gemfyre: (Barracuda)
Map of site

Location: Northern Cottesloe Beach

Details: There are always people here. Families and kids just mucking about. Lap swimmers going back and forth along the back of the reef (keep an eye out for them - because they won't watch out for you). This reef has lots of different areas - flat meadows, sandy patches, caves and crevices. There is a large area to the north that has been stripped of vegetation by Tarwhines. There has been a shark attack in this area and many sightings - I haven't had the pleasure yet. Shark spotters patrol the area in summer and if you do get in trouble there are plenty of people nearby to help out or get help.

Skill required: It can be a little choppy and the current can be strong.

Things to see: A large variety of fish can be spotted here, including some large "table fish" (bream, mulloway etc). Juvenile Scalyfins are abundant.

Jellyfish level: Tolerable.

Overall rating: A pretty easy, reliable site as long as the wind isn't up. If the conditions are bad at least you can just wander the strip and get an ice cream or a drink.
gemfyre: (House Greyjoy)
Map of site

Location: South of Fremantle.

Details: Enter off the beach and swim out along the wall to the end (and around the end if you are keen - it can be a little rough out there, but the fish are huge). There is also a seagrass meadow nearby. Towards the end of the wall there is a sharp drop-off, if you like to dive large fish and brain corals can be spotted in the deeper water. There are often fishers on the wall so watch out for lines. Spear fishers also frequent the area, but I have never found them to be any trouble.

Skill required: All skill levels. I have taken a friend out here who was not a confident swimmer, but she was able to stay in near the wall right out to the end and still see plenty hiding in the crevices created by the rock wall. More experienced swimmers and divers can adventure into the nearby deeper water or around the tip of the wall.

Things to see: The seagrass meadows are full of sea-squirts, blue-manna crabs and various species of leatherjacket. The wall creates numerous caves and crevices that harbour all kinds of species of fish and other critters like cuttlefish.

Jellyfish level: Tolerable. There are jellyfish around. I haven't been stung here yet.

Overall rating: Always a good bet. Conditions are good most of the time and there is something for everyone.
gemfyre: (Giant polychaetes - series of tubes)
Map of site

Location: Just out of Rockingham.

Details: The northern part of Shoalwater Bay, this area is often calmer than the open water. The water is usually clear with a variety of weedy plateaus, sandy patches, ledges and caves. Entry is either off one of the two beaches, or off rocks to the south - this prevents sand getting all through your gear, but can be a bit of a clamber.

Skill required: Great for all skill levels, there is plenty to see close in to the shore. For stronger swimmers a lap around White Rock is recommended - there are plenty of larger fish in the caves around the rock.

Things to see: Various seaweeds and grasses. A large array of fish, Butterfish is very common at this site. Around White Rock you will often find Old Wives and Scalyfins. I have heard there is a large Smooth Ray in the area, but have yet to see it. Dolphins are also frequent.

Jellyfish level: LOW. I hardly ever see jellyfish here.

Overall rating: One of the best sites, 99% of the time the conditions will be good and you can just get in the water and see some great stuff.
gemfyre: (doe a deer)
Took Marie here this morning as it was new area for her and she was excited by what I'd seen. This time we spent more time investigating the seagrass bed in the shallows - which revealed species like Gobbleguts and Sea Trumpeter - both new for me.

Seeing as I now had company I felt a lot more confident and we managed to swim all the way to the bend in the wall. A little over twice as far as I went on my own. The visibility was good in most places and I managed to get a few new species as well as a starfish and jellyfish - which became commonplace in the deeper water. Was interesting to see the different weed types at different depths too. Fine, green sea lettuce in the shallows and thick, strappy kelp further down. I had the thought, "Wow, it's just like swimming in an aquarium." and then thought, "Well, duh!"

So much to see deeper down and in the caverns, so I practiced my diving. Still have to get the knack of equalising the pressure in my ears, and I need to work on my technique to actually get some depth. Seems no sooner do I get down there that I'm bobbing back up again.

Once again, saw plenty of certain species and can't find them in the book. One I think may have been Long-finned Pike - although in situ they looked a lot darker above and below with a distinct pale stripe. The other I have identified as Perth Herring - there were masses of these further out. They are not actually in the fish book I own, but they DO appear in the library book I got out. A bit annoying that. Might have to just write "Perth Herring" in my book and highlight it.

Poor Marie got cold and clambered out of the water onto the rocks to walk back while I swam. Fins really are amazing things, you can really power along if you want to.

So, onto the fishlist! Not complete, as many fish are notoriously hard to ID.

A surprisingly long fishlist )
gemfyre: (Frogs)
Yesterday I went to another dive store (this one a warehouse, so the prices were excellent) and purchased a rashy and a backpack to carry all my gear in.

Today I dragged Alison out to the beach. I decided to investigate the wall of Hillarys Marina because fuel was cheap at nearby Whitfords, and I figured it would be safe and sheltered.

The weed everywhere made me a bit dubious at first, but the water itself didn't look too bad. Geared up and in I went (OMG cold!)

There was a bit of seagrass growing right in the shallows and lots of chopped up weed floating in the water reducing visibilty, but swimming out a little further things cleared up.

I went out a little way and managed to spot a Western Smooth Boxfish before the hair getting in my face bugged me enough that I swam back for my hood.

I went out a bit further on the second run and spotted a lot of blowies, Silver Drummer and Buffalo Bream as well as plain old Black Bream. Spotted a very pretty metallic blue fish sitting on a rock... it was a fishing lure. Also found a lone Old Wife on the way back in. I was starting to get cold.

