Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Jackos Cave
I have dived many excellent dive locations throughout the South and North Pacific. Some of the best have been temperate water dives in New South Wales and New Zealand. The Poor Knights in NZ, Fish Rock Cave in Northern NSW, Stony Creek in Jervis Bay and Birrell Rocks at Ulladulla are just some of the fantastic dive sites I have had the pleasure of diving. This article is about yet one more site that rates with the above in terms of quality.
Over the Australia Day weekend in 1998, I travelled to Eden on the Far South Coast of New South Wales for the tenth time since 1988. All of these trips have primarily been for diving, although I have spent time bushwalking, horse-riding (why anyone would do this for fun I cannot imagine) or just plain relaxing.
Unfortunately, many of the these trips have ended up with no or little diving as Eden has been a bit of a hex for me. However, on this latest trip I had possibly the best weather and diving of all my trips. Not only was I able to dive the two tugs ( Tasman Hauler and Henry Bolte) twice each, I also got the chance to dive a spot about which I had heard great reports.
To the immediate south of the resting place of the two tugs, Leatherjacket Point juts out a little bit from the coastline. Just a few metres off the point there is a bombora that comes up from more than 20 metres to less than 4 metres. As such, this is a spot that can only be dived in very calm seas. You can anchor at 37° 07' 08"S 149° 58' 16"E (using AUS66 as datum - see my GPS page for details). On Australia Day the westerly wind was blowing quite strong and the seas were, as strange as it may seem, millpond. The boat trip down to this dive location took less than 10 minutes and almost as soon as we anchored I was in the water and on my way down to Jacko's Cave.
If you are correctly anchored, as you descend you will see a vertical wall that drops from 6 metres down to 17 metres or so. This wall runs in a north-south direction before turning to the east and then back to the south. At the corner where the wall first changes direction, there is what appears to be at first a large overhang. In front of the overhang there are some very large boulders. The overhang is, in fact, a cave that is quite amazing.
On entering the cave, it opens up into a huge cavern that can easily accommodate a a couple of large boats. The cave is not all that high, but it is very wide. At the front of the cave there are some small overhangs on either side. Under these you will see cuttlefish and eastern blue devilfish (including a very small juvenile one - extremely cute). On the sand and on the rocks on the side there are dozens of he rmit crabs. These are the most visible hermit crabs I have ever seen, easily photographed and videoed.
The cave extends back from here and while quite wide (say four metres), the height gradually gets less and less until it is only one or one and a half metres. The cave goes like this for 20 metres before opening up into a larger cavern. Here the cave is wider (six metres) and higher (two to two and a half metres). All the way along this section of the cave it is very low, only a metre or less. Despite this, the cave is very wide, at least four metres. It is very dark for another 10 metres or so until eventually you can see the outside of the cave of the other end of the cave. It is a difficult to make your way along this section and it is a bit easier to swim on your side and the left side of the cave appears to be a bit bigger. If you are of the "King Curtis" size (1960s/70s children will know what I mean), do not even think about it.
In addition, if you are even a bit claustrophobic or do not like the dark, then keep away from the low sections of the cave. A better bet for you would be to stay in the larger front section where there is some natural light. This is a far more difficult cave to dive the complete length, much harder than Fish Rock Cave on the Mid-North Coast of NSW.
If you go throught the cave, once you exit the cave have a look back at the entrance. You will notice that if you saw it from this side it is unlikely that you would even consider entering it due to the very low height of the cave. Hang around the front of the cave for a while as this is very interesting. There are some very beautiful sponges, sea squirts, gorgonias and other fixed marine life in this area. There is also some nice fishlife, including leatherjackets of a number of species, as well as a huge ray resident. There is a small wall that leads away from this entrance to the cave in either direction. Explore here for a few minutes before going up over the wall and following the cave (you can see the bubbles oozing through the porous rock) back to the main entrance.
Once you arrive back at the entrance (or nearby), follow the wall to the right. It is a very shear wall at first before it breaks up into a more gently sloping wall with a lot of jumbled rocks. These rocks and the wall are an absolute delight. They are covered in brilliant sponges, sea squirts, gorgonias, lace coral (at leas that is what I think it is, it is a species I do not recall having seen anyway else) and other colourful life. The rocks and walls are covered totally with the brilliant colours. With the very good visibility normally found at this site, you can get some excellent photographs and video with the dramatic wall making a special feature.
Among the life there is some excellent examples of nudibranches, many octopus and the occasional cuttlefish. As you approach the cave there are some huge boulders and the life here is also very good. Outside the cave (and in the mouth) there is a lot of fishlife, with some excellent leatherjackets (six-spined and black reef) swimming around.
If you have any time left, follow the wall to the north for a bit before ascending onto the top of the reef for your safety stop.
The depth on this dive ranges from 4 metres on top of the reef, 10 to 15 along the tunnel part of the cave, 17 to 18 at the mouth and a maximum of 22 metres on the sand to the east of the cave.
This is an excellent dive, one of the best reef dives I have done anywhere. The visibility is normally quite good (20 metres plus) and the water temperature quite comfortable in summer and autumn and a bit cooler in winter and spring. You will need quite calm seas to be able to dive here but hopefully you will get that on your trip to Eden. I have since dived here again in April 2001 and again had an excellent dive.
The only way to dive this location (unless you have your own boat) is by Merimbula Divers Lodge who can provide accommodation as well as boat services. I can really recommend their attention to all your needs.