In Australia we’re incredibly blessed with some of the most amazing natural coral reef ecosystems in all of the seven seas. We’re internationally famous for our amazing Great Barrier Reef, featuring some of the most rare and breathtaking of species with beautiful colours and patterns and more fins and anemone than you can shake a stick at. But if you’re not willing to pay for the full barrier reef experience, there are a few other options on hand around our coasts, especially right here on the Sunshine Coast.
Jew Shoal is a large reef complex of ridges, canyons, bommies, and a solitary 11 metre pinnacle. ‘The Caves’ has rugged, rocky outcrops and swim throughs; the gutters are covered in colourful hard and soft corals and reef fish, including angelfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, globefish, rabbitfish, soapfish, morwong, sweetlip and bream. The coral gardens has an array of invertebrates – sea stars, feather stars, shrimps, hermit crabs, urchins, brittle stars, cowries and over 100 varieties of nudibranchs”. A great fishing spot, but also an amazing scuba diving destination.
Jew Shoal is one of the most popular destinations in Noosa. A short boat trip along the beautiful Noosa River and then a one-minute boat ride out into the Laguna Bay brings you to Jew Shoal. The two main dive sites are ‘The Pin’ and ‘The Caves’. Both dive sites are suitable for all qualification levels. If you’re an amateur or a veteran of diving, this is a brilliant and beautiful destination for your next dive.
As a novice, I have visited both ‘The Pin’ and ‘The Caves’. ‘The Pin’ starts in 7 metres and drops to 16 metres of water. There are ledges, walls and crevices to explore and a display of baitfish, nudibranchs and wobbegongs. Seasonal mantas and grey nurse sharks are found from time to time.
My dive at ‘The Pin’ was one of a lifetime. We were lucky enough to see just about every species of aquatic life you could hope for. When we arrived all was quiet. The water was warm and clear and we dived down to the full depth to explore, watching in delight as numerous types of fish danced around us, flashing in the shafts of sunlight passing through. As I held out my hand a single tiny silver fish swam forward curiously, dancing back and forth, wary of me. Before long his curiosity got the better of him and he began to dart in and around my fingers and my arm before taking interest in the bubbles coming from my mask. As we took photos we noticed that the fish seemed to have almost spontaneously disappeared and the water seemed to grow colder, as large shapes began to cast shadows over us from above. I looked up at one of my friends drifting just ahead of me and he began a sequence of hand gestures that at the time I didn’t understand, but he later explained meant that there was a “BLOODY.BIG.SHARK.BEHIND.YOU.” I slowly turned around in time to see a large Grey Nurse shark surge over me with little more than a flick of her magnificent tail. She was uninterested in us, and took off up and out of the area in search of what I would assume was her lunch.
After calming down considerably from my very own Jaws encounter, we continued to explore the area, this time heading into ‘The Caves’, which consists of several large swim throughs and is filled with a wide variety of marine life. There are a series of bommies (isolated reefs) starting in 12 metres and dropping to 17 metres. I was apprehensive at first about squeezing into a claustrophobic area like a cave, but when we came to the mouth I was relieved to find they were more than big enough to accommodate someone my size. We fully explored the cave’s depths and photographed the dark and depth-dwelling life that was so abundant down there. Most of the creatures were very shy, hiding away from our lights and strange underwater equipment, but others seemed not only curious and intrigued, but happy to show us their best side and pose for the camera, as if to say ‘I’m ready for my close up!’ Stars of the deep to be sure.
An amazing experience that should not be missed, if you’re looking for somewhere to go diving this weekend definitely look into the Jew Shoal Dives on offer in Noosa.