- By Michael Abbott
We had the privilege of diving on the Navy Pier when recently in Exmouth. There is only one operator in town licensed to dive the pier that being Dive Ningaloo (DN). They are highly recommended as being very professional, safety conscience and have friendly and helpful staff. A special mention to Chloe and Kristen. Unlike the other operator in town, they did contact us to let us know if the dive that day was cancelled due to weather. Much better than sitting in the rain waiting for a bus from the other operator that never arrived. On this day Dive Ningaloo picked us up from our accommodation and after a short stop at the shop to connect the trailer and check everyone had all gear, we headed on the 20-minute drive through the desert north to the pier.
There is a requirement for a photo ID, usual rules and expected paperwork to enter an active Australian Naval Base. We also had a talk and a video on the way on the history of the base which was started by the USA in WW11 as a submarine communication centre which was very interesting.
The bus and trailer drives to the end of the pier and parks next to the steps leading to the dive platform. Very convenient. On arrival we had a slight problem due to the blood moon due that night in that the tide was still running hard. Think Swansea Bridge tidal run. The Pier is located on the bay side of the Exmouth peninsula, and can only be done at slack tide so visibility is not expected to be fantastic. We had 3 to 4 meters. Finally, the tide slowed, and we walked down the steps to the platform which today was a good 3 meters above the water line. Final safety brief and we stepped out into thin air.
I would rate this shore dive site up there with Swansea Bridge with large columns and cross members supporting the infrastructure above providing shelter for masses of smaller fish which in turn attracts predatory fishes. Maximum depth was 12.2 meters. The difference is the water temperature at 24 degrees and the latitude supports even more tropical species. Benthic life is not prolific in regard to number of species, and the bottom has a fair amount of debris from years of use which supports some benthic and provides hiding spots for small cryptic species.
We spent 48 very enjoyable minutes before the tide turned and caution had us return to the steps at the dive deck. On the dive we saw 2 female grey nurse sharks (1.6 and 1.2 m respectively), lots of groper around the 1-meter mark which seemed to like to sit in the higher corners of the structure where current was less, and bait fish were abundant. There were lots of big emperor (mostly spangled), trevally and giant sweetlips hunting the glass fish and assorted small baitfish.
We also saw a banded wobbegong hiding under the debris and a turtle on the surface. Tropical species included lots of angelfish, a puffer, a few butterflyfish, bannerfish, lionfish, Moorish idols and a parrotfish. Off the pier the water was green. Under the pier the dive was dark and gloomy, so fish did get up close and personal as I feel they saw us about the same time we saw them. The torch came in handy. Much of the dive was spent halfway up the structure enclosed in schools of different baitfish waiting to see what came through for a feed. Overall, a very good dive. If you have done Swansea Bridge you will be familiar with this type of diving.
Regards Michael Abbott