In Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia Islands

If divers were to meet in a cafe or bar and talk about diving in Australia, what will usually come into their minds is the Great Barrier Reef, or perhaps, the Yongala Wreck lying off the coast of Queensland. While these eastern Australian dive sites are popular to the world and divers may flock all at once making it a busy tourist destination, the western side of Australia offers an equally fun-filled adventure but on a laid back setting.

Not to underestimate the beauty of Western Australia, it houses some of the most beautiful marine habitats, not just in Australia, but in the entire world. In fact, some world-class dive sites can be explored in Western Australia like the Navy Pier in Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef in the northwest coast. But if we tell you there is one area in Western Australia where divers, regardless of certification level, will be busy filling up their dive logs courtesy of the 122 islands and shallow fringing reefs of Abrolhos Islands.

Location of Abrolhos Islands

Photo courtesy from Department of Fisheries – Government of Western Australia

Let us make Perth, the Capital City of Western Australia, our main reference point. From Perth, you need to travel to the coastal town of Geraldton where most of the dive shops and boat charters are located.

From Geraldton, boat ride to Abrolhos islands usually takes around 3 to 4 hours depending on the site or group of islands you wish to explore. Abrolhos is composed of 4 major island groups scattered in a 100 kilometers (62 miles) stretch that runs from north to south, namely: North Island, Wallabi Group of Islands, Easter Group of Islands and Pelsaert Group of Islands.

Don’t be confused: Abrolhos of Western Australia and Abrolhos of Brazil

When you search the web and type the word “Diving in Abrolhos”, two distinct results will come out and both of them are dive sites. The first Abrolhos pertains to the one in Western Australia and is the subject of this article. The other Abrolhos pertains to a National Marine Park in Brazil. So, to proceed with the former web result, let us now go into the details of what is like to go diving in Abrolhos Islands.

Diving Conditions in Abrolhos Islands

Abrolhos islands is a unique site to go diving since it lies within the Western Australian Warm Stream courtesy from the Leeuwin Current that generally flows southward. This in turn makes the islands of Abrolhos a meeting place for marine species that comes from both the tropical and temperate regions. A perfect example of this is the foraging of sea lions near coral reefs.

Before we proceed with the details of diving around Abrolhos, allow us to present the diving conditions that you will be exposed to when exploring this Western Australian Archipelago, as follows:

Minimum certification level: Open Water Scuba Diver
Type of diving: Wreck, Night, Deep, Reef, and Boat Diving
Depth range: 3 – 40 meters (10 – 130 feet)
Visibility: 20 to 30 meters (60 – 100 feet)
Water temperature range: 20 -24°C (69 – 75°F)
Best time to visit: March to November

Famous Dive Sites in Abrolhos Islands

In order to experience maximum coverage while underwater, dive trails are establish in every major dive site around Abrolhos islands. These dive trails allows for a self-guided tour where geographical coordinates and navigational bearings are all planned out and well-marked.

MV Batavia and the Long Island Dive Trail

Location: Wallabi Group of Islands
Type of Diving: Reef, Wreck, Drift and Night Diving
Extent of Trail: 190 meters (627 feet)
Average Depth: 15 meters (50 feet)

Photo courtesy from Department of Fisheries – Government of Western Australia

Consisting of 6-marker points, the Long Island Dive Trail resembles like a zigzag formation where your underwater navigation skills will be put into practice. You will start by plunging down near a large coral head called bommies that comes from the Hump Coral (Porites) species. Aside from tropical fishes like parrotfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, groupers and lobsters, what is distinct in the Long Island Dive Trail is that you will see an underwater signage in each marker that features colourful illustrations made by a famous Anti-war campaigner. Take note that the centerpiece of this dive site are not the underwater signages, but rather, a 1,000 year old coral bommie that stands 3-meters high. This natural highlight is located at the center of the dive trail which we are confident that you will not miss it.

If you want a little bit of adrenaline to rush in, then you can opt to go for a drift dive courtesy from the mild current of the Goss Passage. Many have find this drift dive very relaxing as you can cruise over a bed of branching corals along a gentle slope. But just a reminder, always monitor your air, depth and have a constant communication with your dive guide or divemaster.

Photo courtesy from Duy Dinh

But the one thing that attracts divers to explore the Long Island Dive Trail are the remnants of a historical shipwreck that pretty much shaped the history of Abrolhos Islands. Resting in just 4 to 6 meters (13 to 20 feet) deep, the remains of MV Batavia can be explored and accessible by both divers and snorkelers. You wreck exploration will usually start with the bare hull that is already encrusted with marine life. Littered around the area are the ships cannons and anchor. Setting foot on the island and hearing stories told by survivors long ago and the mutiny that happened is a good way to fully understand the history of Abrolhos Islands. But please be reminded that wreck diving in MV Batavia is not a year round experience as the site is prone to strong winds and big swells. So, if conditions are not favorable for diving, you always have the option to abort or proceed to the next dive site where conditions are generally calmer.

