Monday, October 26, 2009

Sydney snorkel - Shelly Beach/Fairy Bower Reef (1)

16th October

After I returned from birdwatching in the Royal National Park with Denis and Mark, I went to Manly again in the afternoon. This time, I went snorkeling off Shelly Beach, south of Manly Beach. The beach is part of the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve. An interesting diving /snorkeling spot within the aquatic reserve is the Fairy Bower Reef.

Shelly Beach (arrow), protected from ocean swells by a headland

I entered the water on the left side of the beach and spent most of my time exploring the rocks that lie alongside the walkway. I was only in the water for about an hour. It was a happy snorkel because I saw a few marine animals that I haven't before. Indeed it won't be fun if I had to fly all the way to Sydney just to see things that I can easily see in Perth.

The highlight of the snorkel has to be seeing a green moray (Gymnothorax prasinus). I found it resting under a rock in shallow water (~1.5 meters) near shore. The fish was about 1 meter long. The species is common on Australia's east and west coasts but I haven't seen it before snorkeling around Perth. The green moray noticed me almost immediately but was cooperative enough to let me take many shots of it. I found out later that while the green moray apparently enjoys interaction with divers (snorkelers too?), the fish may bite! Thankfully I didn't get too near it! It certainly looks agile enough to snatch my camera and bite my fingers off!

I also came across two cuttlefish (Sepia species), each about 20 cm in length. I was quite excited to come within such a short distance of them. I could touch them if I wanted. (Of course it is not a wise thing to do!) I like watching the way a cuttlefish swim, which always reminds me of a mini-spacecraft. The first one I saw, which was resting in a crevice, was only about a meter of so from the surface. It changed positions a few times when I was photographing it. The second one which was resting on a flat rock, was about 2 meters below. But it just won't budge even when I dived down towards it! This cuttlefish is a truly laid-back Aussie.

By the way I have only seen cuttlefish a few times and in at least 3 meters' depth on the Cottesloe Reef. And all those times, they quickly disappeared into the seagrass and didn't give me a chance to take some good shots.

I also saw a stingaree - no idea about the species, though. The fish is about 2 feet long.

Besides the green moray, the Smooth Toadfish (Tetractenos glaber) was another fish that I saw for the first time. This species is not found on the west coast of Australia. Off Shelly Beach, I also saw some banded toadfish (Torquigener pleurogramma), which I often see around Perth.

The encounter with a green moray really got me excited about Cabbage Tree Bay. It is really amazing that I didn't have to go deep to see some interesting marine creatures there. So I went back again later for snorkeling and beachcombing. If I lived in Sydney, I would probably start a blog about the marine life of Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve!


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Chai
Nice clean water over there at Fairy Bower, it seems.
Good shots, and enjoyable for me to see stuff I never get to see.

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Hi Denis,

Snorkellers and divers in Sydney are lucky to have the Fairy Bower underwater playground.


glhopman said...

looks like a great trip! I love cuttlefish, they appear so alien-like.

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Yeah, I enjoy watching how they swim at slow but consistent speeds just by undulating their fins.

stellakwan said...

hey chai!

looks beautiful.. did u bring your own snorkeling equipment or is there a place there we can rent from?

Tsun-Thai Chai said...

Dear Stella,

Thanks for visiting my blog. Sydney beaches are indeed great for snorkeling! I have no idea where you can hire snorkeling gear. I took mine with me when I flew to Sydney. Perhaps Sydneysiders will know :)


Anonymous said...

There are places to rent snorkeling gear, I live in really close to Shelly (walking distance) and go frequently. You have to go into the main part of manly, where there are some beach shops that let you rent out snorkeling equipment, as well as surfboards, bogey boards, etc. (I do suggest that you have your own equipment though as it is usually better.

Anonymous said...

I have also seen some juvenile dusky whalers around. They are often there between January and March.