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Rowley Shoals

The Rowley Shoals National Marine Park a days cruise and 250 km west of Broome you find the Rowley Shoals, a scuba diving site that must rank among the most ‘remote’ and pristine marine areas in the world.

The Shoals are the remains of three volcanoes that rose out of the ocean, the tops of which became colonised by coral to form a chain of three spectacular and pristine coral atolls, each covering approximately 80 sq km.

This Rowley Shoals diving cruise explores the three pear-shaped atolls with shallow lagoons inhabited by corals and abundant marine life. All three atolls are strikingly similar in dimension, shape, orientation and distance apart. Each atoll is north-south orientated, pear-shaped, with the narrow end towards the north. The Rowley Shoals rise with nearly vertical sides from very deep water. Mermaid Reef, the most northerly, rises from about 440 metres, Clerke from 390 metres and Imperieuse from about 230 metres.

The coral atolls of the Rowley Shoals are famed for their almost untouched coral gardens, giant clams and other shell fish. Giant potato cod and maori wrasse wait to be hand fed and follow scuba divers around, while colourful reef fish show little fear, and trevally, mackerel and tuna hover in schools. Over 200 species of coral and 650 species of fish inhabit the Rowley Shoals – including many species not found on near shore coral reefs as well as humpback whales, manta rays, hammerhead sharks and other large reef species. At last count there where at least 28 species of staghorn coral alone. The coral and fish communities of the Rowley Shoals are unique in their composition, and relative abundance. The species themselves are more characteristic of south-east Asian reefs than other Western Australian reefs.

The Rowley Shoals rank among the most remote and pristine marine areas in the world where you can enjoy scuba diving holidays in a diverse and exciting diving environment. Lying on the very edge of Australia’s continental shelf, the Rowley Shoals are regarded as the best example of shelf atolls in Australian waters, and this is one of the reasons many consider the Rowley Shoals to be a scuba diving experience unmatched anywhere else in the world. The Rowley Shoals are subjected to a high tidal range, with 4 metre plus tides, flowing into and out of the reefs. The ebb and flow of these large volumes of water has helped to sculpt the reefs into dramatic formations. The tidal movement also hosts the most thrilling drift and snorkel dives through the channels.

Accommodation

CABINS AND FACILITIES
There are 3 double cabins, a five berth share room and 4 toilets and showers located on the upper deck, 4 twin/double cabins on the main deck, 1 solo room and another 4 toilets and Showers. Each cabin contains large viewing windows, 240v power and air-­conditioning. Whilst the Oceania is a purpose built expedition vessel she still has limitations in terms of personal gear storage and general space.
FOOD AND DRINKS
Our meals are based on healthy local produce and fresh seafood wherever possible (with a light smattering of extremely tasty irresistible desserts that may not be so healthy!). Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements upon final payment. We provide all your non-­alcoholic drinks. There are plenty of soft drinks and snacks, tea, hot chocolate and a selection of coffees available while you are cruising.

You can purchase all your alcoholic beverages from our bar at very reasonable prices. We stock several beers, both mid and full strength, champagne, premixed sprits and a selection of nice house wines. Let us know what you might like and we’ll make sure we have plenty at hand. Understandably excessive consumption of alcohol cannot be tolerated. For storage and safety reasons we prefer cans however the choice is yours.

Features

What we supply
◾All your catering whilst onboard
◾All your linen, including towels
◾Tanks and weight belts
◾All air fills

We have a Computers so you can download and view pictures and videos or you may choose to bring along your own. We will have a dive master on board, two dive compressors, oxygen, oxiviva and a first aid kit.

Guests must supply their own
◾Wetsuits – 3mm suits are best
◾Mask, snorkel and fins – please ensure you have spare straps
◾BCD, Regulator
◾Dive Computers are mandatory, please ensure yours is in good working order and you have a spare battery.
◾Safety sausage, Cyalume stick, Dive torch, Camera etc

Please have all equipment serviced and checked before your trip, we have limited spares. This is adventure diving at its best and as such we recommend divers be at least Advanced standard or equivalent, however if you are less qualified but experienced and confident come along we’ll look after you.

Some equipment can be hired in from us, please be sure to book in advance.

Travel insurance is strongly recommended, we are diving in a very remote area.

Activities

Come and enjoy the Rowley Shoals Diving Cruise:
Scuba Diving
Bird Watching of rare species
Beach combing the coral attols
snorkeling on the abundant sheltered reefs
Swimming and Surfing
Fishing

Fishing is not permitted at Mermaid Reef. You can however fish at Clerke and Imperieuse Reefs, although potato cod, maori wrasse, coral trout, Queensland cod (groper) and all shellfish within 1.6 km of the reefs are fully protected.

