Beneath the azure waters of Cronulla’s coastline lies a hidden sanctuary for scuba divers – The Steps at Kurnell. Tantalisingly close to the bustling heart of Sydney, this underwater playground offers a gateway to a world of marine marvels waiting to be discovered. From novice divers to seasoned veterans, The Steps cater to all, providing an opportunity to witness the beauty of diverse marine ecosystems and encounter an array of underwater inhabitants. In this exploration, we invite you to submerge yourself in the magic of The Steps (Scuba Diving Cronulla), where every dive is a voyage into the heart of nature’s aquatic wonders.
Our initial diving plans at Voodoo in Sydney took an unexpected turn due to challenging ocean conditions caused by a significant swell, posing potential risks. In response, our experienced divemaster made a prudent decision to relocate us to ‘The Steps in Kurnell.’
Interestingly, this site had recently been highlighted as one of the premier diving locations in New South Wales (NSW) during a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) seminar I attended just days prior. Renowned for its abundance of Weedy sea dragons, charmingly adorned in bright orange hues, The Steps in Kurnell promised an underwater encounter with these captivating creatures.
PIN for later reference – Scuba Diving Cronulla
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Where are The Steps?
Located within the Botany Bay National Park in the suburb of Kurnell, The Steps sits amidst Sydney‘s scenic coastal wonders. Kurnell, celebrated for its breathtaking coastline and picturesque views, is a suburb that proudly showcases the beauty of nature. It is adjacent to the suburbs of Cronulla and Woolooware. Furthermore, it has gained fame for being an ideal location to witness majestic whales during the annual whale-watching season, spanning from May to October each year.
How to Get to the Steps?
Situated along Cape Solander Drive, the parking area known as Inscription Point Car Park is conveniently positioned adjacent to the pathway/staircase leading to the dive entry point. The most efficient and straightforward means of reaching this car park is by car. The distance from Sydney Central Business District (CBD) to Inscription Point Car Park spans approximately 38 kilometres, requiring an estimated one-hour drive.
A parking facility is available at The Steps, requiring visitors to obtain a parking ticket, even on Sundays. Failure to display a valid parking ticket in the vehicle when inspected may result in the driver receiving a fine. The fine amount is equivalent to the cost of the parking ticket, approximately AUD 8 per car per day. It’s important to ensure proper ticket display to avoid any potential fines during inspections.
By Public Transport
The closest bus stop to Inscription Point Car Park is approximately 1.2 kilometres away, known as Captain Cook Dr after Polo Street. For those travelling from Sydney CBD, the recommended route involves taking a train to Cronulla station and then a bus to the Captain Cook Dr after Polo Street stop. The overall travel time between Sydney CBD and the car park is estimated to be around 1 hour and 45 minutes. For the latest and most accurate information, it is advisable to check the Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) website.
If you are not into diving or are looking for something else to do in Kurnell, then know that Kurnell is also famous for its coastal walk from Kurnell to Cronulla.
Dive Site – The Steps Kurnell
The dive site is characterized by an abundance of underwater vegetation, giving the water a slightly greenish hue. Once beyond the densely populated weed area, a comfortable sand patch awaits for unhindered swimming. Preparation and equipment setup is essential at the car park before descending the staircase to access the entry point.
This shore dive presents a distinctive landscape, with one side featuring rocky formations and the other composed of sandy terrain. The water visibility is influenced by the settling of sand particles. Exiting this dive at The Steps can be challenging due to the numerous rocks, particularly during adverse weather conditions when waves are prone to push and toss divers around. Caution is advised during such circumstances.
I regret the subpar quality of the photos. Regrettably, I encountered difficulties capturing high-quality images during the dive. The issue stemmed from a slow memory card, causing challenges for my camera in promptly writing data to it.
Logistics of the Dive
- Type of Dive: Shore dive (you can also do a leap when the conditions of the sea are calm).
- Dive site: Open (Sea).
- Depth: 10 to 18 metres.
- Visibility: approximately around 5 metres.
- Ideal for: Open Water certified divers and above.
- Wet suit: Yes, advised. The Australian waters are a bit chilly.
- Current: Yes, strong and it is advised to swim into the tide.
As previously stated, The Steps is renowned for its captivating Weedy seadragons – these small, orange creatures with a striking resemblance to dragons. In addition to the seadragons, the site boasts sightings of Port Jackson sharks, octopuses, eels, and dolphins. Regrettably, my personal experience was limited to encountering the seadragon, while my fellow divers witnessed the presence of dolphins and octopuses during our underwater exploration.
Dive Centre (Abyss) and Cost
My initial venture with this dive centre proved to be a positive experience, although I wouldn’t categorize it as the absolute best. The divemaster and the group exhibited a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The overall equipment provided was satisfactory, except for the rented mask, which unfortunately was notably dirty and required frequent cleaning.
- Dive Centre: Abyss.
- Cost: The shore dive is free for certified divers.
- Equipment: The equipment can be hired and the hiring of equipment (full gear) cost me AUD 110.
- Booking: On their website. The booking is easy and the equipment hire can be selected upfront. Note: Ensure to call the dive centre and confirm your equipment as there was a mix-up with mine.
Several considerations about the dive centre include:
- Inconvenient Location: The dive centre is not easily accessible from the city. The nearest train station is Kogara, situated approximately 1 kilometre away.
- Self-Transport Requirement: Unlike some alternative dive centres that provide transportation to the dive site, here, you are required to pick up the equipment and drive to the dive location independently.
- Equipment Management Hassle: Managing equipment, including tanks, on your own, can be cumbersome and may pose a logistical challenge.
- Higher Equipment Hire Costs: The expense for equipment hire at this dive centre is relatively high when compared to rates offered by other dive centres.
Is Scuba Diving at The Steps Safe for Solo Female Divers?
Adhering to a fundamental safety principle, it’s essential always to dive with a buddy for added security. Prioritize partnering with another diver before embarking on any diving excursion. However, if you choose a reputable dive school or centre, you can trust in their commitment to safety. It is advisable to read reviews of the dive school beforehand to ensure a reliable and secure experience.
For solo female travellers, the journey to and from the dive site is generally considered safe. Nonetheless, exercising caution and being aware of your surroundings is crucial, as with any destination worldwide. Stay vigilant and prioritize personal safety while exploring new places.
Despite the challenging sea conditions that left me feeling dry and unwell throughout the day, the dive experience itself was surprisingly enjoyable. I found myself caught between two rocks due to the force of the waves, but with persistence, I managed to free myself. While not ranking among my best dives, this particular excursion will hold a special place in my memories. The highlight undoubtedly was encountering one of those charming Weedy sea dragons. This little fellow graciously joined us for a while, creating a cherished moment before we moved on.
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