Mention Ningaloo Reef to people and their first thought is usually ‘Whale Sharks’ but divers also love the area for a special dive site called ‘Navy Pier’.
The Navy Pier
When I told friends I was heading to Ningaloo Reed, one friend urged me to make sure that I dived the Navy Pier while I was at Ningaloo. Now the Navy Pier doesn’t sound very excitng, does it? It is true that it is a man-made dive site, rather than a natural spectacle, but nature has a way of taking over beneath the surface.
Nothing is ever simple
There are several dive operators in Exmouth (the town nearest Ningaloo Reef) but because the pier is a working navy pier there is strict security in place. Only one dive centre is allowed to take divers to the pier and this changes periodically, so it is best to check with the Exmouth Visitor Cenre who has the contract currently, as when I was there I noticed that updating their website was not a priority for the previous holders of the contract, causing much confusion amongst divers.
The dive itself is a shore dive, a few kilometres out of town, so once everyone has their gear and a briefing is completed, there is a short bus-ride to the site. It is really important that some form of photo ID with your name on it (a dive certification card is fine) is taken with you to the dive site, rather unusually. This is because there is a security checkpoint on the road to the pier and if you do not have photo ID with you, you will not be granted access.
The Navy Pier is a long pier stretching out to sea and supported by lots of poles, which beneath the surface you can swim through. It has been here for over fifty years and is now encrusted with all sorts of corals and is home to many marine creatures including turtles, rays, sharks and fish. The area is tidal so diving is only possible at certain times and the maximum depth is usually about 14metres. Most of the dive is around 7-10 metres depth though. It is reputedly one of the ten best dives in the world.
|Not a good day for diving, Exmouth, Australia|
Why didn’t I dive?
When I arrived in Exmouth I prioritized swimming with the whale sharks and ended up going on the best day the locals had seen all week. I was really lucky and you can read all about my whale shark trip here. Unfortunately though, the next day the weather changed and Exmouth was pounded by really strong winds, which unfortunately meant all boat trips and local water activities were cancelled. Since the navy pier is a shore dive and didn’t require a boat, there was a chance that we might still manage to dive. So we all got ready and went to the pier, via all the necessary security checks, to take a look at the surf and make a decision.
When we got to the beach we stood on the sand and looked at the sea. The fine sand being blasted about burned the skin on our legs and the 10ft waves which crashed over the pier were spectacular but not at all enticing. What a shore entry that would have been. A unanimous decision was made. I think the dive centre crew were relieved.
|Relieved dive crew, Exmouth, Australia|
Sadly, although the weather can change very quickly in Exmouth, on this occasion it didn’t. So, despite having a few days up my sleeve, I never managed to dive the Navy Pier. I loved Exmouth though and Ningaloo Reef, so am looking forward to returning to try again!