Julian Rocks, it’s a tiny, rocky pyramid that breaks up the view out to sea from Byron Bay. Every surfer’s contemplated paddling out there at some time or other, but it’s just that bit too far, mythically out of reach.
I knew the diving was good and I was determined to do a trip before I left Byron and so yesterday, when I rose early to see the ocean as still as a lake, I knew it was now or never. I went straight to the Byron Bay Dive Centre, I called around to all those who worked nights and before lunchtime we had a posse who were frothing to don flippers and dive in.
We were up at dawn the next day and, as was forecast, the weather was perfect. A little overcast but that would make the visibility even better. Our guide was just as excited; he reckoned he hadn’t seen conditions this good for 6 months.
Armed with wetsuits and flippers and goggles we piled into the troopy and headed to The Pass with the boat in tow.
It was bizarre to see the beach so calm, only a week ago this spot had been teeming with surfers fighting for the waves that were pounding the sandbank. Today there was barely a ripple. Our driver was stoked at how easy it was to launch the boat. We piled in and gunned it for Julian Rocks.
I’d looked out at the island so many times and now, to see it up close, was a little underwhelming. It was small, with no vegetation and just a few birds. But then we looked down into the water and it was a different story, it was crystal clear and a welcoming 23 degrees. Our guide rated conditions at ten out ten and visibility at 20 metres, we couldn’t get our gear on quick enough.
(Alas we didn’t have a camera we could take into the water with us.)
Russ and I were the first into the water and the first thing we saw were a pair of Leopard Sharks cruising slowly down below.
There were giant blue gropers that pursed their big blue lips as we swam by. Heaps of turtles and some solid sized Snapper that were looking relaxed, they were safely within the marine park here.
Further from the island there was a shallow reef that had a current flowing over it, there were manta rays flapping their huge wings in slow motion, mouths open sucking in little fish and plankton.
It exceeded all my expectations. There were swarms of little reef fish of all different colours, there were trenches to dive down deep into and all the time we had our guide in the boat ready to boost over and pick us up from down current and drop us off back at the island.
But soon enough we had to head back to land. We piled into the boat and everyone was gushing about what they’d seen. We were all smiling as we sped back over the waves.
Once back on land the only thing to do was find somewhere for coffee and breakfast, life in Byron goes on.