Shore and wreck diving is not a common combination if we speak of diving profile. We often use boats and explore sunken vessels that are mostly located far offshore. But mind you, shore and wreck diving is a big thing in Perth where holiday makers flock the frontage of Rockingham Beach in hopes to see, not just one, but two shipwrecks and two plane wrecks in a single dive with the additional attraction of other artificial objects that are purposely deployed on site.
Let us assign the Central Business District of Perth as our starting line as this is the entry point of most visitors. Going to Rockingham beach would simply require you to take Flinders lane located just off Patterson Road. Here’s the thing: do not get too excited when you’re still in Perth and you’re already wearing your wetsuit as the ride generally takes an hour. Otherwise you will be soaking wet especially on a hot sunny day.
While exploring the Rockingham Wreck Trail requires you to only do shore entry and without the buzzling preparations of a boat dive, you will appreciate on how organize this public beach is managed. Once you arrive at the designated parking area, you can start unloading your tanks, gears and head towards the grassy surfaces of the “Gear-up Area”. After gearing up, this is the time that you can wear your wetsuit where you have the option to use the “Shower and Toilet Area” just next to it.
When everything is ready, gears attached in place and after performing the pre-dive safety check (abbreviated as Begin With Review And Friend which simply means BCD, Weights, Releases, Air and Final Ok), you can now proceed to the concrete stairs that will lead you to the beach. Wear everything in place except for the fins, or else, you will have a hard time walking down the pavement. Walking further towards the shallow part of the beach known as the “Gully”, you can place your fins on and commence your underwater journey following a guided trail.
Type of Diving: Shore entry and wreck diving
Max Depth: 18 meters (60 feet)
Visibility Range: 5 to 10 meters
Your entry point is pretty much located at the center of the dive site. Initially, you will cruise along a white sandy area with a gentle slope where after a few minutes of finning and arriving at 11 meters (36 feet) deep, the first artificial object will appear – the remains of a Cessna Plane. You will observe that the wreck is partly buried on sand and is already encrusted with corals, sponges and barnacles.
After spending a minute or two at the Cessna wreck, you will head towards northeast and arrive at another plane wreckage – the King Beech. On top of the encrusting corals thriving on its remains, you will observe that this once utility aircraft is more exposed above the sand where its structural remains has become a fish shelter for wrasses, breams, sweepers and rabbitfish.
From this point, you have two options for directions to follow. Heading further north will lead you to the remains of a large animal cage – the Chicken Coop. Once you see the standing metal structures and the wire mesh overgrown with algae, you cannot help but appreciate the craftsmanship in building this chicken house which reflects the Australian quality of work that is able to withstand for years given the rusting nature of the sea. With air permitting, instead of going north, you can directly head west towards a shipwreck – the Old Timer. With an average depth of 17 meters (55 feet), this steel-hulled vessel is now considered a mini-marine habitat where a variety of sea-dwelling animals abound like butterflyfish, jacks, shells, octopus and seahorse. From the Old Timer wreck, if you head back south, you will find another wreck, the MV Target, which is a smaller version of the Old Timer and houses almost the same diversity of marine wildlife.
Now, going back from where you started at the Cessna Plane, if you try to make a plot or navigational route, you will realize that you just made a triangular swimming pattern. And inside this imaginary triangle are objects that are intentionally deployed to serve as an added underwater attraction, and at the same time, an artificial habitat for marine animals. Here you will never miss observing the clump of used tires, also known as Tire Reef, a Set of Children’s Swing and concrete slabs used as sinkers for the buoy markers.
As we said earlier, everything is pretty much organized in the Rockingham Dive Trail. One aspect to this is that it is one of the few dive sites in Australia that has an established safety stop area courtesy from the Safety Stop Line at 5 meters (15 feet) deep that runs parallel to the shore.
In case you are hungry after the dive, just go across the parking lot and you will find several food shops where fish and chips are always the bestseller. Sushi bars can also be found. But who wants to eat fresh raw fish when you just saw them alive and swimming underwater?
On a final note, the descriptions mentioned above describing the Rockingham Wreck Trail will give you an initial impression that this is a haven for novice divers. If this is the case, then you have the right impression as newbies, not just from Australia but from around the globe, flock this small City of Rockingham to have an amazing underwater adventure in Western Australia’s Number One dive site. Just a reminder though that the Rockingham Dive Trail may become crowded as nearly all dive shops and diving schools in Western Australia use this dive site.
Video courtesy from Perth Scuba