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Tabletop Reef: A Hidden Gem

Living in Leigh as a diver means I'm lucky enough to have the world's first fully protected marine reserve right on my doorstep. Goat Island is certainly a fantastic area to fall in love with diving. Looking at my dive log from the past year it is clear that I have fallen into a bit of a rut. 90% of my dive log describes the exact same dive.

Every Wednesday morning I would follow the same plan. A surface swim out to shag rock. Drop down in the clearing. Follow the gap in the rock towards the swim through. Check on the small crayfish that hides in the crevice on the way to ABC bay, and then head back in.

Now, I know that this is still a fantastic dive, but the number of times that I have followed this routine has made the site feel a little bit bland. It was not quite the exciting underwater adventure it once was.

Over time this coloured my enthusiasm for dives in the reserve until my Dad decided to take me to a spot around the corner called Tabletop Reef. From the surface, it wasn't particularly impressive, just a large flat rock that poked out about a meter above the water. I rolled back off the boat not expecting much but was met with a fantastic surprise.

The bubbles clear to reveal a whole new underwater world, steep rock towers that act as apartment blocks for crayfish and moray eels hiding in the cracks and crevices. The walls were covered in kelp that would sway back and forth in the swell occasionally revealing beautiful brightly coloured nudibranchs and anemones. Gliding through the maze of rock stacks felt like exploring city streets and back alleys, occasionally stumbling on some of the locals, a gang of demoiselles protecting their eggs or a pigfish that would dart off and disappear into the blue at first glance.

Heading out deeper the rock stacks begin to disappear and the ground flattens, brightly coloured orange and yellow sponges start to appear, and silhouettes of kingfish fly-by in the distance. Approaching the sandy bottom a whirlwind of blue mao mao, sweep, and jack mackerel engulf us in thick clouds of fish.

It's hard to think that this fantastic dive site had been right around the corner from me the whole year, hidden just out of view. If you have a site you dive regularly I encourage you to find a way to explore it further, whether it is by making it a kayak dive or straying away from the usual rocks and looking at a different area for a change, you never know what hidden gem you might find. :)

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