Buoyed by this knowledge, I started the dive very enthusiastically. I had not been to Monument since my open water dive course and was keen to actually see it this time – mask on, no salt in my eyes.
We snorkelled out a little way before dropping down to about 5 metres onto a bed of sea-grass and weed. Continuing straight out from the shore, there are two drops, the first to 8 metres, the second to 12 metres or so. This marks the beginning of the reef wall and we headed off to the right with the current to gently move us along.
Almost immediately we came to the spot where Kellie had spotted a nice blue and yellow nudibranch the previous day, and pointed it out to us. Never one to miss the opportunity to photograph one of these cute creatures, I tried to get a little closer. This was a complete mistake. I ended up putting a fin into the sand and caused a cloud of particles to spoil not only my chances of taking a shot, but also everyone else’s chance to see it properly – bugger.
Almost straight away things got better though. The group had spotted a seahorse and were all grouped nearby watching – what they were missing made me and my buddy’s day – a hefty moray eel was busy trying to, and succeeded in taking a chunk out of a large and angry octopus. There was a big cartoon like scuffle, complete with whirling sandstorm effect and the odd tentacle and tail sticking out of the mallee.
I’d wish I’d got a photo off it. I had tried changing my camera to video mode instead to get the action, but failed and got neither – it was all over and done with in a few seconds.
Further on along the wall we started to get into a sponge garden. Each rock was host to numerous colourful species. Diversity tends to be a bit rare in Sydney – usually a rock will be covered in only one or two sponges. Among the sponges here and there were a few nudibranches. Quite a few of the reliable old black and white margined nudibranch, and this time a few new ones I’d not seen yet.
Also among the sponges were found a large number of sizable jellyfish floating about. They tended to ball up when you got close, so mostly we saw while spherical blobs bouncing near the bottom.
Towards the end of the dive, I spotted a big nudibranch sitting on a little tree of sponge on an otherwise completely bare rock. I managed to get an excellent close up photo of this one, without disturbing the view for my buddy. This nudibranch, which I think is a Hypselodoris bullocki (or a close relative), was vividly coloured. It had a brown to black body, edged with purple and blue. Bright red fans attached to the middle of its back with a blue base, and to top it all off, two blue and red horns.
We popped to the surface shortly after, not far from the exit point which is identified by the fishing warning sign just a bit round the point. A near perfect dive, packed with new things and I still had 110 bar left – even my air had improved. My previous buddy had gone home, so I ended up with Micheal who had just arrived. We decided to join Sam, forming a smaller group this time.
Again, easy entry for this dive. The end of the previous dive had become a bit choppy with the change of the tide and it had now headed out some, so the entry was a bit less comfortable than the hotel-like conditions of the previous dive. Still, it was a snack to get in.
The surge had stirred it up quite a bit, and visibility had dropped a far bit. The surge had gone however, and all the animals that enjoy the feeding frenzy stirring up the bottom had come out.
A small group of weedy sea dragons was busy herding a cloud of brine shrimp into a ball and where picking them off one by one – this was outstanding, all I normally see weedy ’s do is float about like corks (delightfully coloured corks). There were also pineapple and puffer fish in the general vicinity hiding among the weeds.
I had another swim through the colourful sponge gardens this time around – this time all of the anemone’s had come out to feed, adding again to the diversity of colours and shapes on rocks at Kurnell.
A small blue groper was about, and followed us for a little way, but loss interest when we stopped to look at another new nudibranch. Sam also spotted a baby moray eel poking it head out of its hiding hole – I managed to get the cutest shot of it.
I largely stopped taking photo’s at this point, the visibility just got to bad. However, there was still plenty to see. Further along this time, well past the previous exit point, we saw the odd crested horn shark, some squid and cuttlefish, and some baby old wives and a few large red morwong.
Down this end, almost to the steps, are a few good rock swim throughs. I found a large quantity of large soft sponges covering on big rock. The detail and pattern of the markings on these was fantastic.
We had been drifting for ages, and our air was down to about 120 bar. We surfaced to have a look how far we’d got around the point, and found we’d even gone past the steps. We decided to drop down and head back. We made it all the way back to the original entry point, but missed it a little. We ended up coming out over a field of sea urchins, and I think I got just about all of them stuck into me.
Apart from a little bit of first aid and a bit of painful spine extraction involving grimaces and cries and anguish, I had a spectacular days diving. This last dive was just over an hour long – the first time I’ve broken the 1 hour mark in a dive.