One of the threatened species of Eastern Blue Groper that calls Cabbage Tree Bay its home. Image courtesy of @petemcgeephotography

Snorkelling and diving Sydney

The aquatic reserve at Cabbage Tree Bay in Manly is spectacular all year round…But autumn is my favourite season to snorkel as the water is crystal clear, fish are everywhere, and the water temperature is mild.

Since discovering Cabbage Tree Bay only about a year ago, it is now my absolute favourite place to swim and/or snorkel. And with water temperatures in the low 20s over autumn, there really is no better time to dive in, especially if you have an adversity to cold water, like me.

Last Sunday, the sun was shining, wind direction was from the south (so the bay was protected), and I knew from the dip the day before at North Curl Curl that the water was warm. So I grabbed wetsuits and snorkelling gear and headed for Manly, family in tow.

And what a spectacular display the marine park put on for us.

Crystal clear waters

snorkelling diving sydney. Me at Cabbage Tree Bay.For starters, visibility was immaculate. The water was so clear and the sun shone through from above, illuminating the sea floor.

This surprised me as only a couple of weeks, on a swim from Manly to Shelly, the visibility was very poor. But that’s what happens when a nor-easterly is blowing and a North Queensland cyclone has spread its tendrils and is churning up the water to the south.

Having launched ourselves off the rocks at Fairy Bower, my 12-year-old daughter and I were in the water exploring, leaving the boys to faff about on shore putting on wetsuits. To our absolute pleasure, there were fish everywhere!

Eastern Blue Groper

An all time favourite of mine, and a few other people too, is the threatened species the Eastern Blue Groper. Sometimes I’ve swum here and not seen one, but this time there were stacks, well, I counted nine.

Compared to the blue groper I used to see when I scuba dived in Gordon’s Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs many many years ago (which was bigger than me), these guys were small. But still the giants of Cabbage Tree Bay.

You can float over the happy chappies and follow them around while they feed without disturbing them. And with the water depth ranging from about 30cm in places to several metres, you can get up pretty close.

There were thousands of other fish, too. In fact, over 160 species of fish are home to Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

Iconic species

Other marvellous marine creatures you may see are: the colourful Elegant Wrasse, whose name suits her immensely, the black rockcod, dusky whalers, sea dragons, cuttlefish and even green turtles. I must admit, I’ve not seen the last three on this list although I have heard other swimmers and snorkellers say they have. And divers always seem to capture cuttlefish with their GoPros.

However, there are schools and schools of other fish, too. Some pale, largish fish that are camouflaged when they are near the rocks, so you sometimes almost swim into them, or visa versa. There are also stacks of little colourful fish, black and yellow striped fish, and tiny wee fish you see in the fish tank at the dentist.

I feel so fortunate to have discovered the northern beaches and this wonderful little pocket of it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. So throw on your cossie, grab a snorkel and mask and head to Manly!

Please note: Cabbage Tree Bay is a protected marine park which means you can look but you can’t take.

Blue groper image: courtesy of @petemcgeephotography

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