It is not everyday that I get the opportunity to free dive at a pristine Marine Reserve, let alone be accompanying some of my local heroes. Yesterday I was invited and joined a group of awesome ocean lovers and protectors to Nguthungulli or Julian Rocks as it is commonly known in the Cape Byron Marine Park. Truly this was a dream come true, for the three years I have lived in the shire, not once have I been to the rocks.
The serendipitous invitation to snorkel and free dive the sacred reserve was from my close friend Malia Rouillon, Oceanographer, and founder of of Protect The Reef. I was amongst a group of her fellow peers, consisting of Caitlin Weatherstone from Wild Search, Professional Waterman Scott Wilson (whom captained the boat), conservationist/photographer Matt Draper and professional outdoor photographer Craig Parry.
The Rocks, are a popular dive spot for locals and visitors alike. They are sacred islets to the Arakwal People and were in the past used in ceremonies. Julian Rocks are 2.5km from the shore. Their proud autonomy from the main-land is remarkable, they have mystical presence and supernatural look from the safety of the beach. Sometimes giant cascades of white wash erupt from high seas surging against it, giving the Rocks a ship like appearance from a distance. People are prohibited from climbing onto the rocks to protect and preserve the wildlife and their habitats therein. As well as the non-terrestrial, and endangered marine life below the surface, Julian Rocks islets are home to a large range nesting of seabirds.
Approaching the rocks by sea, we launched the boat from the Pass, at Cape Byron. Strong currents and northerly winds had stirred up the ocean before our arrival, and the clarity was slightly affected. We made the best of our time getting to the rocks before any of the other dive boats arrived. It was a sunny and surprisingly warm winter's day, which made the experience even more enjoyable. Malia, Scott, Caitlin, Matt, Craig and I stuck together swimming along, and around the northern perimeter which was semi protected from the wind. We followed Scotti's lead. He has a wealth of knowledge and pointed out formations of interest, endangered Gray Nurse Sharks 15 meters below, and dangerous rips.
With Scotti's expertise and guidance, we were able to see Grey Nurse Sharks (whom come to Julian Rocks in the winter to breed), magnificent White spotted Eagle Rays, a healthy sea turtle, and a beautiful cornucopia of reef fish. After snorkeling and free diving, we got back in the boat and took to the open sea in search of migrating Humpback Whales. It must have been meal time for the whales too, as we did not see them in or around the places they usually play. Hungry ourselves, we happily made our way back to shore for a delicious late lunch and good conversations. Both Craig and Matt got a few beautiful photos, which you can see on their respective instgram accounts.
Bellow is a fun and short instagram movie I made of this Julian Rocks mini adventure. It was shot on a GoPro :), I hope you enjoy it!