While Byron Bay has a number of dive locations, nowadays only Julian Rocks is regularly dived. Some of the locations are no longer dived at all (eg The Pinnacle). Julian Rocks is a small island composed of four large rocks of varying size that are basically joined into one large rock and which run from north-east (smallest) to south-west (largest). It is located about three kilometres north of Cape Byron. Julian Rocks is a great dive location, with a number of dive sites around the rocks.
One of the sites at Julian Rocks is The Needles. This is towards the south-western corner of the island. It is a shallow dive and is pretty protected dive site when southerly winds and seas are prevailing.
It is only a few minutes run from The Pass beach launching site to Julian Rocks. There are a number of moorings here, so which one that is used will depend on which one is free when you get there. Note that you cannot launch private boats at Byron Bay and you can only dive by using one of the local dive shops unless you run out from Brunswick Heads which is at least 10 kilometres away.
I will describe this dive from using the mooring called The Anchor. At the bottom of this mooring and a short distance to the east there is a huge Admiralty anchor. This has a long section of chain that runs off to the north-west for some distance. The anchor is a very good photographic opportunity and when visibility is good, you can get some nice shots.
|A number of shrimp with a wobbegong
A dive would normally head off in a westerly direction till you hit the sand. The depth at the bottom of the mooring is about 10 metres and it deepens till about 12 metres on the sand edge. Once on the sand edge, turn left and head south or south-west. Follow the edge as you go.
The reef bottom is composed of a rocky bottom with some small rock outcrops with some sand in between. The last time I dived here the bottom was totally covered with wobbegong sharks. Some of these were normal wobbegongs but there were many of the newly identified dwarf wobbegong species. I have never seen so many wobbegongs, even back in the early 1990s when they covered wrecks like the SS Tuggerah in Sydney.
|An Egg Cowrie
|A nudibranch that I could not identify
Keep an eye out while diving for yellowtail kingfish, jewfish, large snapper and giant trevally swimming high up in the water column. On dives when leaving the mooring area we saw some huge snapper and kingfish. On the bottom, look for anemones and in most you will find clownfish. There are not the huge numbers that are seen at North Solitary Island, but you will see some small ones.
There are also a lot of interesting nudibranchs to be seen as well as a number of species of starfish. One thing that we found was that nearly all of one species were mutilated. These were either single arms, single arms with smaller new arms regrowing or part starfish with one or more arms missing. What is eating them?
The water shallows a bit, especially if you head over the reef. It comes up to six metres or so. Once back near the southern end of Julian Rocks, the depth drops to 14 metres in a series of drops. Around here is a lot more interesting. In this area we saw a clown triggerfish, a couple of Moorish idols, some veyr large kingfish and a huge snapper. Also in this area we saw quite a few egg cowries. These are always beautiful to see.
|A Porcelain Crab in an Anemone
|A Red-lined flabellina
Under the ledges around here there are large numbers of shrimp. They are literally everywhere. Near every bunch of shrimp there are wobbegongs. Is there a connection?
When we did this dive, we did it as a drift dive (even though there was no current) and the dive boat collected us when we surfaced.
Visibility here can be very good, with 25 metres being not uncommon. However, it can also get quite poor due to the outflow from the Tweed and Brunswick Rivers to the north and the Richmond River to the south. Water temperature ranges from at least 25ÂșC in Summer to 18ÂșC in Winter.
Note that bottom times are severely limited by the dive shops, with 45 minutes being the maximum bottom time permitted, no matter where you dive. All visiting divers must be accompanied by a dive guide, no matter your experience. The dive guides generally appear to have little experience and some perhaps less dives in total than I have done in the preceding six months.