The outside walls of the Rowley Shoals are alive with soft corals in every imaginable colour. At low tide the water becomes trapped within the reef walls with the water flowing over the atoll walls like waterfalls. At high tide, the reefs disappear beneath the sea, with only the sandy islands of Clerke and Imperieuse visible. The Rowley Shoals give you the opportunity to experience a diverse array of scuba diving environments including, lagoons, canyons, high speed drift dives and sheer outer reef wall dives. Often touted as the world’s last great ‘underwater wilderness’, the Rowley Shoals offer some of the most remote scuba diving within Australia. Scuba diving holidays and expeditions to this pristine location operate several times a year. The best time of year for a scuba diving holiday will be from June to November. We depart from Broome at sunset and arrive at the Rowley Shoals in time for morning tea. Our Cruises are 6 and 7 days in duration but we can tailor cruises to suit your requirements.

Location

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Itinerary & Schedule

Day 1
We arrive at Clerke Reef -­ the Rowleys’ middle atoll, and enjoy a hearty breakfast before your first dive at “The Aquarium”. There’s plenty of time to explore diving country along the outer reef including “Parrot’s Edge” and “Coral Gardens”, with the possibility of seeing a sailfish or humpback whale display acrobatics in all their glory. The top deck is definitely the place to be for your first spectacular sunset enjoying a nice coldie before munching on a delicious meal. Tonight we anchor inside the lagoon.
Day 2
Brace yourself for a big day as there is lots of diving to be done. We will start on the outer reef at “Jimmy Goes to China” followed by “Blue Lagoon”, which are both frequented by large pelagics and curious reef sharks -­ be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the many species of shells on display. As the sun starts to lower on the horizon we will anchor up for the evening in the lagoon where you can enjoy a beach-­comb along the deserted sand cay. A night dive is on the cards before dinner, if you have the energy. Another perfect night at Clerke Lagoon -­ stars reflected in a glassy ocean.
Day 3
A scrumptious cooked breaky to your liking will be served, then maybe a quick troll along the outer reef. Then comes the most adrenalin pumped dive you will do. “The Superman” is an exhilarating drift dive/ snorkel through Clerke Reef channel. You are suspended in turquoise shallows surrounded by delicate lace coral fronds of vivid pink, orange and yellow. Darting in and out is a metallic rainbow of attendants. The coralscape about you is starting to move swiftly past. Faster and faster the disgorging tide is propelling you out of the lagoon and to the very edge of a plunging midnight blue abyss. The next couple of dives for the day will be spent exploring many of the caves, crevices and alleyways that the outer reef has to offer. Anyone who feels like a bit of a troll is welcome to have a go. Anchorage tonight will be inside Clerke Reef again. Hopefully a typical moonrise will be seen on your trip here as we tuck into another meal.
Day 4
Let’s start the morning with an exhilarating channel drift, then perhaps revisit the amazing “Clerke Wall” or “Cupcakes”. This afternoon we visit the labyrinth. Sneak in and share this maze of caves with teams of tropical fish. Then it will be a short steam north east to Mermaid Reef. Enjoy the sea air and maybe a quick sun bake before your next dive. Enjoy your first taste of Mermaid Atoll with a dive on around the stunning “Vee in the Wall” and “The Wet Spot”. Dinner will be served and if you can keep your eyes open long enough enjoy a DVD movie from the large selection or put on a slide show from your digital camera for your new friends.
Day 5
Today we explore Mermaid Reef. You will be impressed by a stop at the world famous “Northern Wall”, reputedly one of the world’s top three dives. The sheer gradient to a depth of 80 metres, gigantic gorgonians, mesmerising colour, huge dog tooth tuna, green turtles and every imaginable tropical reef species is here!!! Then we are off to the unforgettable “Cod Hole” where you will come face to face with giant potato cod that are extremely friendly (so don’t forget the camera). After a hearty lunch there’s time for another couple of dives before we moor up for sunset in the lagoon and enjoy our final night out at the Shoals before departing tomorrow afternoon.
Day 6
Let’s start the morning with an exhilarating channel drift, then perhaps revisit the amazing Mermaid Wall and or Cod Hole. As the diving expedition is drawing to an end we bid farewell to the breathtaking Rowley Shoals at about 3pm and settle in for the overnight steam back to Broome.
Day 7
Arrive back at Broome around 8.30am and unload all the gear. It is time to say goodbye until we catch up with you again at the Rowleys, Abrolhos, Montebellos or in the Kimberley

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