"Shiprock is a fantastic dive with prolific fishlife at most times"
Tumbledowns Drift (South)
Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Tumbledowns Drift
One of the type of dives that we divers in Sydney do not do all that often are drift dives. In the open ocean, there are not many sites that are really suited to drift diving as Sydney tends to normally have seas that are not calm enough to enable divers to be easily followed. However, during Winter the westerly winds tend to make the waters off the coast flat and very smooth. This makes it quite easy to follow the bubbles of divers underwater. Despite this, I do not know of any commercial dive operators who offer drift dives.
Since October 1993 we have done dozens of drift dives off different parts of the Sydney coastline. Since we are using our own boat, we can choose where and when to do drift dives. The primary thing that dictates whether we do a drift dive is the sea conditions but not current/tides as we normally just do a one-way swim. Since 1993 we have dived virtually all the coastline from Port Hacking south to Wattamolla (as well as most of the coast from Maroubra to Botany Bay). One of these drift dives is Tumbledowns Drift.
The starting point for this dive is just south of Barrens Hut. After leaving Port Hacking in your boat, turn right and travel the two kilometres or so until you are immediately opposite the southern end of the township of Bundeena. GPS marks of 34° 05' 29"S 151° 10' 23"E will put you in the vicinity of Barrens Hut dive site (note that all my GPS Readings are using AUS66 - if you use any other datum, you will need to convert the reading - see my GPS Page for more details). From here head south-west and you will notice that the reef is 15 to 17 metres deep. After perhaps 50 metres the depth drops to about 23 to 24 metres. This is the starting point for the dive.
Of course, if you are using your own boat you will need to leave a driver on board. We normally split into two groups and do the dive "twice". The wall that you have gone over started south of Barrens Hut Cave where it turned west and the wall runs almost exactly east-west. Once on the bottom, follow the wall to the west for about 75 to 100 metres. In this area on 31 March 2004 we had a four minute encounter with a sunfish. This fish was not a very large specimen, perhaps 1.8 metres high. See the photos following.
The sunfish seen at this site
Another shot of the sunfish
The depth comes up to 21 metres just about when the reef turns south. The wall disappears and is replaced by a series of boulders along the sand edge. Here and there you will see some sea dragons as well as various stingrays. I have also seen eagle rays and fiddler rays (I saw 11 on one dive) in this area. After you have gone another 100 or 150 metres, go up the reef a little. There are some walls here and the depth is about 15 to 18 metres. Continue south for a while and examine some of the cracks and canyons as well as overhangs and swim-throughs. The fishlife here is sometimes prolific. Fish like ladder-finned pomfrets, silver sweep, seapike, yellowtail and one-spot pullers are here in large numbers. In the cracks and canyons in Winter and Spring you can see 50 or more Port Jackson sharks.
If the surge is not too bad, go shallower again and you can spend a lot of time in the 5 to 10 metre range. More canyons, cracks and swim-throughs are found here. You will be near The Gullies by this time.
Eventually, once you are ready to finish your dive, swim out at five metres so that your boat can collect you. A very good dive site.