There’s no better place in Byron Bay to whet your appetite for diving or snorkelling than Nguthungulli, also known as Julian Rocks.
Scuba diving is an intoxicating experience that provides a portal into an enchanting world for anyone who has tried it.
Immersion in water evokes a sense of serenity, wonder, and deep connection with nature, which explains why people become addicted to this dreamy pastime.
Not only does this famous location provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring marine life. It’s also steeped in indigenous legend, which, without getting too woo-woo, contributes to its undeniable ‘energy.’
Julian Rocks Snorkelling & Diving Tours
The tours take place within the Cape Byron Marine Park and Julian Rocks Nature Reserve, both of which are designated as sanctuary zones, which provide the highest level of protection for natural, cultural, and biodiversity features. Many subtropical habitats are found in the marine park, including protected, threatened, and endangered species such as grey nurse sharks and loggerhead turtles.
Over 1000 marine species call Julian Rocks home, including sea turtles, humpback whales, dolphins, rays, sharks, marine invertebrates, corals, over 500 different fish species, and an endless list of diverse marine life. There are six main dive sites surrounding the rocks, ranging in depth from 6m to 24m, providing an impressive experience for divers of all levels.
The Cod Hole
A spectacular underwater swim-through reaching depths of 18m, about 30m from Julian Rocks’ northeastern tip. This area is popular with grey nurse sharks during the colder months and is considered the best spot to see large Pelagic fish (June to November).
With shallow conditions (6-12m), this site is ideal for beginners and is located on the sheltered western side of Julian Rocks. The Nursery, which houses a diverse array of marine life, also houses the anchor and chain from the Volunteer sailing ship, which was wrecked off Tallow Beach in 1864.
This dive site is extremely popular with a variety of turtle species, including green, hawksbill, and loggerheads, at depths ranging from 9 to 15 metres. You’ll also be diving with eagle rays and, if you’re lucky, massive manta rays, which frequent this area.
The Cray Cave
This swim-through, which can reach depths of 25m, is much narrower than the Cod Hole.
Grey nurse sharks, cod, loggerhead turtles, and bullrays frequent it at the exposed south-east end of Julian Rocks.
This site is suitable for most diving levels and reaches up to 15m depth due to its large scattered bombies and unique crevice. This site offers year-round diving with a variety of large and small critters.
Crevices are frequently inhabited by schooling bullseye fish, large wobbegong sharks, and marine invertebrates. Grey nurse sharks frequently cruise around this site during the winter.
A trench runs the length of Julian Rocks and is home to turtles, wobbegongs, nursery sharks, and a variety of other species. The depth ranges between 12 and 18 metres.
The Indigenous History of Nguthungulli
Australia’s indigenous culture is one of the oldest on the planet.
The Aboriginal belief in the Dreamtime, which includes creation stories and describes the intertwining of land and ancestral spirits, is probably familiar to most people (to some extent).
Julian Rocks, with its two distinct islands that appear heart-shaped when viewed from the right angle, has an intriguing story to tell. Without further ado, let us get started (pun intended)!
Nguthungulli, which means “Father of the World,” is the Aboriginal name for these two islands. He played an important role in the Dreamtime stories as the creator of land, water, animals, and plants.
The Nguthungulli rocks were formed by a jealous husband who threw a spear at a canoe carrying his wife and her lover, according to Bundjalung folklore. The canoe disintegrated and partially sank, leaving only the prow and stern visible above water.
Julian Rocks was formed from these two ends, and it is said that the eponymous Nguthungulli lives in one of the islands’ caves.
Tour Operators to get you there
While Byron Bay is synonymous with hot, sticky summers spent lazing on the beach, it is also an excellent winter destination. During the day, enjoy the clear blue skies and sun, and at night, snuggle up with a doona.
If you want to visit Julian Rocks, you’ll be happy to know that diving is spectacular all year.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned diver, you won’t have to look far to find an experienced local operator offering daily snorkelling or diving excursions. Many depart from The Pass, where dive boats can usually be seen launching depending on the weather.
Blue Bay Divers offers a selection of both popular and off-the-beaten-path dive locations. In between dives, munch on some homemade goodies. This firm is the only one in town that offers double dive trips, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore Julian Rocks’ numerous wonders and mix with your fellow divers!
Sundive is another well-known operator that has been training divers since 1988. Sundive, Byron Bay’s only Padi 5-star instructor development centre, maintains the diving experience private by limiting each guide to six dives or less.
Byron Bay Dive Centre is a trusted tour provider that has been around a long time and the town’s original dive centre. The centre provides refresher courses and is the only diving facility in Byron that issues PADI and SSI diving certificates. You may also learn how to free dive to depths of 20 metres if you want to get your adrenaline pumping.