleaching events that have damaged the northern reefs. Damaged by a large storm in 2008 and again by Severe Cyclone Hamish in March 2009, the reef has since recovered.

Lady Elliott is a fly –in only resort. Boats from the Town of 1770 can be chartered for day trips to Lady Musgrave and 3 days 3 night cruises of the area for fishing, snorkelling or diving. Dives include Fitzroy Reef, Llewelyn, Boult, Lamont, Sykes and Heron Reef. It is also worth checking out Bundaberg and Gladstone to see what charters are on offer in the area.

Most tourist areas around the group are protected from fishing, so you get to see some large fish in really big schools.

 

Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island is part of the Bunker Group of islands and is the southern most reef and island complex in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This flat coral cay is 45 hectares in size.

The current pristine condition of the cay is remarkable as it was destroyed by guano mining in the nineteenth century. The current lighthouse was built in 1873 and marks the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. The lighthouse cottages and storage buildings, built in 1928, still survive.

Lady Elliot Island is home to a low-key resort, which accommodates up to 150 overnight guests in cabins and safari style tents. It can only be reached by air from Bundaberg or Hervey Bay. It’s a 35 minute flight from Hervey Bay. Approximately 10 other tourism operators visit Lady Elliot Island annually, including extended liveaboard trips for diving. Researchers are stationed at the resort as the island is a hotspot for manta rays.

The resort caters well for diving with markers moored at most sites. All dive sites are accessed via a short boat ride of no more than 10 minutes. All dives are guided and they don’t encourage shore dives. Dives are scheduled in the early morning and afternoon. Sites on the walls can be exposed to currents.

The corals at Lady Elliot Island Reef are diverse. On the southern and south-western sides, large coral platforms exist in a distinct gutter and contain large table and staghorn corals. The scattered bommies and larger coral platforms in the shallows are interspersed with sand patches.

The eastern and southern sides are exposed to prevailing winds and there is a steep drop off here. The steep slope has good coral cover unlike most other weather facing coral reefs. The north-western side is the most sheltered and shallowest part of the reef.

Visibility regularly exceeds 20 metres, and at times can be as much as 40 metres, with water temperatures ranging between 18 and 28 degrees Centigrade.

Green and loggerhead turtles can regularly be seen around Lady Elliot Island.  Between November and February, turtles nest on the cay.  Lady Elliot Island is a significant seabird breeding site. Large numbers of seabirds can be found at this site between October and April, including black and common noddies; black-naped, bridled, crested, roseate and sooty terns; and the threatened red-tailed tropic bird. There are everywhere, trees, walkways, pot plants and contribute to a smell that you quickly get use to.

 

Blowhole,

14m – 22m

The South East side of the island includes a ledge with a depth range of 10-25m and three dive sites lie close together here. They can be done in one dive. The Blowhole is an L-shaped cave has an opening at that drops down onto ledges full of colourful marine life.

 

Tubes and Hiros Cave

16m

Drifting south along the wall from the Blowhole will bring divers to these prominent spectacular caves, ledges and walls. Along the way you are likely to also see turtles, mantas, stingrays, or silvertip shark circling a cleaning station. The ledge offers gorgonian fans, angelfish, jacks, clownfish­, and schools of fish, such as batfish, mangrove jacks, sweetlips, and snapper. This area has some of the best corals, gorgonians and colourful soft corals on the island.

 

Sunset Drift

15-17m

This drift dive along the south western tip of the island. Timed correctly the slow current should allow for effortless swimming, while also allowing for stops to examine small marine life.  There are the usual (for Elliott) mantra rays, barracuda and trigger fish.

 

Spiders Ledge

5-21m

This wall is on the sheltered northern side and offers moray eels, lionfish, fusiliers trevally and coral trout. There is also plenty of smaller creatures amongst the coral including nudibranchs and shells.

 

Shark Pools

2-5m

A dive or snorkel that needs to be timed for the in-coming tide when the sea floods the reef flats and dozens of sharks invade the shallows to eat trapped fish. White tip reef sharks, tawny nurse sharks, black tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks and silver tip sharks can be seen.

 

Maori Wrasse Bommie

13-16m

This is a bommie sitting away from the wall a little to the south of Spiders Ledge. It has excellent fish life, trumpetfish, malabar grouper, moorish idols, barramundi cod, moray eels and clown triggerfish. Turtles and small sharks often rest near the bommie and there are interesting nudibranchs in the area.

