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Diving Julian Rock, Byron Bay - NSW

sunny 21 °C

The Julian Rocks Nguthungulli Nature Reserve is a protected nature reserve that is located on the Julian Rocks in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. The 4,047-hectare (10,000-acre) reserve comprise two small islands, situated in the Tasman Sea of the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) northeast of Byron Bay.
Aboriginal People have lived in the Cape Byron area for many thousands of years. The traditional landowners are Bundjalang people. A plaque at Cape Byron tells their story, of how a jealous husband threw a spear at a canoe carrying his wife and her lover. The canoe broke and sank, leaving only the prow and stern sticking out of the water, and thus creating what is now known as Julian Rocks.
Captain James Cook discovered Cape Byron in 1770. He named it in honour of Admiral John Byron, another British navigator, and grandfather of Lord Byron. The naming of Byron Bay streets after literary figures is just poetic licence. Cook noted Julian Rocks but did not name them. On a chart from 1828 they were still unnamed. By 1883 they had been charted as Juan and Julia Islands.
Surfer at Captain Cooks Look Out
From the mid 1880s to the 1960s Byron Bay was a commercial port, but not a good natural harbour. The first jetty was built at main Beach in 1886 and the second at Belongil in 1928. Many ships have sunk in storms, in the Bay.
Truck with the boat heading to launch
launching the boat
Between the Pass and Middle Reef there is a string of rocky areas which provides interesting snorkelling.. There are also rocky areas between Clarks and Main Beach. Movements of sand within the shallow areas of the Bay are enormous, and exposed rock comes and goes, hulls fill with sand, so the quality of habitat for marine creatures in these areas changes over time
Divers on the boat
By far the best local spot for catching up with marine life is Julian Rocks. Commercial operators run several snorkeling and diving trips to Julian Rocks every day.
Ready to dive
Julian Rocks is rated as one of the best dive sites in Australia. Coral growth is limited but the abundance and diversity of larger animals is enormous. Leopard Sharks and Grey Nurse Sharks visit at different times of the year. Wobbegongs and turtles can almost always be seen. Julian Rocks is a Marine Reserve and the creatures are generally friendly.
Green Turtle
In 1982, after pressure from locals, the area surrounding the rocks was established as a marine reserve, with all fishing and commercial exploitation banned for a 500 metres (1,600 ft) range around the rocks.
White Eye Moray Eel
The area is home to large numbers of marine species, including leopard sharks, grey nurse sharks, wobbegong, a variety of nudibranchs. It's one of about a dozen critical habitats for the grey nurse shark in NSW. Scuba divers identify the site as one of the top sites in Australia for its wide variety of marine life.
Goat Fish
Snappers & Goat Fish
This is where warm and cool waters meet, hence the enormous biodiversity. A minority of species are endemic to this area. Most are found over a wide area of the Asia-Pacific region.
Snapper Fish
From May to September, humpback whales are commonly spotted traveling between the rocks and the mainland and are a common sighting on the short boat trip between the mainland and the rocks. The Cape Byron Marine Park, declared in 2002, surrounds the reserve. A sanctuary zone within the marine park was declared in 2006.
Starry Puffer Fish
Blue Star Fish
Orange Star Fish
Since 1982, after 10 years of lobbying by local users, Julian Rocks falls under the Fisheries and Oyster Farms Regulation. This means that injuring, disturbing and removal of all forms of marine fauna within a 500 meter radius of the rock is prohibited.
Sea Urchins
Not only does Julian Rocks provide resting and nesting grounds for many seabirds, such as seagulls and cormorants, underneath the water is an invisible world with abundant marine life present.
Red Morwong
Purple Coral
With water temperatures and currents changing throughout the year there are many seasonal visitors. The grey nurse sharks come to Julian Rocks during the winter months, presumably to breed. Although these sharks look ferocious with their mouths slightly opened and their teeth sticking out, it is perfectly safe to dive with them.
with the largest Starry Spuffer Fish he'd sever seen
Puffer Fish
There are of course the ëregularsí like different species of wobbegong sharks, turtles, cuttlefish (family of the octopus), schools of white spotted eagle rays, egg-cowry shells, moray eels, banner fish, giant guitar fish and shovel-nose rays. Sometimes there are so many fish around, you can hardly see where you are going. Not to mention all sessile animals (attached to substrate) like tunicates, colourful sponges, both hard and soft corals, giving you the feeling you are floating through some beautifully landscaped underwater garden.
Common Dart Fish
The Rock also forms a home for rare species such as the leaf scorpion fish, the pineapple fish with bioluminescent organs under its eyes, the shy blue devil fish, white banded anemone fish and a species of nudibranch previously thought not present in Australian waters: Noumea labouti. (A nudibranch is a colourful underwater snail without a shell, carrying its respiratory organ on its back)
Clown Trigger Fish
The interaction of tropical and temperate species makes every dive an exhilarating adventure. The three minute boat trip to the rock is almost as exciting: surfing the waves sometimes accompanied by playful dolphins. From May till September the Humpback whales come past Byron Bay and can easily be spotted from the boat. With water temperatures up to 25 degrees Celsius and visibility of 20 meters at most times there is really nothing to complain about.
Black Spotted Porcupine

Banner Fish
Fortunately the dive operators in Byron Bay also realise the value of this Aquatic Reserve. Moorings have been put in place and are taken care of, so destructive anchors are not needed. And since there are only a limited number of commercial vessel launching licences available, no over-diving can take place.g
Other fish sightings
All different dive sites around Julian Rocks are equally impressive and offer dives that are spectacular for the novice and the very experienced underwater explorer!
Me, diving
divers at the end of the dive
The boat coming to pick us up
Looking Back to Byron Bay
Cape Byron
Surfers come in all sizes!

Posted by charlystyles 13:44 Archived in Australia Tagged diving julian_rocks

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