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Dive Destination: Rowley Shoals, Western Australia

by | Sep 26, 2022

If you’re looking for a remote diving holiday  – you’ll love the Rowley Shoals! 

The Rowley Shoals is one of those names you would have heard, but probably never really known very much about. That could be because if you try and look for it on a map, it’s nearly invisible.

Located about 260 km off the coast of Broome, Western Australia, the Rowley Shoals are a chain of three coral atolls named Mermaid Reef, Clerke Reef and Imperieuse Reef. 

The atolls are on the edge of one of the world’s widest continental shelves and rise nearly vertically from over 400 meters deep from the ocean floor. Home to an incredible 233 species of coral and over 600 species of fish, it is considered to be some of the least disturbed waters in the world. Two of the atolls are protected marine sanctuary zones and have become open water aquariums.

Getting to the Rowley Shoals 

The journey starts when you land in Broome, Western Australia. It’s only a 2.5hour flight from Perth, but flying to Broome feels like you are flying to a completely different country. The contrast of the red rock and white sand against the blue sea is incredible. 

The sunsets at Cable Beach are iconic and definitely worth checking out on your trip. As the sun sets over the ocean, the shadow on the water creates the ‘Staircase to the Moon’. The glowing red in the sunset usually happens during the peak time to travel to Broome between March and October.

While in town. be sure to pay a visit to Matso’s Brewery! There, you can sample the world’s hottest chilli beer, mango beer and ginger beer in the bright Broome sunshine. 

From Broome, you’ll hop on the boat to get to the dive site. Cruising out of the Broome harbour, we watched the sunset and left Broome behind. It takes a while to actually get to the Rowley shoals (12-16 hours of cruising depending on the boat you’re on), so make sure you get comfortable in your cabins and take plenty of sea sickness medications with you if you’re prone to feeling unwell on boats. 

It’s on the crossing to and from the Rowley Shoals that you may find uncomfortable, the boat will be nicely sheltered by the coral atolls once you’re out there.  

The Rowley Shoals Experience 

With no land in sight, the closest thing you’ll be able to set foot on is Bedwell Island – a great spot for a picnic and some backyard cricket. Bedwell is not technically big enough to be called an island, it’s a sand cay rising approximately 2m above the water and is the only land for miles.

The island is home to the rare red tail tropic bird, and makes a fabulous spot to watch the sunset. It’s not until you search the co-ordinates of the island that you realise exactly how isolated you are.

Most liveboards to the Rowley Shoals are 7 nights and you’re guaranteed amazing diving, exceptional food, and great service on these boats. 

What is the best time of year to dive the Rowley Shoals? 

The season to dive the Rowley Shoals is limited by the raging tides. The window of calm weather is around October – November and through this time a couple of charter boats take people out for an experience of a lifetime.

Diving at the Rowley Shoals

Mermaid reef is the dive site everyone talks about during their visit, and you’ll understand why when you get there because it is an underwater photographer’s dream. It’s common for divers to step in at Mermaid Reef and feel a huge rush of excitement while trying to decide what to look at first. In between dodging the huge gorgonian fans you’ll likely see batfish, soft corals, plate corals, moray eels, clownfish and anemones in such stunning colours.

The shallows of the reef is always teeming with life too, with hundreds of blue striped snapper, angelfish, butterfly fish, pipefish, and reef sharks for you to see.

We made the most of the incoming tides and drift snorkelled back in to the atoll. If you’ve never drift snorkelled before, it is like flying, especially when you duck dive and just go with the current. 

Would you like to join us for a trip to the Rowley Shoals? 

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