RLS Survey Site Profile: The Second Valley Boat Shed, SA

Just over an hour's drive from Adelaide you'll find a sheltered bay which Reef Life Survey divers just can't get enough of. This special site comes complete with a small beach, a jetty, and delightful beds of Amphibolis and Posidonia seagrasses. Where the rocky headland drops off sharply to the reef below lies the Reef Life Survey site known as The Boat Shed. It truly is a wonderful example of a South Australian subtidal temperate reef, with a spectacular medley of brown macro-algae hiding a plethora of invertebrates and cryptic fish for keen divers to find.
By RLS volunteer diver, Daniel Easton
September 27, 2022
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Colonel William Light must have been feeling creative when he named Second Valley, being the second valley he came across after Rapid Bay (which he named after his boat ‘Rapid’, of course). In keeping with the creative naming theme, the Second Valley Boat Shed site was named after a boat shed which was removed in 2008 due to a serious tetanus and impalement risk! Despite its present lack of a boat shed, the name stuck and so did we- completing a total of 61 surveys at the site since its very first survey back in 2005. The Boat Shed is now a dedicated long-term monitoring site for South Australia’s Marine Parks, and is a popular diving site among locals and visitors alike. 

Second Valley is a small, sheltered bay on the Fleurieu Peninsula just over an hour's drive from Adelaide, SA, with a small beach, a jetty, and delightful beds of Amphibolis and Posidonia seagrasses. The Boat Shed site can be surveyed via a shore entry, but a fully equipped dive charter anchored in one of the large sand patches seaward of the rocky headland is much preferred. On descent, the dominant Ecklonia radiata kelp beds sway with the tide and glow gold on a sunny day. Being at the gates of Gulf St Vincent, the tide can absolutely rip through this site if you’re unlucky, and your transect tape can quickly become an anchor or essential guide rope if the tide charts aren’t studied meticulously! 

A bed of Golden kelp (Ecklonia radiata) at the survey site. Photo by Dan Easton

The Boat Shed survey site begins at a reef wall dropping quickly to around 8-9m depth, with boulders and bommies dotted all along the transect creating perfect hidey holes for a range of species. It truly is a wonderful example of a South Australian subtidal temperate reef, hosting a spectacular medley of brown macro-algae which hides a plethora of invertebrates and cryptic fish for RLS divers to find. Expect both sides of your data sheet to be full, and your pencil to need sharpening by the end of the day! Since 2005, 151 unique species of fish and invertebrates have been recorded at the Boat Shed, making this an essential dive if you’re in the area! Notably, you may luck out and spot Leafy Sea Dragons (Phycodurus eques) and Harlequin Fish (Othos dentex) on transects, as well as a host of cryptic fish including Dragonet (Bovichtus angustifrons), Velvetfish (Aploactisoma milesii), Goblin Fish (Glyptauchen panduratus), five Weedfish species, and Painted Stinkfish (Eocallionymus papilio), just to name a few. The Boat Shed is also a reliable spot to observe the Western Blue Devil (Paraplesiops meleagris) from shore either by diving or snorkelling. You might even spot the fascinating wandering sea anemone (Phlyctenactis tuberculosa) traversing one of the sand patches at the southern end of the transect- looking eerily like a translucent ball of baked beans creeping along the sea floor

Wandering sea anemone (Phlyctenactis tuberculosa). Photo by Dan Easton

The Boat Shed RLS site and adjacent reef are an excellent example of accessible temperate reef systems with a myriad of unique species to spot. This RLS site is located in the Encounter Marine Park general managed zone, but while fishing is allowed at the site, there is a spearfishing closure within the bay itself. Perhaps thanks to these protections, the Western Blue Groper (Achoerodus gouldii) which is now a rarity in Gulf St Vincent, has also been recorded at The Boat Shed survey site. If you want to see this amazing reef (and even cooler local fish!) for yourself, keep an eye out for the RLS trip schedule in our newsletter.  

If you are keen to learn more or get involved contact [email protected]  and check out this video to hear more about South Australia's marine life.



Are you super passionate about a particular RLS survey site? If you'd like to contribute to the Site Profile blog series, feel free to reach out to [email protected] to let us know!

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