Not only are cuttlefish the ocean’s most intelligent invertebrates, but their look is also unbeatable! Three hearts, eight arms, green blood and “chameleons of the sea”… Cuttlefish – who aren’t actually fish but cephalopods – are fascinating creatures. Here are my tips to see and swim with giant cuttlefish in Whyalla. Trust me, there is no better place to see their colourful show from close!
The first time we randomly visited Whyalla, we first saw – and smelt – the factories and mines beside one of the bluest water in the region. It was a big surprise to find out the coast is home to thousands of Giant Cuttlefish every winter. It felt like we had just found one of Australia’s most hidden gems. We swore to come back during the right season to see this unique show for divers and snorkellers.
What’s special with the giant cuttlefish in Whyalla?
Although cuttlefish can be found elsewhere, and we see them regularly when scuba diving in Australia, Whyalla is the only known place on Earth where thousands aggregate to reproduce. In 2016, the annual estimated population was more than 177,000 Cuttlefish!
It’s an amazing show. They change colours to attract each other or to camouflage with the nearby rocks and algae. Snorkellers and divers can dip in the middle of them. They don’t care and stick around as if no one is watching. They’re too occupied with their mating rituals to bother about stalkers. I have seen giant cuttlefish on the Great Barrier Reef or around the Solitary Islands, but I had never seen them that close (and that many!). Whyalla is truly special.
If you love cuttlefish as much as I do, check this video to learn more about their mating ritual and how clever they are!
How to see and swim with giant cuttlefish in Whyalla?
When to travel to Whyalla to see giant cuttlefish
They only come when the water is colder, between May and August.
Where to swim with giant cuttlefish in Whyalla
The easiest entry point to swim with cuttlefish is at Stony Point, a 20-minute drive from Whyalla. A ramp will safely lead you over the rocks to the water. Black Point is another access point, but without a ramp, so divers will find it more challenging to go across the rocks with their equipment.
But don’t worry about where to go once you’re in the water. We saw our first giant cuttlefish one metre away from the shore in less than one metre of water.
Stony Point and Black Point have no facilities. You’ll have to change in your car. If needed, you can find showers at Point Lowly Lighthouse, about five to ten minutes away driving.
Is the water really cold?
Yes, it is between 11º to 14º. But the cold is not an issue if you have the right equipment. I lasted just under one hour for my dives on the first day and managed to stay more than 90 minutes twice on the second day.
The local dive shop can provide adequate equipment for snorkelling and diving without being too cold.
Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? It’s worth double-checking. If not, I recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) for those who dive regularly. WorldNomads* and Covermore* also make it easy to add adventurous activities like scuba diving to your plan.
How to see giant cuttlefish without getting wet
Even if they stay in shallow water, they can’t be seen from the shore. However, you can now hop on a glass-bottom boat to check out the cuttlefish while staying warm out of the water!
Is it better to dive or snorkel with the giant cuttlefish in Whyalla?
In Whyalla, the giant cuttlefish stay in shallow waters to be safe from predators like dolphins. Hence, it’s perfect for snorkelling. Our average depth while diving was around 2.5 metres only.
Still, I prefer diving. It’s more effort to put on all the equipment, but we could go very close to the cuttlefish. They didn’t care about our presence or our bubbles. It’s amazing just to stop there, a few centimetres away, and watch their colourful show.
Do you need a guide to swim with giant cuttlefish?
If you have very little experience in the water, it is always a good idea to hire a guide. It can also be an easy but amazing first diving experience if you’ve never tried it!
Although we are experienced divers, we enjoy diving with someone who knows the area and its inhabitants. It increases the chances of spotting more interesting things we may not even look for, like nudibranchs and eggs. Plus, it’s a perfect opportunity to get pics of you!
But if you have a buddy and don’t want to increase your budget, a guide is not necessary to swim with giant cuttlefish in Whyalla.
What’s the budget for a weekend away to dive with giant cuttlefish in Whyalla?
I don’t talk about budget a lot on the blog because prices change over the years and can sometimes because irrelevant. But I find it useful to mention that although this trip is not cheap for just a long weekend, it stays affordable considering diving is always a pricey activity.
Back in 2017, for two people travelling from Brisbane, it cost around $600/p for a three-day trip, including four dives.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Return flight Brisbane – Adelaide: $220/p
- Car rental (3 days): $80
- Petrol: $80
- Hotel (3 nights at Whyalla Caravan Park*, with kitchenette to save money and time!): $250. Click here to book hotels*
- Food: $100
- Snorkelling equipment rental (2 days): $75/p
- Extra for diving equipment (2 days): $45/p
- Tank refill: $10/tank
- Guide for three dives (optional): $350/group
If you don’t want to go in the water or feel like taking a break from the cold, the glass-bottom boat tour costs $60/p.
Are there other things to do in Whyalla?
It’s a big YES! There are many things to do in Whyalla and the nearby region.
Whyalla is at the top of the Eyre Peninsula, and there’s a lot to do in that region if you have time. We haven’t explored it all.
We enjoyed a lot our night dive in Whyalla Marina, where we saw the cutest squid ever (bobtail) and loved our time with the seahorse! By the way, did you know seahorses are very talented for camouflage too? Before diving there, check out this website and this guide to learn more about what you may see.
During our first trip, we stayed in the north of the peninsula and went to Baird Bay to swim with dolphins and sea lions. We came back through the Gawler Ranges National Park and Lake Gairdner. It was a fantastic trip. However, they don’t go swimming with sea lions in Baird Bay during the winter months of June, July and August, so it will be hard to make it coincide with seeing the giant cuttlefish.
You can also go south to Port Lincoln. You may spot Leafy Sea Dragons if you stop on the way to dive Tumby Bay. Port Lincoln is a reputed tourist destination in Australia for diving with Great White Sharks and Sea Lions.
Have you visited Whyalla or the Eyre Peninsula? How was it? Leave a comment below!
Where is Whyalla?
Whyalla is in South Australia, at the top of the Eyre Peninsula.
It takes almost five hours to drive there from Adelaide. It’s lovely to break the drive with a stop in the wineries of the reputed Clare Valley. You can also fly from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. You’ll then be 2.5 hours away from Whyalla.
Responsible travel tip: Transport generates greenhouse emissions and contributes to global warming. Reduce air travel where you can. Driving is never eco-friendly, but it is still better than flying – especially if you carpool in a fuel-efficient car!
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