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MIGALOO REEF – A NEW GOLD COAST DIVE SITE

By Nigel Marsh

 

The Gold Coast is a very popular holiday destination with its theme parks, great beaches, resorts and night clubs. But the area also has some brilliant dive sites, with the most popular being the magic shore diving at The Seaway. However, offshore from the Gold Coast’s famous beaches are also rocky reefs and shipwrecks that are home to a great variety of subtropical species.

 

Over the last thirty years I have been fortunate to explore all the popular rocky reefs and shipwrecks off the Gold Coast, so I was quite surprised when Gold Coast Dive Adventures announced they had found a new reef off Main Beach last year. They named the new site Migaloo Reef, after the famous white humpback whale seen off the Gold Coast each winter during the whale migration. Keen to dive this new dive site I joined Gold Coast Dive Adventures in February on their comfortable inflatable dive boat Blue Manta.

 

Departing from Runaway Bay Marina it didn’t take long before we were anchored at Migaloo Reef, as the site is only minutes from the Seaway entrance. With calm blue water I could almost see the reef below, making me wonder how everyone had missed this site in the past.

 

Once in the water I could see why Migaloo Reef was easily missed, as the rocky reef only rises out of the sand one to two metres, in depths between 16m and 20m, and is only 200m long by 150m wide. The reef looked lovely in the 20m visibility, the first rocky outcrop I explored decorated with sponges, soft corals, ascidians and algae. I quickly spotted feather stars, sea stars, nudibranchs, hawkfish, scorpionfish, boxfish and moray eels. These were great subjects for a macro lens, but with a wide angle lens I was looking for larger subjects.

 

We headed north and were soon surrounded by schools of snapper, yellowtail, stripeys and bullseyes. Among the schooling fish were also angelfish, butterflyfish, wrasse, morwongs, pufferfish, parrotfish, rock cods and surgeonfish. It was simply wonderful watching all these fish milling around the rocky reef.

 

Slipping over the next rock I found a large spotted wobbegong resting on the bottom, the first of many on this pretty reef. On the next rocky outcrop was a gutter filled with baitfish. Attempting to feed on this mass of small fish were several hunting lionfish.

 

By the time we reached the northern end of the reef I had also seen crayfish, a school of old wives, several gropers and a dozen more spotted wobbegongs. I had a quick look over the sand hoping to see a stingray, but all I saw were flatheads and half a common stingaree. This small ray had been bitten in half by a passing shark. Not wanting it to go to waste, I dropped the remains in front of a spotted wobbegong and it quickly gobbled down the free meal.

 

Exploring more of the rocky reef we found a few ledges and small caves, home to crayfish, soapfish, cardinalfish, banded boxer shrimps, green morays, ornate wobbegongs and a coral cod. In one cave was a large spotted wobbegong surrounded by dozens of fortesques. These small scorpionfish are only seen at a few dive sites off the Gold Coast, so I was very surprised by the numbers on this reef.

 

After fifty minutes our bottom time was up and we had only explored half of this pretty rocky reef. I had a wonderful dive, and it was great to explore a new dive site on the Gold Coast. I can’t wait to explore more of Migaloo Reef as I heard that other divers have seen stingrays, eagle rays, turtles and even dolphins at this pretty little reef.

 

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