Beacon Island Dive Trail

Location: Wallabi Group of Islands
Type of Diving: Reef, Deep and Night Diving
Extent of Trail: 409 meters (1,350 feet)
Maximum Depth: 32 meters (105 feet)

Photo courtesy from Department of Fisheries – Government of Western Australia

The dive trail can be found on the western side of Beacon island which runs along a fringing reef and slopes down up to the sandy bottom of Goss Passage. While the start of this dive is not so impressive as you enter the first marker that is filled with sand and dead corals overgrown by algae, you will be surprised as you go along the trail where massive coral beds awaits you.

Photo courtesy from Duy Dinh

If Porites coral bommies dominates the long island dive trail, then the beds of plate and finger corals is the perfect description for the dive trail of Beacon island. The intense quantity of these coral beds starts at the shallow crest and goes all the way down to the slope before it reaches the sandy bottom. Many divers shared their experience while exploring the Beacon Island Dive Trail and there is one thing that can be drawn from their stories: that marine life is littered everywhere including cracks and crevices of the reef surfaces.

 

 

 

 

Turtle Bay Dive Trail

Location: Wallabi Group of Islands
Type of Diving: Reef and Night Diving
Extent of Trail: 343 meters (1,132 feet)
Average Depth: 15 meters (50 feet)

Photo courtesy from Department of Fisheries – Government of Western Australia

Located on the north-east corner of East Wallabi Island is the Turtle Bay Dive Trail. You will usually start diving by passing over a lush greenery of seagrass bed. As the shallow green undertone of the seagrass disappears, other color spectrum starts to glow as patches of corals will start to appear.

Photo courtesy from Duy Dinh

Some have said that Turtle Bay is the combination of Long Island and Beacon Island dive trail as far as corals are concerned. Here, both coral bommies, plate and finger corals thrive all together in its 343 meter (1,132 feet) dive trail stretch. Aside from small fish, medium-sized fish also abound the Turtle Bay Dive Trail such as the silverfish that can grow up to 30 centimeters in length.

Anemone Lump Dive Trail

Location: Easter Group of Islands
Type of Diving: Reef, Deep and Night Diving
Extent of Trail: 528 meters (1,743 feet)
Maximum Depth: 38 meters (125 feet)

Photo courtesy from Department of Fisheries – Government of Western Australia

The geography of this dive site is comparable to an offshore seamount, but on a smaller scale. The Anemone Lump Dive Trail sits on top of a 38 meters (125 feet) high limestone that rises from the seafloor.

Photo courtesy from Duy Dinh

The reason why this dive trail is called the Anemone Lump is due to the fact that the area is filled with sea anemones. And of course, you can expect to see lots of clownfish and other species of anemone fish that closely thrives with the sea anemone. But just in case you do not know, tentacles of the sea anemones are loaded with stinging cells and you will be stung if you touch it.

Please don’t stammer and get jealous with the clownfish and other anemone fish while they are playing along the sea anemone’s tentacles as they are perfectly adapted to it. While it seems that Anemone Lump Dive Trail is the perfect spot for macro-photography, we still advise you to be prepared to do some wide-angle panoramic shots as large subjects may visit the area like tiger sharks.

Coral Patch Dive Trail

Location: Pelsaert Group of Islands
Type of Diving: Reef and Night Diving
Extent of Trail: 381 meters (1,257 feet)
Average Depth: 15 meters (50 feet)

Photo courtesy from Department of Fisheries – Government of Western Australia

Located on the northern end of Pelsaert group of islands, the Coral Patch Dive Trail is one of the longest track you can explore while in Abrolhos Islands. You will usually start your dive by going down to a shallow reef at 2 meters (6 feet) deep that gently slopes further down to 5 meters (16 feet).

While Abrolhos islands generally has a gentle reef slope, the Coral Patch Dive Trail is one of the few sites that has a steep reef ledge. Hovering along the shallow reef crest, you will clearly see that before you reach the midway, there is a steep ledge that suddenly drops down to 20 meters (66 feet). On top of the different coral lifeforms in this dive trail, like boomies, plate and branching corals, Coral Patch Dive Trail also houses a good population of Common Kelp (Ecklonia radiata), which if you have a closer look, supports its own community of kelp-associated fish, shells and crabs.

At Least 3 days of just You and the Sea

Due to its distance to the mainland of Western Australia, there is no point of spending just a single day of diving in Abrolhos island. Most dive charters usually recommends and offer a 3-day liveaboard package to give you at least a minimum experience. Remember, Abrolhos comprises 122 islands and 3 days is just not enough. But of course, you can always have the option to extend if you wish to.

And finally, the next time you see fellow divers in a cafe or bar, please do not hesitate to share your knowledge and experience in this amazing Western Australian dive site.

For more information, please read our related article about Abrolhos Islands.

References:

Department of Fisheries – Government of Western Australia: www.fish.wa.gov.au

Just Gotta Dive: www.justgottadive.com

50 Great Dives: www.50greatdives.com

Video courtesy from GeroDiver

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