Diving with Sharks at Broughton Island

Diving with Sharks at Broughton Island

What’s the best things to do after getting PADI Open Water Diver certified? Jumping into the ocean with a bunch of sharks of course!

Having had our Christmas trip to Brisbane foiled by Covid enforced border closures, we managed to find a single campsite in Port Stephens and quickly made a booking. Our mates then surprised us by making the long drive down from Brisbane, showing the ultimate level of dedication to spend New Years together.

Amidst the rest of the fun, Nick and I decided to do a shark dive with Let’s Go Adventures. We’d both grown up looking at ragged-tooth sharks at the aquariums in South Africa, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever be swimming with them…voluntarily.

None the less, before I knew it, Nick and I were standing outside the dive shop, gearing up. The tanks looked a little worse for wear, and most of the zips on my BCD were broken, but none of the equipment looked unsafe. I was also given a weight belt, rather than the integrated weights I was used to. All of these were good reasons to invest in some gear of my own in the future.

We’d experienced a lot of rain over the previous few days, so we were glad to climb onto the dive boat in sunny, calm conditions. The boat trip out to Broughton Island took around an hour, during which time we got to know our fellow divers.

Our first stop was at the Looking Glass, which is likely the most well known and scenic dive site at Broughton Island. Sadly, the strong southerly swell meant that we were unable to dive the narrow channel safely. Somewhat disappointed we headed into Esmeralda Cove, where 2 campers dived into the ocean and swam ashore to spend a week on the island.

We then made our way around to the northern side of Broughton Island, hoping it would be protected from the southerly swell. Thankfully it was, and we’d soon dropped anchor at North Rock Gutters.

After a quick dive briefing, we made our giant strides off the side of the boat, and had our first look into the clear blue waters beneath us. The shadows of the sharks were immediately visible, and I knew we were in for a great dive.

We did a quick buoyancy check, and then descended down the anchor rope to the sea floor. Immediately below me was a Port Jackson shark, which held my attention while I waited for the rest of the group to join us.

With everyone now on the bottom, we gathered on a rocky ledge and stared in awe at the 15 ragged-tooth sharks (grey nurse sharks) cruising along the rock wall. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. And amazingly, I wasn’t in the least bit nervous. Despite their aggressive appearance, their calm demeanour was obvious even to the inexperienced, and I felt completely safe.

Slowly we made our way along the rock wall, enjoying the company of the sharks. Surprisingly here were very few other fish species around, and almost no coral or sponges. But that didn’t bother me in the least, we were there for the sharks after all.

Visibility was amazing, easily in the 20 meter range, making the experience all the more surreal. It was at this point that we discovered our GoPro wasn’t working (the battery was flat), but this did little to dull the experience, and maybe even elevated it, allowing us to focus more on the sharks.

The dive sight was small, so we did 2 loops of the gutter, before moving into the shallows to look for shark teeth amongst the shells on the bottom. Sadly neither of us managed to find one, although we did find a few wobbegongs, and a lot of scorpionfish.

Time flew by and, before we knew it, it was time to surface. Back on the boat we enjoyed cheese rolls, crackers, soup, and lollies. Our dive master, Charlie, kept us entertained with stories of white sharks, and discussed a few other famous shark divers.

When we dropped in for our second dive, the weather had turned, and the blue skies had been replaced with gloomy, grey clouds. The swell had also picked up, and the visibility had dropped to around 10 meters.

The sharks were still around, and this time we had a working GoPro with us. We snapped off a few photos and a little video as we followed roughly the same path as before. We predominantly saw the same things, with the welcome addition of a few kingfish (one of the species we were targeting while fishing).

An hour later we surfaced to vastly different conditions. It had started to rain, and the swell had picked up further. We secured our gear on the boat, and enjoyed a few more lollies as we headed back into Esmeralda Cove to pick up some campers.

This time the process took a lot longer as we had to inflate a small tender to bring the family of 5 aboard. This was followed by another few trips to load up all their camping gear, including a large camping fridge. I won’t lie, they didn’t look impressed after what must have been a rainy, wet week on the island.

The trip back to d’Albora Marinas was a lot rougher than the trip out, and took substantially longer. In fact, on a few occasions we were surfing the swell, with a very real risk of the boat nose diving. Thankfully our skipper did a great job navigating the rough seas, and getting us safely back to the marina.

Back at the dive shop, we had a hot outdoor shower, and then cleaned our equipment. Tazz was waiting for us in the car park, and supplied us with an iced coffee for the journey home. It had certainly been an adventure, and a day I won’t soon forget. I’d highly recommend Broughton Island to all you divers out there.