Snorkel with cuttlefish in Whyalla
Author: Max Anderson
Photography: Carlo Possagno
One of the world's most spectacular, yet little-known, animal gatherings happens each year between May and August in shallow waters north of the South Australian town of Whyalla.
Between 150,000 and 200,000 giant cuttlefish were estimated to be swarming off the east coast of Eyre Peninsula in the first month of this year's mating season, a huge increase in numbers from 2013-2014 when the cephalopods barely made a showing.
These half-metre cuttlefish gather to perform a remarkable act of courtship seen nowhere else in the world. To lure mates from their rocky hiding places, male cuttlefish will pulse or strobe with electric reds, yellows, blues and greens. The more cunning males will even impersonate females to encourage them into the open.
"It takes place just a few metres o the beaches around the Point Lowly peninsula," says cuttlefish enthusiast and Whyalla dive shop owner Tony Bramley. "All you need is a snorkel and a mask, and a wetsuit is advisable because the water can be cold."
Bramley says most visitors head for Stony Point, east of Whyalla. "There's a ramp where you can wade out into chest-deep water, hold onto a cable and watch the show. But when the numbers are good - as they are this year - they're easy to see. Cuttlefish are incredibly passive, you can get within a metre of them and it doesn't bother them at all."
Bramley hires wetsuit and snorkel gear for $75 for two days. Whyalla Diving Tours, 33 Playford Ave, Whyalla, whyallacuttlefish.com