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Rapid Bay's Underwater Dragons and Soaring Eagles

Home > Adelaide > Photography | Outdoor | Nature | Environment | Animals and Wildlife
by Barry Silkstone (subscribe)
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. Visit my blog naturallysouthaustralia.com
Published August 2nd 2016
Rapid's dragons, eagles and Zebras
There is a mixed group of striped fish congregating around the jetty piles. The larger ones are zebra fish and the smaller species, with their rounded bodies and delicate little mouths, are called moonlighters. Occasionally they leave the shelter of the massive wooden poles and venture down to the rocky bottom and forage amongst growths of seagrass, sponges and algae.

South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, zebra fish
Zebra and moonlighters on rocky substrate


They are just two of the dozens of fish species that can be frequently encountered around Rapid Bay's two jetties. The old dilapidated jetty was once part of the limestone mining process that operated here from 1942 to 1991. The new jetty has been constructed for recreational fishers and divers and one of our most fascinating marine creatures, the leafy seadragon, is commonly encountered here in quite shallow water.

South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, jetty
The old jetty and headland


Back on shore, I pack up my snorkelling gear and change cameras. There is a large flock of terns intermingled with a few common silver gulls, resting on the boulder strewn foreshore. For a few minutes I try taking some close up shots to demonstrate interesting aspects of their behaviour but the birds are very watchful and unusually restless. I take one step too far and all my images show are terns in flight.

South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, terns
Terns taking off after one step too many


Sometimes I have observed sealions further out to sea in the bay. With that in mind, I venture along the new jetty towards some anglers jigging for squid near the end. They have a few in their bucket and several Pacific gulls are sitting on the rail close by, eyeing the catch with serious intent. Suddenly, like the terns, they too become jittery and I glance around just in time to see a white bellied sea eagle bank steeply as it makes a pass over the jetty. I watch the elegant raptor for a few minutes and follow it with the telephoto as it flies low across the nearby cliff top.

South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, white bellied sea eagle
White bellied sea eagle

The jetty is just a short walk from the caravan and camping ground. A small creek empties into the bay near the park entrance and tall pine trees dominate the foreshore. Both attract a variety of bird species. Smaller birds such as warblers, wagtails and honeyeaters forage amongst the thick reeds and there are often corellas munching cones high in the pine trees.

South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, corella
Corellas feeding in pine trees


After a morning dive and some time spent photographing shore birds it is time to head back to the city with a traditional stop for lunch at Leonards Mill, near Second Valley, about fifteen minutes away. The climb from Rapid Bay back to the main road is steep and there are some lovely old colonial farm buildings to see on the way. One in particular grabs my attention. The old homestead is dilapidated, with crumbling stone walls, a rusting iron roof and tree roots invading its foundations. Nearby, a pair of grey kangaroos is feeding in the long grass and as I stop to photograph them I startle a group of masked lapwings.

South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, grey kangaroo
South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, grey kangaroo


South Australian wildlife, South Australian tourism, Wildlife photography Wildlife stories, Underwater photography, Fleurieu Peninsula, Rapid Bay, masked lapwing
Masked lapwings


As I drive away from Rapid's wildlife, jetties, mine site and old buildings I reflect on the role this secluded region of the Fleurieu played in our early history. Adelaide's acclaimed founder and surveyor Colonel William Light made his first South Australian landfall here in September 1836 naming the bay after his ship. For the original inhabitants of this area, the Kuarna people, Rapid Bay has even more significance. The creation ancestor Tjilbrke placed his nephew's body in the prominent cave on the northern headland and the tears he shed on his journey created the little streams that flow into the sea along the peninsula.

Wildlife, history, fishing, diving and landscape.....Rapid Bay has a little of something for everyone who enjoys the outdoors.
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Why? Thrilling natural scenery and interesting historical context
When: All year
Where: Rapid Bay about one and a half hours drive south of Adelaide
Your Comment
Lovely action photos, Barry!
by Elaine (score: 3|5525) 809 days ago
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