The rocky shoreline in the area offers good snorkelling and diving in calm weather.
Montague (Barunguba) Island
This area is popular with divers from the charter services in Narooma. The series of islands and rocks lie 9 kilometres off Narooma and offer a seal colony, a wreck, sponge gardens, grey nurse shark gutters, drop offs, a large cave and drift diving.
just to the east of the seal colony the currents are quite strong and experienced parties can attempt a drift dive when the conditions are suitable. The are many smaller features along the boulder strewn bottom, all packed with marine life.
On the more exposed eastern side of the island, but away from the currents that lash the northern side, there are a series of underwater cliffs in relatively shallow water.
The northern side of the bay offers shelter from northerly winds and has a number of great sites. The Grotto is a sea cave filled with colourful soft corals and lace bryozoan so. There are swimthroughs nearby and at the back of the bay, Cathedral Rock. The southern tip of the bay also offers a large and impressive rock formation called Church Rock.
This unusual feature consists of stacks of rocks like piles of books, that make up an eroded reef that is packed with marine life.
These three pyramid shaped bommies on the south Eastern corner of the island attract pelagic fish from everywhere and are a spectacular dive.
This rock spire is difficult to locate but offers spectacular topography and schools of fish.
This generally calm spot was the site of the lighthouse jetty in the 1880s. Now it is a worthwhile diversion after a dive on one of the other features and is suitable for beginners.
This is the site of the new lighthouse access point and is usually calm except in westerly storms which are most common in winter. The area offered smaller marine life for the beginner or photographer in a relaxing site.
This area offers a sheltered and relaxing dive similar to Yakka Bay.
This deep reef of the North Western end of the island is exposed to currents and is for experienced divers. The reef drops away rapidly from kelp covered shallows to a spectacular deep sponge garden. The site is often visited by schools of pelagic fish. NZ fur seals occupy the adjacent rocks.
Pebbly Beach bommies
This small bommie in the middle of the bay offers a variety of bottom including some deep sponges. It also has some very large and very tame Blue Groper. It was used for a while as a haulout for NZ fur seals, then Australian fur seals but the seals have been altering their haul out sites in response to killer whale attacks.
On the northern headland there is a reef that boast a bubble cave, an area were diver’s air bubbles have been trapped to form an air pocket. Best to leave your regulator in as this air can be of poor quality. The reef nearby also offers a good dive.
This area of deep sponge gardens is located just west of the seal colony on the north west tip of the island. It drops down rapidly to a garden which includes large sea fans and schools of pelagic fish. It is one of the best deep sites on the island.
The northeast side of the island is exposed and gives access to deep reefs. This is probably why it is as popular with seals who haul out on the island. As many as 500 may be there at peak times. Any diver visiting seals, especially in the summer pupping season has to be aware of a heightened shark risk and should not linger on the surface. The area is also subject to currents. Despite this the opportunity to frolic with the seals proves irresistible for divers and it is perhaps the most popular dive in the area. Charter boats rarely go elsewhere which creates an issue with exploring the island’s many other terrific sites.
The northern side of the island near the seal colony has several other deeper sites. The rocky gutters slightly to the north west offer encounters with up to half a dozen grey nurse sharks at a time. While relatively big, these sharks are harmless to divers.
Just out from the Shark Gutters the bottom drops away to 40m. At the right time of year, mantas will glide along this reef edge.
Slightly further to the NW there is a deep reef offering excellent fish life and a very colourful sponge garden. sea pens can also be found out on the sand although the colonies come and go.
This rock lies 3 Kilometres south of Montagu Island. It consists of a large shallow plateau that has been battered by the swell. The outer edges sometimes drop from 20-30m and the walls are packed with sponges and soft corals. The sand edge also has lots of sea whips. Fish life is also varied. The Rock is easily found as it lifts or breaks in even calmer weather.
Wreck of the Lady Darling
36° 19′ 06″S 150° 10′ 06″E (AUS66)
The 239 foot long, 895 ton, iron steamer SS Lady Darling was built in Liverpool in July 1864. The ship arrived in Australia during 1865 and traded around the coast and to NZ. In 1870, the ship had a major refit and returned to European waters. In the 1870s she returned to the Australian coal trade.
In November 1880 the SS Lady Darling left Newcastle for Melbourne. Captain Roberts was intending to pass between Montague Island and the mainland but the uncharted Aughinish Rock lay 2.5 kilometres south-west of the southern end of the island. A further two kilometres south there is another reef. At about midnight the SS Lady Darling hit a reef. Captain Roberts ordered the ship to be abandoned and at 12:30 am the ship disappeared stern first.
The wreck was relocated in 1996 and consists of an intact stern section and exposed engine room. The bow has collapsed. The wreck is patrolled by large schools of fish and is covered in very colourful invertebrate growth. She is considered one of the best wreck dives in NSW. You cannot dive this wreck without a permit from the NSW Department of Heritage. The only permits that have been ever issued are to charter boats. Anchoring is not permitted on the wreck.