Byron Road Trip

By , June 13, 2011 8:43 pm

We love Byron – an essential back-packer stop over on the ‘east coast of Australia’ trip that the vast majority of young travelers take. We may be getting a little bit older now but we still love the laid back feeling, the beautiful coastline with stunning surf beaches. The hinterland is also beautiful, hilly and almost mountainous – it includes spectacular national parks. It’s a great part of Australia – even if Byron itself is perhaps not quite so laid back as it used to be, with it now being a full on tourist hub.

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The other reason we come here as often as we can (which, unfortunately, is not very often) is that there is a big rock poking out of the ocean a couple of kilometers or so off the coast. This rock is called Julian Rocks and is one of our favourite dive sites in the whole of Australia (well, out of those that we’ve dived at least!).

It was a long weekend in Australia this weekend – we had Monday off for, wait for it……… THE QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY! Yes, whilst most Poms are blissfully unaware of the queen’s birthday, Aussies put aside their talk of becoming a republic and embrace the Monarchy for all it’s worth! And who are we to complain?!

So we took a couple of days off work and drove the 10 hours to Byron on the Thursday, leaving bright and early! The weather was beautiful and sunny but, unfortunately, that was soon to change according to the forecasts. The whole of the east coast of Australia was due to get a monumental soaking – we were just hoping that the diving wouldn’t get cancelled having driven all the way up!

Nic at Coffs Harbour for lunch

Diving at Byron Bay is always fantastic – even in not-so-great conditions. And not-so-great conditions is what we found on our first day of diving on the Friday. Vis was not great being a little murky, but at least the sun was out. Water temperature was around the 20-21 degree mark which is not too bad, in fact that’s a pretty good temperature for Sydney in summer, but the air temperature was pretty low too. The whole of the east coast was cold and heavy rain was working it’s way up towards Byron. In fact the temp in Byron was certainly no more than in Sydney, 10 hours south, and Sydney was several degrees below what it should be at this time of year too!

Lion Fish - Beautiful but poisonous!

Diving in wet suits means that you’re soaking wet between dives, that combined with a fresh southerly wind on the open ocean mean that we were shivering constantly between dives! Added to this was the fact that my wetsuit is on it’s last legs and I had a hole the size of a dinner plate in the small of my back. Nic had to keep apologising to fellow divers because of the ‘builders bum’ scenario playing itself out before us. This was the last weekend diving with this wetsuit, now happily retired for spare neoprene patches if required in the future!!

Byron is just so great because of the shear diversity of marine life to be found on ‘the rock’ and this changes throughout the seasons depending on the water temperature etc. During the warmer months leopard sharks and eagle rays frequent the area. We arrived just after the transition to the ‘colder’ water and this meant the arrival of Grey Nurse Sharks which prefer this cooler water. We can see Grey Nurse Sharks around Sydney but they are the kind of large, graceful animal that you can never tire of seeing. They had arrived in numbers and were also BIG!

So we had several fantastic dives – added treats included seeing the whales migrating north whilst out on the boat. We had a couple breaching in front of the rock so the skipper gently trundled over to have a look. Then, with the engines off and drifting off the rock, we had one of the whales surface no more than 4m off the boat. And it just say there on the surface for a couple of minutes – it was fantastic!! Of course, that was the dive I didn’t have my camera on me but it really happened!! On the way back we also saw a Manta Ray on the surface! We’ve never seen on of these underwater (it is high on our list of “want to see’s”) but I guess it doesn’t really count if we see it from a boat…

The weather turned much wetter over the next couple of days but luckily the dives weren’t cancelled – all in all a fantastic weekend with great diving. We are already planning to go back in the summer, or later spring, so that we don’t shiver so much. I might even have a new wetsuit by then, sans big hole!!

Have a look at the video page for a little compilation including the grey nurse sharks!!!

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