Category: Shore dives | Depth: to 20 m | Rating: Easy to medium; three dives of varying depth and complexity | Access: Bass Point Tourist Rd, Shellharbour | Special equipment: Underwater camera and strobes
Bass Point is located just south of Shellharbour, NSW. The 72ha Reserve at Bass Point has some sanctuary zone and a range of underwater features, and three quite different shore dives. The reserve is accessed via Bass Point Tourist Road, which can be found after passing through Shellharbour village.
One of the best places to dive or snorkel is Bushrangers Bay (-34.597151, 150.899772), at the end of the tourist road. It’s a fully-protected sanctuary zone, with a range of habitats including kelp beds and urchin barrens. The bay is sheltered from all but the largest southerly or easterly swells, although visibility can vary depending on the swell outside. Marine life in the bay includes Grey Nurse sharks, which have been seen there consistently in recent months, large schools of Chromis and other Damselfish, and a range of Nudibranch species.
Heading back towards Shellharbour you pass the carpark to The Gutter. The dive site is accessed by walking down to the water’s edge (-34.592893, 150.898923). The Gutter cuts several metres up the shoreline and is the entry and exit point for the dive. It continues down to a deep amphitheatre underwater, which is home to protected Weedy Seadragons, Pygmy Pipehorses and Blue Devilfish. The site is also a great place to see tropical vagrants, Sea Fans and the occasional Boarfish. Check entry conditions before attempting this dive, though, as the swell can come around the point and make exiting dangerous.
The third and sometimes most dramatic dive at Bass Point is the Gravel Loader. You enter the water at the boat ramp (-34.593819, 150.886251) and surface swim across to the disused loader. Under the man-made structure you can find a variety of fishes and invertebrates, and the highlight is the population of Grey Nurse sharks, which come and go from the end of the loader. Diver behaviour is important here – the best way to watch the sharks is to hover just off the sandy bottom and make no sudden moves. Wait for the sharks to come to you, and they will often pass by quite closely. Turn off video lights too, and keep flash to a minimum, to see the most of these beautiful creatures.
When diving these sites, take the usual precautions – check weather forecasts, only dive when conditions are suitable, stay with your buddy and dive well within your limits. You can exceed non-deco limits at The Gutter due to the depth (20 m), so keep a close eye on your dive computer. There’s plenty to photograph at Bass Point, so an underwater camera with strobes is highly recommended.