Snorkelling at Perth


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I was in Perth for linux.conf.au 2014 and for a place that I've heard sucks, I'm mostly seeing the opposite.

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The view from near Mudurup Rocks.

Like Dirk Hohndel's talk, this post is not so much about technology as it is about the sea. I meant to write this post before I had even left Perth but I ended up getting sidetracked by LCA and general horseplay.

After Kate Chapman's enjoyable keynote I decided to blow that popsicle stand and snorkel at Cottesloe Reef (pdf) which is a FHPA (Fish Habitat Protection Area) just 30 minutes from the conference venue by bus.

I don't have a whole lot of experience snorkelling, but I did bring my gear because I knew there were some snorkelling spots reachable by public transport. I'd be an idiot to pass up the opportunity as around Brisbane there aren't any easily accessible snorkelling locations without a car or even a boat (the easiest is the headland off Kings Beach in Caloundra entering at the boat ramp).

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A map of the FHPA Cottesloe area.

Entry on the south side of Mudurup Rocks/Cottesloe Groyne (they are so close together they are basically the same place) was quite easier than what I normally have to deal with at Caloundra. I was relieved to find that I did not have to walk backwards over oyster covered rocks for 20+ meters while being pushed over by waves as is the custom at Caloundra. All I had to do was step carefully over the pocketed stone and the thin strip of sand at the water's edge and follow up with 3 meters backwards walking on a nice sandy bottom. It was the easiest entry I've ever had (I've never been blessed with a boat) due to not being bashed around by waves or stumbling over sharp rocks. The waves and swell was very small and the currents gentle.

A waterproof camera would have been great to show the underwater landscape and some of the fish I saw. GoPro's are getting cheap and easy to get, and I can use it to document my other mischief making adventures so hopefully I can pick one up soon.

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Standing at the entry spot, looking towards Mudurup Rocks with Cottesloe Groyne poking out. The other side is Cottesloe Beach.

Underwater, the area is basically a maze of outcrops and channels covered with a lot of sea weed, and the bottoms of these channels usually are sandy. The PDF linked above explains the geography nicely. I've never seen this type of thing before and I found the way the sea grass moved with the current quite strange and unnerving. Silly, I know - but I got used to it eventually.

During the little time I spent in the quite shallow area and I saw a few fish, but it was pointless really. When I went further out to where the water was 2+ meters deep things got a lot more interesting because the taller formations house a lot sea-life. I saw schools of (what I am fairly sure) were Tailor, Silver Trevally, Tarwhine and some Morwongs up close, because they don't really care that you're there. I saw some assorted reef fish. I don't really know what they are (can't eat them) and I didn't have a camera. I definitely didn't see any of the seadragons that are known to inhabit the area, no surprise, as finding them amongst the weed would be tricky.

Despite being a FHPA, you can take the usual non-reef fish without a license. You need a license to pull lobsters and abalone (allowed from the groyne northwards) and these seem to cost $40 (each) at the moment. I wouldn't bother fishing off the groyne like I saw people doing... Why do that when you can swim out and place a baited hook right in front of the fish you want?

The next time I went to Cottesloe the weather was bad and visibility was terrible so I gave up almost immediately. The next trip after that was really quite good - a repeat performance of the first day but with better weather and slightly different fish. I saw a very large kingfish of some type, which was exciting (at least to me).

I didn't get to see any sharks which is a shame, depending on how you see things. I'd always heard that WA was infested with them. Coincidentially a few days prior, Cottesloe Beach played host to a large anti-shark killing protest.

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Western Australia / South Australia border area.

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Queensland, clearly.

If you get a chance to go to Perth and you can get your hands on some snorkelling gear, you really should take a look at Cottesloe reef. If you've only seen normal coral reefs typical to the east coast and tropical areas it really is a totally different experience.

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