Since I started diving over 20 years ago, there are some dive sites that have simply amazed me. Some of these are shore dives, in locations that you would not even think could be half as good as they actually are. A few divers look down on divers who do shore dives, thinking that because they only do boat dives, they have better dives than shore divers. This is far from the truth.
|A satellite photo of the Gold Coast Seaway|
Entry point is as far as you care to walk along the breakwater. The exit point is anywhere to the left of the cars parked right on water's edge
Some of the best dives I have ever done have been shore dives. Of course, overseas there are the wrecks of the SS President Coolidge in Vanuatu, Bonegi One, Bonegi Two and the Runinui Wrecks in the Solomon Islands and Million Dollar Point also in Vanuatu. Closed to home in Australia, Bare Island in Sydney is constantly getting better, Swansea Bridge on the NSW Central Coast is brilliant for fishlife and the Rapid Bay Jetty has leafy and common sea dragons.
In mid-2006 I read an article in DIVE Log about a dive location at the Gold Coast in Queensland. Even though I have been a regular visitor to this area for the past few years visiting my future mother-in-law, it had not occurred to me that there was a quality dive location within a few minutes of the centre of the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise.
In mid-December 2006, Kelly and I travelled to the Gold Coast again to visit her Mum. We decided that we would do a couple of dives and I spoke to Ian Banks at Dive The Gold Coast. He graciously loaned us a tank and weights so we could do this dive and even showed us the spots and pointed out some features when we ran into him underwater.
The Gold Coast Seaway is located at the northern end of The Spit and is the main opening between the Broadwater and the open ocean. It is maybe 300 metres wide and extends for about 700 metres or so. The southern and northern sides are composed of rocks which form an artifical reef. The open has been extended out a bit into the ocean to create a breakwater. As you can see from the above satellite photograph, the breakwaters give great protection to the Seaway from most swells.
The rocks that form the sides of the Seaway go down to about five to seven metres and it is then sand. This then slopes deeper in some parts. There are two pipes that exit the wall on the southern side. One is the sand by-pass pipe. This transfers sand from the ocean pier you can see south of the breakwater across the Seaway to the ocean beach north of the northern breakwater. This is to counteract the barrier created by the breakwater that over the years before the sand pumping structure was installed caused the beach south of the breakwater to build up with sand and the one north to diminish.
|A photo of the dive entry point |
|A photo of a possible exit point |
The sand pipe starts below the tree at right
The other pipe is the sewage treatment outfall for the Gold Coast. More about this later.
To find this location, head to Surfers Paradise and from the main north-south road, take the road that leads to Sea World. This is well signposted and it also has a sign pointing to The Spit. Go along the waterfront past the first marina, take the left access from the roundabout and head north past Sea World and Sea World Resort. A short distance past this you will come to a large carpark on your right and then the road comes to a T-intersection. Immediately to your right and ahead are a couple of small carparks. Park your car as close as you can to the east of the closest carpark to the water.
This dive is done on an incoming tide. It is very important that you follow this for a number of reasons. First, the current gets very strong here and you do not want to do on an outgoing tide as you may get swept out to sea if you go too far. Second, the sewage pipe discharges treated effluent after high tide (see later). Make sure that you enter the water as close as you can to about an hour before high tide (you can do earlier but the visibility would not be as good). Certainly, do not start the dive less than an hour before high and never after the high.
Walk out along the breakwater as indicated in the satellite photo. Pick a suitable spot to clamber down the rocks to the water's edge. Wait till your buddy is ready as if you get in too eraly, you could get separated before you even start the dive. Get in the water together and drop to the bottom.
|Part of a huge school of big eye trevally under the sand pipe||A photo of the sand pipe|
On the bottom you will be at about five to seven metres. There will undoubtably be a current coming towards you and it may be fairly strong. Head out a bit from the reef edge over the sand to a depth of about 14 metres. Stay at this depth if possible.
There should be fish in this area, sometimes very large schools. After a few hundred metres you should come to an outcrop of "coffee" rock. This is a brown smooth (and soft) rock that is also in small bits near the pipe. This spot is home to numbers of eagle rays. Also seen here are jewfish. This is about 40 to 50 metres from the main sand pipe. From here keep an eye out for the pipe.
Once you see the pipe you will see that at first it looks like a huge prop-shaft coming out of the back of a ship, but as you get closer you will see that it disappears off to your left and right. The pipe is supported every 10 metres or so by a large pylon. In some spots the pipe is about three to four metres off the sand but it can get as close as 0.5 metre (between the sand and the bottom of the pipe). To keep out of the current, you can either keep on the sand itself or up next to the pipe. However, when alongside the pipe, you will find that the current is less, but that you may get buffeted from above and/or below as the current flows around the pipe. Try to stay in this area if you can. Swim up and down the pipe as far as possible.
Again, you should see huge numbers of fish. The main ones are big-eye trevally and bream. The trevally can stretch from the sand to above the pipe and cover an area of more than 20 metres by 10 metres. As well, you will see some large whiting on the sand and even some very large flathead.
|A photo of some sweetlips under the sand pipe||A maori cod at the South Wall Sand Pipe|
As you go along, you will see that there is a wall of sand to the east that you might have come over. At times this also gives a bit of protection, as does each of the supporting pylons. Around the pylons you will see lotws of tropical fish. These include maori cod, Gunthers butterflyfish, speckled butterflyfish, starry pufferfish and more. You will also see in the rubble under some of the pylons eels and octopus.
A couple of pylons out from the shore there is a large tree laying under the pipe. This is home to some more tropical fish and also the trevally and bream tend to congregate here as well. The depth drops a bit more from here to about 15 metres. This is the deepest you will normally get on the dive. If you venture past here it can get to 16 metres but the water can get dirtier as the incoming tide can bring the dirty water that was expelled from the waterway on the outgoing tide.
|A Gunther's butterflyfish under the sand pipe||A speckled butterflyfish near the sand pipe|
Head back along the pipe towards the shore and two pylons past the tree, head west and after about 30 metres you will see the sewage pipe. This is quite short, only extending out about 40 metres from the shore. You will see that every five metres or so there is a large supporting column. On the eastern side of the pipe you will that at every column there is a horizontal pipe that points east. These are the discharge pipes for the sewage.
The sewage is supposed to start discharging about 75 minutes after high tide but on the two days I dived here it was far earlier, less than 40 minutes after high tide. However, as you should not be doing this dive this late in a tide, you should not have a problem. If you do end up here after high tide (note that the tide may still be running in when the release starts), I would recommend staying well clear or you will cop a face full of xxxx.
|A cockatoo waspfish near the sewerage pipe|
So long as you keep upcurrent of the pipe once the discharge starts, you will be okay. From here you can go west a little and you may see lots of sand whiting. Back near the pipe in about nine metres there is a cockatoo waspfish (like a very small red Indianfish) living among the small rocks.
Again, in this area there are lots more tropical fish. If you are short of air, exit the water by climbing onto the sewerage pipe from the western side.
If you still have air and time, drift along close to the rocks and look for more tropicals. I am not sure how far you might get as I have never actually done this dive as I am describing it (but I will on my next visit). Exit by surfacing and looking for the bext spot to exit. Be wary of large boats passing as they can put up a very large wash and knock you over.
After you exit the water, you can wash the sand and salt off you using the shower next to the tree above the sand pipe.
This is a truely great dive site, well worth doing numerous times. However, it is not really for very inexperienced divers unless under close supervision by more experienced divers.
Michael and Kelly would like to thank Ian Banks of Dive the Gold Coast for the loan of tanks and weights, including air fills.