Updated: Aug 9
The Exmouth Navy Pier is rated as one of the best land based dives and it certainly does not disappoint. Just a quick giant stride from the jetty and you’re immersed into some incredibly diverse and dense fish life right before your eyes. Suited to all levels of diver, it is definitely one site you can’t miss when traveling the coast of Western Australia.
Above: The star of the show, a huge grey nurse shark floats near by giving us some side eye glances.
The town of Exmouth is located on the coral coast of Western Australia nearby the Ningaloo reef, about 1,200km (745miles) north of Perth. This area is most famed for it’s marine megafauna interactions such as whale shark, manta ray and humpback whale swimming tours, yet it also is home to some fantastic scuba diving as well. The navy pier is located in the Exmouth Gulf which neighbours the near by Ningaloo Reef and has much to offer in terms of diving and snorkelling with an abundance of marine life. You can find over 200 species of reef fish on the navy pier alone as well as a diversity of macro critters, corals, sponges, sharks and rays.
Above: Colourful fish and a huge bluebone hide beneath the structure.
Since living on this coast for the past few years, it had been on my list to visit the Navy Pier for quite long time. When the opportunity arose for me to finally do it, my dive buddy and I booked in for a double dive at the Exmouth navy pier with the local dive shop. Having heard so much hype about this site I was feeling hopeful it would hold up to my expectations. We were driven out to the pier from Exmouth town, a short 10min trip which takes you onto the Navy Base just north of the town centre on the eastern tip of the North West Cape. The pier is 300m (0.18miles) long and is located on an active US naval base. The pier is used occasionally by Navy ships for servicing the base and can be dived when not in use. Due to being located on an active base it is not accessible to the general public but can be dived when booking through a licensed dive operator in town.
Above: Aerial view from google maps of the north west cape near Exmouth where the jetty is located.
It was a typical hot and sunny day in Exmouth and after arrival we set about gearing up our cameras and dive gear on the pier. Then it was a short walk down some steps to the lower level platform where the divers can enter the water. From the surface we could already see huge schools of fish surging around, this made us excited for what was to come! The giant stride entry was a couple of meters drop into the ocean below but you could also enter via a ladder on the side if you wished. We descended down onto the site, the towering pillars of the pier above us. Once we reached the bottom we were instantly face to face with a huge amount of marine life, the crackling sound of the reefs activity filling our ears. We looked around trying to decide which area to explore first, the beauty of it all was almost overwhelming as there was something happening each way you looked. The structure of the pier its self is a kind of T shape with 2 outer sections on the end of each arm. As we had planned two dives we decided to explore the centre of the pier and the left arm first and then the remainder of the site on the second dive. The entry point certainly was where all the action was and we spent most of our dive there. We were absolutely surrounded by schooling fish that you almost had to wave out of your way so you could see where you were going. Dense schools of jacks and snappers filled the spaces between the pillars and huge groupers glided through them. The tall and thick pillars of the pier were covered in colourful soft corals, sponges and sea fans. One of the resident giant gropers you might also meet is known affectionately as The BFG (big friendly groper) who has been living there for many years. Other large residents we encountered were white tip reef sharks resting on the sand and huge grey nurse sharks that lurked near the bottom. Hiding on the reef we also discovered wobbegong sharks, sting rays, eels, lion fish and frog fish. If you love the small macro critters this site has you covered as we also spotted many colourful nudibranchs, flat worms, shrimp and octopus. This dive was one of my favourite shore dives I have ever done and certainly delivered beyond my expectations.
Above: A wobbegong shark camouflages with the rubble under the jetty.
After chatting to the divemaster who took us out we heard all sorts of amazing stories about what kinds of marine life can be spotted from the pier year round. During the colder months they have an annual aggregation of grey nurse sharks which we were lucky enough to encounter on our dives. But also some rather large visitors occasionally pass by from July to October. During the humpback whale season there has been instances where the passing whales came so close to the pier that divers could hear them singing and enjoyed a view of the whales from above water as well. As the navy pier is situated near the mouth of the Exmouth Gulf, many larger marine animals travel through and divers have also been lucky enough to see manta rays and dugongs in the area on occasion. So do keep your eyes open as you never know what you may be able to find there.
Above: A grouper lurks beneath the jetty posing for the camera.
One of the many things that make this dive site so great is that it is suited to all level of divers. The maximum depth of the site 15m (50ft) and being a pier dive it is easy to navigate yourself around. If you’re a certified diver and feel confident you and your buddy can explore the site on your own, or there is the option to stay with the group and follow the divemaster on duty.
Visibility can vary a lot through the year and can be anywhere between 3m to 10m (9ft to 32ft) and depending on tidal movements and weather conditions. The currents in the area can be quite strong so the dive centre will only dive it during slack tide, depending on the moon phase the possibility of a double or single dive changes according to the conditions. The water temperature can vary through the year, in winter you can expect 19-24C (66F-75F) and in summer it can be as warm as 28C (82F).
Above: Nudibranchs and lion fish also seen on the jetty.
If the Exmouth navy pier is not yet on your diving bucket list then do yourself a favour and add in on now. The Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Gulf is simply teaming with life and fantastic diving opportunities from drift diving, pier diving and whale shark swims this region has to so much to offer. For any dive enthusiast or nature lover a visit to the coral coast will leave you many unforgettable memories.
Above: Top: - School jacks swarm the dive site. Bottom: - A diver poses behind a grey nurse shark.