The treacherous reefs surrounding Rottnest Island have claimed many a ship over the past 200 years. In the here and now their ghostly remains lying on the sea floor are of huge interest to those of us who are drawn to exploring the world beneath the ocean’s surface, both for their historical significance and mystique, and also for the habitats they provide for marine life.
While it’s true that the majority of Rottnest’s shipwrecks lie in deep water hundreds of metres off shore, did you know that there are three shipwrecks around Rottnest that are easily accessible for snorkelers without a boat? Two of them are some of the safest and easiest snorkeling spots around Rottnest Island and are quite suitable for young kids and other inexperienced snorkelers.
Having snorkelled on all three, I’d say that The Shark is the best of these.
But the other two are also well worth a look. The Kiryo Maru wreck is more suited to scuba diving than snorkeling really, but you can still swim to it from shore if you’re a strong swimmer, and it’s by far the more adventurous of the three snorkels described here. The Uribes on the otherhand is at Thomson Bay, practically in the settlement, and less than 50 metres off the beach!
The Uribes is the easiest and most convenient shipwreck to snorkel of all the ship wrecks around Rottnest. It’s only about 20m offshore, and a short walk away from the Kingston Barracks at the south-eatern end of Thomson Bay near Phillips Point.
The skeleton of the boat lies on the seafloor next to the reef that extends off the section of beach between the army jetty and Natural Jetty, on the eastern side of some low limestone cliffs. It’s not too hard to find if you enter the water at the small limestone rocks on the beach.
The wreck is well preserved and you can easily see the shape of the small ship.
The visibility often isn’t good so it’s not really worth it if the water is choppy or if there’s been a lot of onshore wind. But it can be a good spot for swimming and snorkeling in the afternoon when most other beaches are windy because Phillip Point and Natural Jetty provide good shelter from the south-westerley.
The wreck of The Shark can be easily seen from the roadside lookout and beach at Henrietta Rocks. The top part of the wreck protrudes above the surface of the water, and from this perspective looks to me more like a crane than a boat.
This is an easy snorkel suitable for little kids, and very interesting for grownups, too. You only have to swim about 50 meters from the beach to get to it. The wreck is small, but you can dive down under its ledges and there are always plenty of fish swimming about. It’s fairly exposed to all southerly winds, so is best snorkelled on still days. But it doesn’t gets wavy there so it’s always quite safe and an easy snorkel.
This one is in deeper water and is more of a challenge to get to than the other shipwreck snorkeling spots at Rottnest mentioned above. Only attempt this one if you’re a confident swimmer and snorkeler. The place around where the remains of the Kiryo Maru are scattered is quite exposed and could get pretty unsafe in even slightly rough conditions.
Swimming around to the left from Eagle Bay, you’ll find yourself in the deep channel between Cathedral Rocks and the platform reef adjoining the shoreline (alternatively you can work your way over the low sharp limestone cliffs and reef and jump in straight into the deep water).
Eventually you’ll start to see the remains of the ship. They’re scattered in pieces along the base of the kelp-covered nearshore reef in deep water and are themselves grown over with sea weed. A couple of pieces are quite large but there is no obvious ship shape. As it’s quite deep, you’d be able to see a lot more scuba diving.
I didn’t see many fish around the wreck at all, but the more sheltered reefs off the western side of Eagle Bay, and in particular the ones out deeper behind and east of Cathedral Rocks, couldn’t be more different – this is one of the best places on the island for seeing a huge number of colourful and interesting fish.
Map of Rottnest’s Ship Wreck Snorkels Close to the Beach:
- Red: Uribes
- Yellow: Shark
- Green: Kiryo Maru
Last Updated: 22nd May, 2015.
First posted on 22nd May, 2015 by Bonny.
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