The two main shore diving sites are 'Hoffmans Rocks' and 'Barolin Rocks'. Both are in the Great Sandy Marine Park, with Barolin Rocks being a sanctuary zone. A sanctuary zone exists near Hoffmans Rocks, but the zoning starts 100m offshore, so the site is heavily fished both from shore and by spear fishers. The two sites, therefore, provide a good contrast between fished and protected areas.
This year we managed to get back, in between border closures, to resurvey these sites after a 10-year break. Some things were unchanged, but there were also some surprises. The sites were just as difficult to access – across large tracts of broken volcanic rock. Underwater the vistas were still dominated by large leathery soft corals, gorgonian fans and soft coral species such as Dendronephthya spp. in a myriad of colours, making it a great place to search for allied cowrie shells. From Nicola's point of view the absence of "friendly" olive sea-snakes was a bonus this time round, but we also found that cardinalfish (Apogonidae spp.) and butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae spp.) were few and far between. Overall this year temperate species predominated, rather than tropical species, which perhaps reflects doing the surveys later in the year, when waters are cooler. The area has not had any RLS surveys undertaken between the ones in 2010 and this year's surveys, so it's difficult to know what is "normal". This does of course encourage us to visit Bargara more often, so we can get a better feel for the biodiversity patterns in the area!
Both Hoffmans Rocks and Barolin Rocks are lovely sites to dive. Whilst they may not have the diverse fish life of other areas in Queensland, they have some amazing underwater scenery and macro critters. The most important thing to bear in mind when diving here is finding good entry and exit points. These may change with the tides and from experience mid tide dives are the easiest for getting in and out. Note that if you are not keen on walking and entering the water across sharp and loose volcanic rocks these may not be the sites for you!