Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Oak Park to Bass & Flinders
Located at the end of the Cronulla Peninsula on the southern outskirts of Sydney, Oak Park is a very popular dive location, especially for learners and novice divers. Oak Park is an excellent "easy" dive for beginners and experts alike and is also a top night dive. On an incoming tide, you can also do another dive here. This is a drift dive from Oak Park to Bass and Flinders Point.
Drive to the end of Jibbon Street, Cronulla, adjacent to Oak Park. Gear up here and leave one person watching the gear as you drive to the end of Gowrie Street, South Cronulla. This is back out of Jibbon Street, turn left and follow this street around till you see Gowrie Street (two streets I think). Park as close as you can to the southern end of the street. Walk back to Oak Park along the street or the walkway that follows the water's edge. It is about 450 metres back to where your gear is located.
|An aerial photo of Oak Park to Bass and Flinders on a very calm and clear day|
Entry point is out of the photo at top right and the exit point is small bay just before left of screen
Photo taken 1970
Once you are back at Oak Park, enter the water at either of the following two spots. The preferred spot is from the back left of the pool, swim south till you are level with the small beach on the southern side of the pool. If you cannot enter here, enter at the water's edge on the pool's southern side. Once in the water, swim out to a spot level with the end of the pool If you enter from the Descend.
Once on the bottom, the depth will be about 4.5 metres and a rocky kelp covered flat reef. Head south-west and the depth will gradually deepen over the next minute to 5.5 metres and then over the next two minutes to 7.5 metres. Here you will find a small wall that drops to sand at 8.5 metres. Turn right and follow the wall. The wall will head mostly in a western direction, but at times it will go south-west or north-west for short distances. There is no need to swim fast, just take it easy.
|A satellite photo of Oak Park to Bass and Flinders on a very calm and clear day|
Entry point is below the pool at top right and the exit point is small bay just before left of screen
Photo taken January 2010
The depth over the next four minutes will come up to about 8 metres. For the next five minutes the depth will stay at this depth before coming up to 6.5 to 7 metres. All along here the wall is about 1.5 metres high right at the sand's edge with another similar wall about one to two metres back. This second wall generally has a small overhang. The walls have lots of sea tulips/squirts and a few sponges. There are also sections of kelp. In the overhangs you will find small cuttlefish and sometimes some beautiful eastern blue devilfish. We have also seen a couple of very large crayfish along here. Along the reef there are patches of large schools of yellowtail, seapike, mados and other similar fish. You will also see some species of leatherjacket, mostly black reef, and bream.
After about 25 to 30 minutes you will come across a very good wall. This is the start of the best section of the dive. The wall is much more prominent and has a very large overhang. In spots, the overhang is really a cave and in a couple of spots big enough for three or four divers to enter at the same time. As previously, there are large cuttlefish in this section.
|Two photos of a newly born sea dragon|
Photos taken by Bram Harris on night dive on 26 October 2006
About five minutes later you will come across a swim-through right on the edge of the sand. This is a pretty good one, fairly large and worth trying out. This will take you up from seven metres to 4.5 metres. At this spot, the sand edge appears to turn south and must run this way for a while. If you are up on the reef top (well, not the real reef top as it is shallower to the west and north from you), you will have to swim to the east to get back on the sand. Alternatively, you can swim to the south (over kelp covered rocks) and after two minutes you will reach the sand edge. Here the reef is back to running to the west and the depth is back at almost seven metres. Another option is to take a left turn as soon as you exit the swim-through and a few metres on you will see a gutter running to the east. Go down the gutter and you will end up back on the sand edge. Follow this to the west south and then west.
The wall here is similar to before the larger wall was encountered. The depth comes up a metre or so over the next few minutes. At 40 to 45 minutes you will come across another section of very prominent wall. Here there are some very large boulders that break up the edge a bit. Around here, if you look off the edge you will see a large pole. This is the starboard channel marker at Bass and Flinders Point.
|The walls at Oak Park and along towards Bass and Flinders are covered in sea squirts|
From here the wall starts to get less prominent and the depth comes up over the next 15 minutes to two metres. Despite this, this section still has a decent wall for a lot of the way. There are some small inlets, with little overhangs. There used to be the wreck of a car, a Ford Falcon from memory, in one of these inlets. It was a little above the sand edge, right below the end of Gowrie Street (the street where you have parked your car). It appears to have been driven over the cliff. When I last dived here in mid 2006, I did not see the car, but it may still be there.
On the sand in this section you will sometimes find very interesting things. Back in the early 1990s when I used to dive here a fair bit, we used to see lots of striped dumpling squid. They are quite small, about 40 mm long, and bury themselves in the sand. We also used to see lots of blue swimmer crabs, many of them males and females mating. Other things to watch out for are small rays and numbrays.
In more recent years baby Port Jackson sharks have been seen in their hundreds in this area. This is normally in early to mid-October. See the Bass and Flinders Point page for more information.
After about 55 to 65 minutes you will be in the area of the exit. You may hear a strange noise. This is the whine of a pump that runs intermittently. It is used to pump sewage from a catchment right at the exit point back up to a point where it can then flow by gravity to the sewage treatment works out towards Kurnell. There is also a pipe about 100 mm diameter that also helps you find the exit spot. You will also notice it as you will be heading a bit more to the north than before. It is an easy exit onto the rocks and up onto the old road level. From here it is a long but easy walk back up the hill to your car.
As this is a drift dive, you really need to do it on an incoming tide. The best time would be to start sometime about three to four hours after low tide. The dive times I have quoted above are for a dive where you swim slowly. If you let the incoming tide take you, the times could be increased by 50% or more. Tidal currents are not huge here, so even if you get your timing wrong, I do not think that you will end up in trouble.
One of Sydney's easiest but still interesting dives, best done as a night dive. Afterwards, we have a barbecue using the free electric barbecues in Oak Park.