 

Coral Gardens

8m

This is an easy dive on the shallow parts of the coral ledge on the western side of the island. It has clouds of juvenile schools fish as well as some adult pelagics, big-eye trevally, fusiliers, garfish, surgeon fish, unicorn fish, coral trout, blue-green chromis and barracuda. Mostly out of the current it is a good beginners dive.

 

Anchor Bommie

19m

On the western side of the island and old admiralty pattern anchor marks a manta ray cleaning station on a 7m tall bommie.  There are garden eels at the base, and fish swirl around the bommie. There is also a lot of smaller marine life in the area for the macro photographer.

 

Three Pyramids

18m

South west of the Anchor Bommie these three bommies provide plenty of macro creatures for the photographer, cleaner shrimp, glass fish, leaf-scorpion fish, pipefish and anthias. to name a few. There is a cleaning station for manta on the largest bommie.

 

Severance

21m

This sailing yacht sank here in 1998 on the western shore, and since then it has been accumulating coral growth and fish. The excellent fish life in the area probably colonised it immediately and since then soft corals have started to cover her. It is a small but fishy site. Cobia, slate sweetlips, reef sharks, stingrays, gropers, turtles and wobbegong.

 

Scattered Bommies

14-19m

This small group of coral formations lies between the Severance and Lighthouse Bommies. There are also manta rays, lionfish, grouper, leopard sharks, shovel-nosed sharks, rays.

 

Second Reef

2-12m

A shallower site off the western side of Lady Elliot Island on a long ridge of branching coral with good fish life. There are often turtles and plenty of colourful small school fish as well as patrolling pelagics, trevally, whitetip reef sharks, sweetlips, snapper, grey reef shark, Maori wrasse, mackerel, angelfish, rays and surgeonfish. Lionfish, barramundi, gropers, octopus and crayfish can also be seen. This site has better fish life that the lighthouse bommies.

 

Lighthouse Bommies

14m

This is a group of small bommies covered in coral and sponges that seems to be the centre of manta ray activity on the island. If that doesn’t excite, there are also plenty of other rays and leopard sharks lying on the sand among garden eels and turtles. The bommies also offer fish and plenty of smaller critters, coral trout, batfish, garden eels, turtles, sweetlips, snapper and groper.

 

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Lady Musgrave Island

5 to 30 m

Lady Musgrave Island is located 96 kilometres north-east of Bundaberg, 59 kilometres east of the Town of 1770. It is the second most southerly cay of the Great Barrier Reef. The island supports a major breeding population of vulnerable green turtles and a minor breeding population of endangered loggerhead turtles. It is also a significant breeding site and important roosting and feeding site for several species of coastal birds.

Lady Musgrave diving offers a wide range of choices from the very simple to adventurous deep walls, but most of the traffic is day tripper cruises.

A walk on the idyllic island within the lagoon, with its nesting seabirds is also very worthwhile if you have the time. You can camp on the island, but getting there and back with a pile of gear isn’t cheap and permits can be hard to get unless you book months or even years in advance. It literally is a lottery and spaces sell out within minutes of being put on line.

People with a bit more time, and an adventure dive in mind, will need trips catering for dive groups. The walls and drop offs outside the lagoon are spectacular. These dives can be current affected.

 

Lagoon mouth – Lady Musgrave Island

2-10m

Lady Musgrave has probably the largest coral lagoon on the Great Barrier Reef. Many people arrive on the day tripper boats, enjoying a snorkel around the lagoon mouth, or a glass bottomed boat in the same spot. It’s a colourful spot with occasional reef sharks, stingrays and sea snakes.

 

Pontoon – Lady Musgrave Island

5-6m

An easy beginner dive can be had on the sand under the floating pontoon. There are some fish and giant clams nearby. There are also large patches of staghorn coral. The pontoon also attracts schools of sweetlips, goatfish, snapper, rabbitfish, and a few gropers. The visibility in the lagoon is less than outside but is usually still 10-15m.

 

Manta Ray Bommie – Lady Musgrave Island

10- 22m

A collection of large coral- covered bommies on the western side of the island is a great place to see manta rays, where they aggregate to use the cleaning stations. The Manta Ray Bommie is 6m high and is home to lots of cleaner wrasse who oblige the passing rays with a clean up. Batfish, reef sharks, coral trout, red emperors, snappers, barracuda, Maori wrasse, sweetlips, gropers and other pelagic fish can also be seen.  The large bommie, also offers caves filled with cardinalfish, soft corals and gorgonians.

