Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Bait Reef
On the North Coast of NSW, the small town of South West Rocks is well known for its diving, especially Fish Rock Cave (Deep and Shallow). One unfortunate problem with Fish Rock Cave is that it is very susceptible to southerly winds and seas. On days when the southerly winds are blowing hard, the only diving is generally at Green Island and Bait Reef.
When this occurs, the first dive is done at Green Island and the second dive at Bait Reef. Located less than 100 metres off the historic Trail Bay Gaol, Bait Reef is a very small reef about 25 metres wide and 40 metres long. The maximum depth is only just over nine metres. It takes about 15 easy minutes to to swim right around the reef which is very low on most sides but about a metre or so high on the south-western and western sides.
Despite the small size, there is a fair bit of fishlife on the reef. I saw two large eastern shovelnosed rays lying on the sand on New Years Day 1997 which were well camouflaged. There were a few bream, black reef leatherjackets and bulleyes on the reef edge. After I returned to my starting point, I then explored the centre of the reef which rises up to about four metres. The centre consists of a series of gullies and ridges running north/south with a number of small holes. These are extremely interesting, with heaps of moray and mosaic eels living in the cracks.
You can also do from the shore, drive to the Gaol and go around through the camping area to the back of the gaol. Park near the north-western corner and walk towards the water. You will see a very large rock that slopes down into the water. This is almost exactly in line with the western end of the gaol. Straight out from here you should be able to see the outline of the reef. Enter and exit via the sloping reef and swim on a bearing that you have taken and after less than five minutes you should meet the reef. Return back on the opposite bearing.
Although this site is not fantastic, it is not too bad, especially for newer divers. Visibility is normally quite good when the seas are from the south.
I can recommend the services of South West Rock Dive Centre. They can be contacted on (02) 6566 6474, fax (02) 6466 6959 or look at their web site.