Reef and Cliff

25 Mar

The crumbling cliffs drop steeply to a narrow beach where a tangle of dried out seaweed marks the extent of the last high tide. From the beach, a flat limestone platform gently slopes into the ocean. The once smooth surface is scarred with shallow pools, sand patches and bubble weed. A line of white foam marks the outer fringe of the shelf where a sudden increase in depth creates a series of smaller reefs and ledges. These features provide a range of diverse habitats for an assortment of marine life.

3 cliff beach and reef

The view from the cliff top

 

 

The first animal that I meet, on my swim across the shallows, is a fiddler ray which has come in from the seagrass meadows beyond the edge of the reef. It is hunting on the limestone platform; using its keen senses to locate molluscs that are buried in the sandy patches. Like all rays, its mouth is located on the underside of the body and its back is camouflaged to confuse predators that might attack from above. I follow the ray for a few minutes approaching quite close as it lies near a patch of bubble weed. Unlike stingrays, fiddlers do not have a barbed spine on the tail for defence and seem to be quite placid animals.

2 fiddler ray red

Fiddler ray near bubble weed

 

 

The ray follows a series of narrow cracks in the rocky surface where shore crabs often leave the shelter of their burrows to hunt on the incoming tide. The narrow crevices are also home to hoards of tiny anemones that extend their stinging tentacles to trap the tiny organisms that live in the water.

4 Pale anemones amongst seaweed

Anemones in a rock ledge surrounded by seaweed that keeps them wet on the receding tide

 

 

The limestone reef and high cliffs with their spectacular coastal views are the main attractions of the coastal community of Aldinga. The town is a comfortable 50 minutes drive from Adelaide along the main South Road. A traditional Aussie pub and bakery close to the access road from the highway provide great local meals and there are numerous houses for hire along the coastal strip that overlooks the gulf. Several parking bays on top of the cliffs with steps that lead down to the beach and reef make accessing this location very easy. The area is also a marine park and various signs explain the exact nature of restrictions for divers and fishers.

 

rock crab  aldinga 2

Shore crab that has emerged from its shelter to feed

 

After following the ray for a while I swim to the seaward edge of the reef and start exploring its perimeter. The limestone is honeycombed with undercut ledges, caves and crevices. Almost immediately I encounter a large strongfish or dusky morwong; a common species that lives in the seagrass meadows. The fish is well over a metre long and appears to be resting before heading into deeper water to feed.

1 strongfish in cavern red

Strongfish or dusky morwong sheltering under a rocky ledge on the edge of the reef

 

 

I have been in the water for over an hour and have photographed a wide variety of marine life apart from the species mentioned. Now it is my turn to follow their example and ‘grab a bite to eat’ back at the pub before driving home confident that there is still much to see on subsequent visits to this spectacular local ecosystem.

Cheers

Baz

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: