I am a person who is scared of snorkeling. I usually use some kind of floating device to snorkel. I am a certified Rescue scuba diver but snorkeling in the ocean gives me jitters. But when I visited Shell Harbour for scuba diving at The Gutter, I decided to extend my stay to snorkel at Bushrangers Bay. And I think I was very comfortable snorkeling without any floating device attached to me and I did well.
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What is snorkeling and the gear you need?
Snorkeling is swimming with a snorkel or a breathing equipment under water. Snorkeling is usually swimming at the surface of the water where the snorkel is above the water level and the mouth piece of the snorkel and the head is facing down before the water level.
For non-swimmers, there are floating devices that help the snorkelers float while swimming. The floating devices include tubes, noodles or snorkeling vests.
The best time to go snorkeling is when the sun is up and it is usually around mid-afternoon as one can see things very clearly underwater because of the sun penetrating the water.
Do not go snorkeling if there is high tide or if the weather is bad.
A mask helps in seeing the things underwater. The whole idea of going snorkeling is to experience the underwater world and the mask is definitely one of the most important equipment required. Having a good mask is very crucial. It is critical that it fits well so the water does not seep in while in the ocean. A mask defogger can prevent the masks from fogging up.
Mask is mandatory equipment for snorkeling.
Snorkel is the equipment that helps the snorkelers breathe while swimming in the water. Snorkels consist of the tube and a mouthpiece. There are three types of snorkels:
- Traditional snorkel.
- Semi-dry snorkel – This type of snorkel has a seal at the top of the tube that restricts the entry of water to a certain extent. The Semi-dry snorkel is a combination of a traditional and dry snorkel.
- Dry snorkel – This type of snorkel has a special valve attached to the tip of the snorkel (tube) that restricts the entry of water while swimming.
Snorkel is mandatory equipment for snorkeling.
Fins help in swimming faster and allows the snorkelers to kick better and at a higher rate over longer periods of time. There are two types of fins depending on the length of the fins:
- Short blade fins.
- Long blade fins.
I usually prefer wearing fins when I am in the ocean. Some of my friends do not wear fins.
Wet suit or a rash guard vest
A wet suit is preferred in colder countries like Australia and New Zealand. During summer, one can get away with just a rash guard vest. Having a good wet suit or a rash guard helps and protects the skin from any kind of rashes or skin allergies.
Wearing a wet suit or a rash guard vest is completely up to the snorkelers.
Where is Bushrangers Bay?
Bushrangers Bay is an aquatic reserve in the Bass Point Reserve in Shell Harbour. It is protected and is very safe for snorkeling. However, it is an unpatrolled area so be cautious while snorkeling.
Did you know that Bass Point Reserve is composed of 250 million years old Gerringong volcanics and was named after George Bass?
How to get to Bushrangers Bay?
The best and easiest way to get to Bushrangers Bay is by driving. The drive from Sydney Central Business District (CBD) to Bushrangers Bay is just 115 kilometres and the drive takes close to about 2 hours.
- There are plenty of free parking places available at Bushrangers Bay.
Shell Harbour can be reached easily from Central train station in Sydney. One needs to take a train and a bus to reach Shell Harbour.
- Train – Wollongong train station is the closest train station to Shell Harbour. The trains leave at Central train station. The train journey is around 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Bus – Then one needs to take a bus from Wollongong to Shell Harbour (bus number 53). The bus journey is around 40 minutes.
- More up-to-date information on the bus route and timings can be found on the Transport for NSW.
- Credit/Debit or Opal transportation cards can be used to pay the fare on public transport in Sydney.
There is no public transportation from Shell Harbour to the car parking at the Bushrangers Bay. One can just walk as it is only about 4 kilometres.
Marine life at Bushrangers Bay
Bushrangers Bay is very famous among the snorkelers and the scuba divers. It is a site where one can spot lots of grey nurse sharks. There is a channel that opens up at a distance from the shore where lots of grey nurse sharks rest. Other than that there are lots of fishes and sea weeds on the sea floor. The depth of the ocean bed goes up to around 8 to 10 meters, near the channel.
Unfortunately, I did not go so deep into the ocean as this was the first time I was snorkeling.
Be careful while snorkeling. Ensure that the fins do not destroy any corals underwater. And do not touch anything like corals or fishes.
Safety for solo female snorkelers
I would suggest going with a buddy. Snorkeling as a beginner can be intimidating and having someone along can make a snorkeler feel safe. And it helps snorkelers be prepared for any unforeseen situations that may arise. There are many meetup groups that run snorkeling events and one can join them if they are solo snorkelers. I highly recommend Sydney Snorkeling Group as they snorkel around various places in Sydney and most people are very friendly and nice.
Even though I did not see the grey nurse sharks, I still enjoyed snorkeling in the Bushrangers Bay. It is a closed area and is very safe for snorkeling. I am glad I extended my stay at Shell Harbour and snorkeled for a bit. This was my first attempt of fighting my fear of snorkeling. I hope to go on more snorkeling trips and become extremely comfortable in the water and open sea.