Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - The Wanderers
This site was one that was apparently dived many years ago by the pioneer divers of Sydney but over the years was forgotten. The site was "rediscovered" in the early 1990s when the NSW Public Works Department produced a series of seabed charts, covering the coast from Port Hacking to Gosford. These charts gave more accurate depths and composition details than the normal navigation charts and showed up the presence of a low rocky reef completely surrounded by a sandy bottom. The site is out of the normal route of most small boats and therefore seems to have missed out on being visited by divers in more recent years.
For a while after that, the main user of the site was Max Western and his (former) charter boat, Sea-tamer II. Max used the site for deep dives, his main users being instructors and students doing deep diver training but later a lot of his regular divers asked to be taken there as well. However, I do not know that anyone dives there now except us.
The Wanderers is located five kilometres off the main Cronulla/Wanda Beach on the southern side of the city. The site is about 2.5 kilometres south of Cape Baily Lighthouse at Kurnell. The reef covers a large area, approximately 250,000 square metres. As previously indicated, it is generally a low reef and most of it therefore does not show up well on depth sounders, although as I will show, a section jumps up fairly spectacularly from the sand.
|Northern Mark||North-western Mark|
It is found by using the accompanying marks. The west mark is found by lining up the right wall of the former Cronulla Workers Club on The Kingsway (not shown here and a problem here as the club has been now knocked down) with the right wall of the large tower block behind it. The northern mark is lining up the sewerage breather pipes at Potter Point with the flame at the Kurnell Oil Refinery. If the flame is not operating, it is the second stack from the right. A third guiding mark is that Cape Banks must be visible to the north and its jump-up just lining up with Cape Solander. However, you can easily find using GPS (see later).
I suggest running on 60 degrees when you leave Port Hacking until you reach The Kingsway and then running out in line till the pipes and stack line up. Then, head a little south and line up on the north mark. Head towards the pipes, watching your depth sounder. Anchor when the sounder records any rise in the bottom.
If you have a GPS, once you leave Port Hacking, head to GPS reading of 34° 03' 37"S 151° 12' 34"E (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). This should put you in water about 36 metres. Head south from here and after about 20 or so metres you will drop over a wall and the depth will be about 42 metres. Turn around and head north and anchor on the reef top.
This can be a very different dive depending upon where you anchor. The site that you should find by following the above directions is the best one at The Wanderers I have dived.
The reef here ranges from about 34 metres on the top and about 37 metres where you will anchor down to over 46 at the deepest point. After anchoring, check your location before entering the water as the flat reef does not provide a good anchor point and you may have drifted. Submerge and descend to the bottom. When you arrive, secure the anchor if necessary before swimming to the south.
After a short distance (if you are anchored on the top) you will encounter a wall that drops from 39 to 43 metres. Follow the wall to your left, exploring the overhangs and small swim-throughs. On the reef top and near the sand are numerous sea-whips. On the sea-whips live the beautiful wandering anemones, one of the most attractive animals to be found in the ocean. Looking a lot like a cross between a nudibranch and an anemone, they make an extremely interesting photograph, either as macro or wide-angle.
As well as the overhangs and swim-throughs, there are some very interesting cracks in the rocky reef bottom and deeper holes. In the deeper parts of the dive you will see very good sponge gardens and amongst them you will find the sea whips as well as numerous lace corals and the ocasional gorgonia. Other parts of the reef have a more broken up reef bottom. There are lots of huge boulders in these areas, some separated from the main reef.
In winter moderate numbers of Port Jackson sharks have been seen here and often an occasional wobbegongs. Other fish include blue gropers, bream, six-spined leatherjackets, silver sweep, kingfish, yellowtail, striped seapike, different wrasse species and red morwongs.
Visibility is normally not too bad and we have had over 20 metres. Considering its location, you should be able to get 30 plus metres quite often.
This is not a dive for the inexperienced diver or even for the experienced diver without deep diver training. It is an excellent site for doing your deep training dives (you can stay above 40 metres) and for deep divers wishing to build up their depths before attempting the deeper wrecks off Sydney or even overseas.