Australia is home to a rich underwater world bursting with marine life. One phenomenon in particular is the Australian giant cuttlefish aggregation that takes place each winter in the Spencer Gulf. From May-August, the waters surrounding Whyalla on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia host a cuttlefish breeding event like no other.
We’ve had our fair share of amazing water based adventures in Australia. We’ve had the chance to dive in the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef, swim with whale sharks, dive with great white sharks, and more. Needless to say, our bar was set pretty high.
Our experience swimming with giant cuttlefish in Whyalla was one for the books!
About Australian Giant Cuttlefish
Australian giant cuttlefish are the largest cuttlefish in the world. They are cephalopods (think squid) that can change colour to camouflage themselves while zipping through the water at brisk speeds. These spectacular marine creatures earn their “giant” title from being up to 60 cm long and weighing upwards of 5 kg.
Why do Cuttlefish Come to Whyalla?
The small town of Whyalla in Eyre Peninsula is where cuttlefish congregate to mate on their annual migration. The rocky seabeds in the waters surrounding Point Lowly and Stony Point create an ideal environment for the females to lay their eggs.
When Can You See Cuttlefish in Whyalla?
Giant cuttlefish breeding time usually begins in May, peaks in June and July, and tapers off in August.
What is the Water Temperature in Whyalla?
As cuttlefish spawn in the winter, the water temperature in Whyalla during this time is pretty cold. Depending on the months, temperatures range between 12-18°C. In other words, a thick wetsuit will be your friend!
Where Can You Swim with Cuttlefish in Whyalla?
Accurately coined the Cuttlefish Coast, the waters around Point Lowly in South Australia are the perfect place to swim with cuttlefish. Stony Point and Black Point (just outside of Whyalla) are popular access points for divers and snorkelers.
How to See Giant Cuttlefish in Whyalla
The easiest way to witness the natural phenomenon is on a tour. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, you can join a diving tour for $200-250. The $250 individual scuba tour lasts 4 hours and includes your equipment hire. Similarly, snorkelling tours range from $130-170 and even offer options for those less comfortable swimming.
Otherwise, you can bring or hire equipment and go on your own self-guided swim. Whyalla Diving Services offers equipement for rent. They have everything: from single items like masks and wetsuits to full equipment sets. A wetsuit will set you back $40, while a mask and fins are only $10/each. Outside of equipment, the experience is free. A guided tour is always great for local insight but we had a great time going on our own expedition.
We visited Whyalla in early May and despite it being very early in the cuttlefish season, we were thrilled to learn that the migration had arrived and cuttlefish could be easily spotted offshore.
We rented fins, masks, and wetsuits from Whyalla Diving Services the evening before our dive. The staff there were great at giving us advice on where along the coast we’d have the best chance of spotting the cuttlefish.
We learned that the migration usually starts at Black Point in early months and that cuttlefish move to Stony Point later in the season.
With that info in mind, we geared up for our snorkeling adventure the following morning. We drove to Black Point, arriving around 9am. After parking Tilly, the Troopy, at the signs, we changed into our wet suits and grabbed our fins/snorkels and cameras and walked down the steps to the rocky shoreline.
We geared up with fins and masks on the rocks then carefully maneuvered the slippery rocks into the water. The water was cold, maybe 17°C at most, and even though the initial descend took our breath away, we adjusted to the temps pretty well.
Or perhaps we just got distracted, because it didn’t take more than 5 mins for us to spot the first giant cuttlefish! Within 100m offshore, the amazing creatures were everywhere! There were dozens of smaller cuttlefish and a couple of giant colourful beauties.
We had no problem seeing them up close despite not having our scuba diving gear. We kept swimming along the shore and in the 20 or so minutes that we spent in the water, we saw hundreds of cuttlefish in all their glory! We were able to see them right at the surface of the water but Max still did some duck diving to photograph them up close.
Although the water was cold, we lucked out with a sunny day and were able to stay warm thanks to the sun. It also helped that we were able to keep our heads above water since diving wasn’t even necessary.
All in all, it was an amazing experience!. The whole trip was super unique and very special. We were impressed with how easy it was to see the cuttlefish without a tour and without any diving equipment! It’s an experience accessible to anyone!
- Get the gear, you will need it. It’s best to buy a mask and snorkel ahead of time and bring them with you.
- Renting wetsuits can be expensive. Try checking op-shops in town and you may find one second hand that you can grab for $15-20. We got Oksana a wetsuit at an op-shop for just $20, which was cheaper than renting for $30-40. We returned the wet suit back to the opp shop after.
- For a peaceful dive, go in the morning before the wind gets strong.
Can you catch cuttlefish in Whyalla?
No, there is a permanent fishing closure for cephalopods (cuttlefish, squid, and octopus) in False Bay. This covers much of the Upper Spencer Gulf, from Point Lowly to the city of Whyalla. In addition to the permanent ban, there is a temporary closure in waters 100 m out from the coast. You can follow along for updates on the closure here.