Alison however assured me that she was quite content and really, do I ever want to leave the water? So I went back for round 3. Passing over the same dead blowfish I'd swum over twice before. There were HUGE schools of large baitfish over the sand, but I didn't see anything new along the rocks. I made my way back to shore and got some practice at removing all my kit and putting it in the gear back without everything getting too sandy. I made myself comfortable and flicked through my fish guide.

IDing fish is really starting to bug me. I want to cross off species seen in my book, but I consistently find 3 or 4 species that what I saw could have been. Unlike birding, you can't look back and forth between the fish and the book. You have to try and remember all the fish you saw while swimming, then look them all up when you return. And here I am thinking I'm noting distinguishing features - but they turn out to be no help at all!

I saw something I think was a Goodlad's Stinkfish, but it could have been Large-toothed Flathead. And the baitfish! I spend ages scrutinising them and trying to memorise their features (of which there are few), and still I end up with 5 possibilities of the species. Among the main fish there was a small group of more disc shaped, very silvery fish with fine scales - no idea what they were.

I guess it just means I will have to keep on doing it until I get my eye in. Marie and I will probably head to Boyinaboat Reef on Saturday, and of course Sunday is the Point Peron oddessey. I may sleep all Monday!

ETA : Made it home just before sunset and set about rinsing everything and hanging it out to dry, which is quite a rigmarole, but made easier by having an easy-to-carry gear bag. Especially in a house with a crap outdoor area and no outdoor lighting. This is one thing that will be vastly improved when I move to Greenmount. I also discovered another pocket in my bag! A back section which seems to be waterproof and also has a hanger for keys. Handy!
gemfyre: (OMG Weeeeee!)
I discovered a cool and useful site called Wannadive. (My username is Gemfyre, as usual). Hopefully I can stick with it as I explore more sites and eventually graduate to Scuba. Going to repost my blogs there to here.

12/2/2012 - Hamersley and Mettams Pool )

26/2/2012 - Cottesloe Groyne (eventually) )
gemfyre: (Barracuda)
Well, if you've been anywhere near me over the past few weeks you will know that my latest hobby/obsession is snorkelling.

Of course it all started last year when I went on a snorkel trip at Coral Bay. Gliding over coral reefs and neon fish and chasing manta rays had me immediately hooked, and the great thing was, it was swimming and thus had zero impact on my knee, which I had dislocated 2 days prior. I got back to Perth and a few days later bought a snorkelling set.

Alas, due to my knee still healing - so entering the water from the shore was rather troublesome - and the fact that it turned cold not long after I got back, I didn't get much chance to use my new kit.

But now summer is with us again and I have 2 friends who also love a good snorkel - which is great because it's one of those things you don't want to be doing alone. I have been swimming out from Hamersley Pool - my regular swimming spot and Mettam's Pool so far, but I'd like to explore the whole reef from Trigg to North Beach and then go further afield to places like Cottesloe Groyne, Point Peron and Rottnest.

At Hamersley Pool I quickly discovered that just donning goggles and snorkel and making my way around the edge of the reef - where the water is only waist deep, I could see large fish just loafing in the shade of the reef - blowfish, whiting and Red-lipped Morwong - a pretty, striped fish that gets quite large. I knew I needed to explore further.

Upon Marie's advice I dug out a pair of long thermals and a long sleeved top to use as a "poor man's wetsuit". It looks ridiculous but works a treat. It just removes that contact with the rocks and weed on the reef and makes me a lot more confident swimming over the top of it. The snorkel holder on my mask broke - I bought a new one today for a measly $3. But my mask always fogs up for some unknown reason, so I usually borrow a spare set of Marie's goggles. I've also discovered my fins are marginally too small and give me pins and needles once I remove them (not to mention the hassle getting them ON). One of them now also has a crack across it, pretty much rendering it useless. :( Today I borrowed Craig's boots and fins and they were much more comfortable. I have my own boots too, but again, I think they are slightly too small. I think I might use the $100 I got for Christmas to buy a decent new mask and fins. My first set was bought without much prior research.

So yeah, all these beaches that I frequent, that are at max a 20 minute drive from my house, are absolutely awesome for snorkelling. Once you get out a bit there are huge drop offs and sandy patches and even the odd cave and the fish variety and numbers are amazing! I will have to start listing what I've seen soon, Marie has a field guide, but I think I'll got to the library tomorrow to see if they have one I can borrow.

Today I went out twice, in the morning with Marie and Craig. We swam quite far out over caves and fish nurseries - so many tiny baby fish out there! Then once we were back in we were treated to the antics of some Eagle Rays. One, which Marie has dubbed "Pale Ale" is quite tame and comes right into Hamersley Pool often. I didn't realise they were so huge! At least 1 metre across, with pretty mottled patterns on their backs. As we were walking up to the car we looked out over a sandy patch on the southern side of the point and saw 4 rays meandering about out there.

Marie had an afternoon appointment so we dropped her back home, then Craig and I headed back out for sushi and more snorkelling, this time we ended up at Mettam's Pool. Not far to the south of Hamersley Pool. One handy thing about Mettam's is the ramp right into the water - designed for wheelchair access. It also gives easy access into the water and a place to put all your gear without it getting sandy. We swam out past the breakers at first, and finally I started to feel like I was getting a workout, I was quite puffed by the time we found a calm spot. But then we just meandered about the place, and at that pace I think I could do this forever. At one point a large shoal of fish streamed into a deep area and hung about a rock pinnacle for quite a while, allowing us to swim over and around them for a while. Even swimming right over the shallows was interesting - full of large anemones, chitons and abalone.

I am now pleasantly tired. It's great because you're getting a lot of exercise, and most of the time you don't even realise it. I think this is going to become a regular weekend activity until the weather cools off again. Amazing stuff.

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