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Saturday 1st April 2023

Manta Rays, Turtles, Leopard Sharks, Eagle Rays, Wobbegongs, Dolphins & Fish

Julian Rocks

25

SW 5KN

1.2m

Perfect flat and glassy snorkeling conditions, 1-2mm of rain across the weekend will not affect the 15m visibility. The reef is teeming with life, it doesn’t get much better than this!

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Julian Rocks Snorkeling

Julian Rocks is brimming with all kinds of aquatic life waiting to be explored during your snorkeling tour

There is so much to see while snorkeling at Julian Rocks 'Nguthungulli' Nature Reserve thanks to its unique position at the convergence point of warm and cool waters. Let's explore!

Get to know some of the Marine Life you might encounter during your Byron Bay snorkeling tour at Julian Rocks ‘Nguthungulli’ Nature Reserve. We’ll introduce you to some of the colourful characters to keep a watchful eye out for while you snorkel. You’re bound to come across a variety of aquatic life in the calm and clear waters surrounding the 20 million year old rocks that define this unique ecosystem.

Julian Rocks is an aggregation site for many different species, so depending on when you choose to visit will impact what kinds of life you might encounter. The area is also highly influence of the EAC (East Australian Current) which regularly drives upwelling of colder and nutrient-dense waters for an abundant and diverse number of species.

There are over 530 recorded species of fish (71% of them tropical), 3 species of sea turtles and you may see mollusks, sharks and rays. Julian Rocks provides important habitat for several species of sharks, including leopard shark (Stegostoma fasciatum), spotted (Orectolobus maculatus) and ornate (Orectolobus ornatus) wobbegongs, and the critically endangered endangered grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus).

Turtles

Australia is very lucky to be home to six species of sea turtle! And you very well could come across them. The 3 species you are most likely to encounter at Julian Rocks include the endangered loggerhead turtle, as well as the the green, hawksbill turtles that are listed as vulnerable, meaning they may become endangered if threats continue. Threats to these graceful creatures include pollution, overfishing and increasing water temperatures. Turtles are a magnificent sight to see and you learn more about helping to preserve them here. Spot them: Year-round.

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Leopard Sharks

Despite the name, Leopard Sharks are one of the most docile sharks you’ll ever come across. These nocturnal creatures spend most of their time laying motionless on the sea floor during daylight hours so if you do spot one, it’s probably having a snooze. They can grow up to 2.5m in length and like to eat crabs, molluscs and small bony fish. Spot them: January – May.

Fish

With over 500 recorded species of fishes located in the Cape Byron Marine Park you’re bound to meet dozens of them. Our favourite encounters include sea anemones hosting clownfishes, bizarre-looking frogfishes and wobbegongs (or carpet sharks) snoozing on the seafloor. This reef is teeming with colourful fish of all shapes and sizes, so no matter what you spot, it will be fascinating! Spot them: Year-round.

Manta Rays

These gentle giants of the sea can be found in The Nursery at Julian Rocks in the warmer months. Manta rays swim gracefully and feed on plankton. They do not have a poisonous barb like stingrays and while they appear to move slowly, they can actually move at rapid pace of up to 24km per hour – which is two-thirds as fast as Usain Bolt! Manta rays are very special creatures, you’d be very lucky to see one (and snorkellers at Julian Rocks often do!). Spot them: January – May.

Grey Nurse Sharks

Despite their gnarly appearance, the Grey Nurse Shark actually has a very placid nature! These creatures can grow up to 3.6m and tend to roam in shallow waters near rocky reefs or islands, making Julian Rocks an ideal place to see them. They tend to hunt at night and feed on fish, rays, squid and crustaceans. Interestingly, a female grey nurse shark can only produce two pups per litter (1 pup in each uterus – yep, sharks have two uteruses) giving them the lowest reproductive rate of any shark in the world. Because of this, they are a threatened species. There may only be hundreds remaining in NSW. Read more about how you can help them here. Spot them: May – November.

Moray Eels

Moray eels are slender, snake-like fish that have a somewhat aggressive appearance due to their large jaws and sharp teeth. But the moray eel is actually a very relaxed critter who will only attack if threatened. Because you’ll only be looking and not touching or taunting, we don’t expect you to have any run-ins! Their mouth is just about always open which allows them to breathe properly. They don’t venture too far from the crevices they live in, but when they do they tend to eat fish, crustaceans and sometimes octopus. Spot them: Year-round. 

Nudibranchs

We can’t talk about Julian Rocks’ marine life without talking about nudibranchs! These psychedelic-looking tiny sea slugs are very popular thanks to their incredible array of colours and shapes. Julian Rocks is home to a large variety of nudibranchs ranging in colour from purple to orange, blue to green, yellow to red. They’re small, cartoonishly adorable and have two little antenna called rhinopores that help them to detect one another, prey and predators as they do not have eyes. Spot them: Year-round.

Eagle Rays

Eagle rays are a beautiful and exciting nearly-threatened species that are commonly found at Julian Rocks. Like the Manta Ray, these creatures are graceful and quite captivating. They are large but placid, with a wingspan of up to 3 metres! They’re easy to spot thanks to their flat, disc-shaped bodies that are a deep blue or black in colour with white spots on top and a white underbelly. Their snout is distinctively flat like a duck’s bill. These friendly giants like to eat bivalve molluscs, whelksbenthic infauna, and crustaceans. Spot them: Year-round. 

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February special! Snorkeling Byron Bay guided tours now $129 per adult & $109 per child

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