Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Bushrangers Bay
The Bass Point Reserve is one of a number of dive sites in the Shellharbour area which are regularly dived by Sydney divers. Located only 105 kilometres south of the centre of Sydney (no more than one and a half hours drive from most spots) on the southern edge of Wollongong, Shellharbour is very popular with divers, especially those from the southern and western suburbs of Sydney. The most popular dive sites are found in or off this reserve which is just to the south of Shellharbour township. The dive sites include Bushrangers Bay, The Gutter, The Arch, The Holes, The Gravel Loader and Beaky Bay as well as the remains of the ships SS Cities Service Boston, Alexander Berry and Our Own.
|A drone shot of Bushrangers Bay
One of the great things about diving at Bass Point is the fact that the reserve is an excellent place to stay for a whole day, doing two or even three dives with a barbecue or picnic lunch on the grassy lawns. No barbecues are provided so you will need to bring your own but there are picnic tables. Note that since December 2001 the council has been closing the whole Bass Point reserve (as well as some parts outside) during periods of Total Fire Ban. Ridiculous!!! (Note that I was a professional bushfire fighter for 37 years so I think I can comment on this decision).
From Sydney, you travel to Shellharbour by following the southern tollway south from Waterfall, past the Wollongong exit and Albion Park. Take the exit to the south which is signposted "Shellharbour". There is (from 2019) a totally new way and only way you can access Bass Point due to the construction of a new housing estate and marina. Follow Shellharbour Road till you see the Shellharbour Club on the left and trun hard right at the intersection. Follow this road all the way out to Bass Point
You will see the gravel loader as you approach the reserve. Just at the loader is the entrance to the reserve. Follow the dirt road for a kilometre or two until you see a parking area on your left (there are toilets here). Turn right here and in a few hundred metres you will come to another car park area. Try to park as close as you can to the start of the car park as the dive site entrance is down on your left and this will give you the shortest walk to the start of the dive.
Bushrangers Bay consists of a figure of eight shaped bay which faces east and opens on to open ocean through a small opening. The bay is perhaps 75 metres across at the widest and maybe 200 metres long. It is a steep climb down what used to be a very poor track but is now (early 2002) an excellent set of stairs to the water.
Enter the water straight in front of the steps and don your fins once in the shallow water. Drop to the bottom and follow (say) the northern side of the bay. The depth here is only 3 metres and it drops to 6 metres and then 8 metres in the middle part of the figure 8. There is a lot of kelp in this area now but when I first dived here many years ago it was quite clear. Unfortunately, divers appear to have been killing sea urchins to feed the blue gropers. Remember, this is an aquatic reserve and it is an offence to kill any species at all.
As you enter the second loop of the 8, the water drops more quickly and as you leave the bay, the depth drops to 15 metres and then about 18 metres. Once you hit the sand edge, if you have a lot of air left, follow the wall to the south and the depth comes up to 15 metres and then drops again to over 20 metres. If you are doing this for the first time, do not go past the ridge. If you are more experienced you can go further. Return back towards the bay and then head north across to the northern side. Follow this and the dept comes up to 15 metres and then 12 metres. Again, on your first go turn around here. If more experienced, go on and the depth drops to almost 18 metres and even deeper if you go on. Turn around and back track to the shallows via the opposite side of the bay to that which you have already seen. Go right into the corners, exploring a bit.
|A grey nurse shark in Bushrangers Bay - November 2021
|Another photo of the same grey nurse shark in Bushrangers Bay
Fish to be seen on this dive include bullsyes, luderick, bream, yellowtail, one-spot puller, white ear, and many species of leatherjacket. Out in the open sea there are lots of silver drummer. You also see squid, cuttlefish and small rays. Since 2018 grey nurse sharks have been seen in the bay. Originally it seemed they are there about April to June or so, although in 2021 there were quite a few there in late November as above. From at least December 2022 to the end of January 2023 they were there in large numbers. I dived there on 24 January 2023 and there were at least 30 seen. They appear to be mostly juveniles with a few females.
This is a very good dive for novice divers. Experienced divers may find it a bit too easy if you confine yourself to the bay and, at times, perhaps a bit boring, apart from the grey nurse sharks. However, as a first dive of a dive day and picnic, it is hard to beat. This dive site is protected from moderate southerly and northerly winds and seas. Also very good for snorkelling, especially to see the sharks.
If you are going to dive Bass Point, I suggest taking a picnic or BBQ lunch and resting after your first dive on the grassy area. There are toilets at The Gutter but no water so bring all you need. A great spot for a relaxed, family double dive.