I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.
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Published October 29th 2015
Star Wars on Noarlunga Reef, What a Beatiful Slug, Eat Dive
There is a brightly coloured six spined leatherjacket patrolling the thick fronds of algae attached to the edge of the reef. Every time I approach the narrow crevice that appears to be its home territory the fish turns towards me and erects its formidable spine as a warning. We play the game for a few more minutes before I swim further along the reef towards a group of sea stars that are grazing on the rocky substrate. One is climbing over the other while a third lifts an arm in what could be construed as 'come hither' or a less polite gesture.
The six spined is just one of half a dozen leatherjacket species found on the reef
I am snorkelling on the Port Noarlunga Reef, a wonderful little aquatic reserve, just a forty minute drive from Adelaide's CBD. The reef is easily accessed from a well maintained jetty that is a just a hundred metres from Port Noarlunga's town centre.
For those not so inclined to take a plunge off the end of the jetty the little township has a wide selection of restaurants, as well as antique and other niche shopping outlets. And of course, there is the sheltered white sand beach bordered by cliffs, the reef and the Onkaparinga estuary. Despite its sanctuary status the first few hundred metres of jetty is open to fishers and a selection of fish are commonly caught ranging from bream and garfish to calamari.
One of many little eateries close to the jetty and beach
I swim further south towards a break in the reef that leads into the open sea. The tide and swell push through the narrow passage and I have often seen schools of zebra fish congregating here. Today it is the diminutive that catches my eye. Only a metre below me, beautiful pink and white sea slug, called a nudibranch because of its naked gill like structures, is gliding across a bed of mussels.
From the gap I return to the jetty on the open ocean side of the reef where the water is far deeper and a whole new ecosystem operates. Everything is just that little bit larger. Kelp fish glide amongst thick forests of brown algae while schools of silver drummer and sweep ride the tidal surges.
Looking along the exposed top of the reef from the gap, at low tide
On drawing level with the jetty I clamber over the reef and make the short swim to the entry platform and ladder. Walking back to the shore along the weathered wooden planking I stop and reflect on what this jetty has meant to South Australian's over the years. I watch some locals catching squid and children swimming in the shallows while a couple of kayakers head out to sea. This surely must be one of Australia's most ideal and accessible coastal recreation areas with something for everyone be they experienced divers or a family enjoying a day at the beach.