 

Southern ledges – Lady Musgrave Island

12m to 26m

The most exciting dive sites at Lady Musgrave Island are located on the south side of the reef on the drop-off. The reef wall is undercut by ledges and caves. In these caves shelter wobbegongs, crayfish, stingrays, lionfish and turtles are found. The wall is decorated with black coral trees, gorgonians, sea whips and spiky soft corals. Reef sharks, eagle rays and manta rays patrol the walls.

 

Fairfax Reef

10-20m

The northern side offers shelter and some nice pinnacles standing away from the reef edge.  One is 8 metres high. These features are patrolled by large pelagic fish and several crevices offer plenty of smaller marine life. manta ray, giant moray eels, leopard sharks, rays and small sharks are common. No landings are allowed on the cays.

 

Hoskyn Islands

2-10m

This coral lagoon has two small cays. The islands are a bird sanctuary so no landings are allowed. There are good coral bommies in the lagoon with lots of cracks and crevices and home to turtles, moray eels, trevally, nudibranchs and plenty of other fish. A site called the Cabbage Patch has coral gardens on numerous bommies in shallow water. It also makes for a good night dive night dive with hermit crabs, spider crabs, decorator crabs, shrimps, octopus and squid emerging.

 

Boult Reef

10-20m

This site offer bommies, ledges and caves as well as larger fish including Maori wrasse, tawny nurse shark, wobbegong, stingrays and manta ray at the right times.

 

The Catacombs – Llewellyn Reef

12 to 30m

Llewellyn Reef offers the Catacombs, wall riddled with caves, ledges and swim throughs. The walls are packed with soft corals, gorgonians, black coral trees and sea whips. Reef fish include angelfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish and coral trout. There are also plenty of smaller marine animals. Turtles, reef sharks, pelagic fish and mobula rays are also present along the wall.

 

Trout Spot – Llewellyn Reef

This shallow spot offers a nice coral garden, plenty of smaller marine life and is suitable for a night dive.

 

Fitzroy Reef

10 to 30 meters

Fitzroy Reef is the largest reef in the Bunker Group and is a 3650 ha drying, closed ring reef with a large, deep (6-10m) lagoon that can be entered through two narrow, natural channels. The lagoon is a good anchorage.

Approximately 12 dive sites varying in depth and difficulty from novice to experienced are available in Fitzroy Reef Lagoon. The Keyhole, Sharky Ledge, Rainbow Wall and Neil’s Peak. All sites offer vibrant, colourful coral reef, abundant tropical fish, and diverse marine life and spectacular coral colours and formations.

The corals at Fitzroy Reef are diverse and grow on bommies interspersed with large tracts of sand. There is also a large community of branching corals on the lagoon floor. The lagoon entrances have a group of bommies used for snorkelling and glass bottom boat viewing. The reef flat and lagoon are feeding areas for green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles. It is estimated that the annual population of turtles at Fitzroy Reef is approximately 1,000 green turtles, 100 hawksbill and 100 loggerhead turtles.

A wreck is visible on the reef flat on the southwest corner of the reef, and is thought to be that of the steamer S.S. Pacific (1903). The wreckage consists of some wooden remains, rusted spars and boilers. Like all wrecks on reef flat, they are more walks than dives.

Several tourism operators run either daily or extended live-aboard trips to Fitzroy Reef.

 

Fitzroy Reef- SE Gardens

10-18m

The shallower coral gardens on the SE side are often used as a shallow second dive spot by trips coming from Heron Island. The reef offers manta rays, brain coral bommies, with lots of fish and invertebrates.

 

Fitzroy Reef - Blue Lagoon

6 metres

This dive is in a sheltered area of Fitzroy Reef Lagoon. There are plenty of small bommies offering lots of nudibranchs, cod, shrimp, sea horses, clownfish, lionfish, groupers, eels, and with schools of fishing circling in usually excellent visibility.

 

 

Andrews Caves – Lamont Reef

10-25 metres

The site offers a huge coral encrusted wall, with lots of caves. Some large and intricate, others little crevices for smaller marine life.  There are lots of turtles, sea snakes, cod, nudibranchs and other small creatures. There is a manageable current and dives can be planned as drift dives.  This takes about an hour to reach from the resort on Heron Island.