If you’d like to experience diving with sharks in their natural habitats, you’re spoilt for choice in NSW.
The State’s ‘local’ shark is the Grey Nurse (Carcharius taurus) which grows to about three metres and although it looks fierce, there are no reported incidents of Nurse’s inflicting any harm against humans.
Grey Nurses congregate in numbers from just a handful to a few hundred usually around small islands not too far from shore.
During the day, they swim very slowly in depths accessible to divers who have just their first level of certification. This makes them easy to observe and photograph and of course, they look impressive on any diver’s log book or Facebook page!
Here’s the lowdown on the most popular sites to see Grey Nurse’s in NSW but first, some shark-diving basics.
My recommendation is to visit these sites with a reputable dive operator and follow their instructions. This should include a Shark Awareness briefing that will ensure that you understand at least these basics:
- Do not block a shark’s movement – make sure you are not in the direction that they are heading.
- Do not block their exit, especially if they are inside a cave or under an overhang
- Do not descend on sharks
- Do not get too close – a shark will move away from any diver who attempts to approach.
To make the most of your time with sharks, try to stay in one spot for a while at eye-level and control your buoyancy and breathing. They don’t like lots of bubbles.
Magic Point is the only known site around Sydney where Grey Nurse Sharks regularly gather though generally in small numbers. It’s located off the headland south of Maroubra Bay and is accessible only by boat. The sharks converge on two small caves about five metres high, 20 metres below the surface.
The Nurses may not be in residence every day but you might see Port Jackson and Wobbegongs at the same site. Many of the Sydney operators include Magic Point on their weekly itinerary. Go with a small group of more experienced divers if you can.
Broughton Island: North Rock and Looking Glass
Broughton Island is a small collection of rocks north east of the entrance to Port Stephens.
Accessible only by boat, it is about 50 minutes from Nelson Bay Marina. There are a number of excellent dive sites and two in particular are noted for shark encounters.
Probably the best known is North Rock which has a spot enclosed by large rocks and walls that also form a natural aquarium with many vantage points to sit quietly and watch these magnificent creatures cruise slowly passed.
Even without the Grey Nurses, these are impressive dive sites.
The other, and certainly the one that leaves the biggest impression is Looking Glass – a crack that runs right through one of the smaller islands and features a natural shark aquarium with stunningly atmospheric lighting via vertical shafts.
On the State’s Mid North Coast, this is almost certainly the largest community of Grey Nurse sharks in NSW – and possibly because it’s the least accessible.
There are four different sites varying in depth from 10 to more than 40 metres. It’s one of those places where you need to have a bit of experience under your weight-belt and ideally, some recent deep dive experience.
The best time to see the sharks is around June and the site is a favourite among the dive centres in Forster.
Another, more accessible site just off Forster beach is Bait Grounds where you can sometimes find Nurses (particularly early in the morning) in just nine-metres of water. It’s about 150-metres off the beach so it’s even possible to do as a shore dive.
South West Rocks – Fish Rock Shark Gutters
This well-known dive in NSW is more famous for the cave than the Grey Nurses but it’s also one I’ve never dived without encountering the sharks.
Often the first dive is through the cave from the lower rear entrance. Heading into ‘The Aquarium’, early morning divers will be treated to the sight of a dozen or so Grey Nurses milling around.
Later in the day, they’ll be found around the back at the end of ‘Colorado Run’. You’ll also see Wobbegongs, rays and numbfish and even the occasional Hammerhead has been sighted.
Fish Rock is also boat access only and is rated one of Australia’s Top 10 Dive Sites – sharks or no sharks.
Coffs Harbour: Grey Nurse Gutters in the South Solitaries
The South Solitary Islands are another uninhabited collection of small islands and rocks, in this case, north east of Coffs Harbour about 40 minutes from shore in a dive boat.
The location has a dive site pointedly named ‘Grey Nurse Gutters’. With a bottom around 18 metres and generally good visibility, it is another great place to see Grey Nurses.
Like the other sites mentioned, if the sharks don’t happen to be around on the day you visit, or the weather does not permit you to get to the northern end of the site, there are a dozen other great locations that will make the trip to the South Solitaries very worthwhile.
Published under license from Well Travelled