Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - The Pinnacle
The Mid North Coast of NSW has some great locations for holidaying, not the least of which are the twin towns of Forster/Tuncurry. Located four to five hours drive from Sydney, the twin towns sit at the mouth of Wallis Lake, most recently infamous for a health scare with polluted oysters. However, do not let this disturb you as the waters of the lake normally look quite clean and the source of the pollution has now been located and rectifications underway.
The southern town of Forster is the better known of the two towns (there is a "famous" slogan on T-shirts that reads "Where the F... is Forster?") and it is bigger and better serviced. As well as been a celebrated holiday and retirement location, Forster has fame for its scuba diving sites. As the lead off point for diving with the grey nurses sharks at nearby Seal Rocks, the diving at Forster itself is of the highest quality.
Probably the best dive site at Forster (and in fact the best reef dive here and at Seal Rocks) is The Pinnacle. Located three or so kilometres off Cape Hawke, The Pinnacle is a section of reef that rises quite steeply from 50 metres to a minimum of 24 metres. However, your minimum depth will very much depend on where you dive and the depth normally will only reach 36 or so metres.
"Rotten" Ronnie Hunter of Fishermen's Wharf Dive Centre has installed a mooring at this location and this makes it a much better and easier place to dive as you are always right on the best spot. The GPS Reading is 32° 13' 48"S 152° 36' 02"E (using AUS66 as datum - see my GPS Page for more info). As soon as you descend to the bottom you are likely to see grey nurse sharks. On a trip here in early April 1999 I saw about 30 sharks within 10 metres from the mooring and this was just the start of the dive.
|A map of The Pinnacle|
Courtesy of Ron Hunter, Dive Forster
The reef drops off on the eastern side into a couple of gutters and then onto a boulder bottom. Around this area there are sometimes huge schools (200 plus) of giant Jewfish interspersed with a up to a hundred yellowtail kingfish. Some of these fish are also giants. At times they seem to be herding the Jewfish around. As well as these fish, there are large schools of yellowtail. On one of my dives here in 1999 I saw a small marlin swoop in and scatter the smaller fish. It then followed the mooring line up to about five metres, did a few circuits and then disappeared.
On these dives I saw a total of about 40 separate grey nurse sharks. The visibility was 30+ metres and there was also fantastistic fishlife. In January 2001 I saw at least seven sharks and hundreds of huge kingfish and jewfish.
A good dive plan here is to drop to the bottom of the mooring. If there are grey nurse sharks to be seen here, then I would suggest spending some time with them right at the start of the dive. After five minutes or so, move to the north or north-east and follow the small gutter in a rough north-west direction. After a short distance the gutter ends. From here, turn right and go around the huge rock back to the mooring area. It is a bit deeper in this area (36 metres) and the bottom composed of small and large boulders. You will probably see more sharks here. When back near the mooring, ascend a bit and go past the mooring to the top of the ridge. On the western side there are normally more sharks.
This section of the reef is one piece of rock and flatter in parts. As you swim along, look for grey nurse shark teeth on the rocky bottom. When I have dived here I have always found teeth, including more than 15 on one weekend.
Due to the depth of this dive, you will only get about 13 to 16 minutes of bottom time. If you stay on the top of the reef you will be about 19 to 20 minutes (using an Aladin computer). I normally run a couple of minutes into decompression when diving here.
As well as the grey nurse sharks and other fish mentioned, you will see firefish, red morwong, silver sweep, leatherjackets, combfish, huge bull rays, eagle rays and blue gropers. There are also some very nice nudibranches But most people never see them as they are looking for sharks.
This is an excellent dive, only for the experienced diver (due to depth and possible currents). Make sure you do it, preferably in the autumn/winter period when grey nurse sharks are prevalent.
On my trips to Forster, I have always dived with "Rotten" Ronnie Hunter of Dive Forster. Ronnie has a large comfortable cat to dive from. Ronnie also has cheap but neat accommodation in a house centrally located to all facilities. Contact "Rotten" Ronnie on 61 2 6554 7478.