MAAC Dive & Snorkel Trail
Directions - Located just south of Hillarys Boat Harbour on West Coast Drive, there is plenty of parking available at the Marmion Angling and Aquatic Club. The trail head is on the north side of the building, look for the wall art of various marine creatures.
The Snorkel - With the summer months bringing warmer temperatures, flies, ticks and the threat of bushfires, it's usually the time of year where I enjoy a break from hiking. Over the past couple of years I've started to snorkel a bit more, taking in the Omeo Wreck several times, headed over to Rottnest and visited Point Peron and Penguin Island. The northern suburbs were a destination I kept wanting to check out and with the opening of the MAAC Dive and Snorkel Trail recently, it seemed like a good excuse to head north. With my passport ready and all my fruit and vegetables declared, I crossed north of the river with a few friends to see what was what. While new hiking trails are few and far between in Perth (decades apart it seems), the rise of snorkel trails is really great to see. Just recently they have expanded the Coogee Maritime Trail and now a bit of money has been invested in the MAAC Dive and Snorkel Trail.
I do enjoy that these dive spots have always existed but it takes a series of underwater markers to alert people to the fact a good reef spot is there, but that's kind of the point. Unlike the Coogee Maritime Trail where they have installed new concrete structures to attract fish, the MAAC trail is more a guide to seeing the best parts of the reef located here. With a few members of the squad running late, I checked out the murals that have been painted on the wall of the car park and the ramp leading down to the beach. Dutch artist Amok Island (of the Ravensthorpe Silo fame) who has lived in WA for a while now has painted some beautiful marine creatures on the wall of the car park while local artist Brenton See was commissioned to paint the side wall of the MAAC where you will find the trail head. With everyone finally here we headed down to the water on what was a bit of a chilly summer morning. The trail looked fairly simple to follow with a series of plinths guiding the way out to the deepest spot and then looping back between the two exposed reefs. The water was very inviting with the temperature making it feel much warmer than standing in the cool easterly breeze. While I said the trail looked fairly simple, after the first few plinths we separated as a group with Tom and Mel deciding that they would snorkel their own snorkel. Early on there were some good fish finds as the sea floor was blanketed in grasses and seaweed that provides some good protection for them.
I'm terrible with naming fish but it was fun to spot the different varieties in what was very good visibility (my old GoPro Hero 4 doesn't quite show it). As we moved off towards the deepest part of the trail, I located the last of the plinths we would see for a while. Aron and Jen caught up but Tom and Mel were off doing their own thing (where apparently they spotted an octopus). Diving down to the bottom on a few occasions, it was great to feel the escapism that comes with snorkelling. All you can hear is your own breathing and when you're swimming along the bottom looking for something interesting, I like the feeling of being in my own little world (I may have had Under the Sea in my head). With no plinth in sight as we headed south from the last one, I thought it would be best to just head straight to the area between the two reefs. In the end you aren't here to see plinths no matter what is written on them (although these ones are nicely decorated and informative), you want to see marine life. Tom and Mel had decided to head back to shore as they were getting cold so Aron, Jen and myself kept exploring. The sections in-between the exposed bits of the reef was really cool with lots of shallow sections you could float over and deeper parts where the fish scurried in and out of sight. We found another of the plinths as we kept exploring but I'd given up trying to follow the trail by this point.
Jen and Aron eventually decided to head back also so I spent a little while just going up and down the reef looking for something cool. After spotting a few fish I'd already seen and admiring the rows of seaweed flapping around in the motion of the ocean, I was fortunate enough to witness something special. While my luck with wildlife on Terra Firma is somewhat limited (still no echidna sighting on the mainland), apparently I am luckier in the Kingdom of Poseidon. As I was heading back to shore an Eagle Ray glided past in front of me, a majestic sight and one I was very happy to see. Thankfully I had my GoPro at the ready and quickly snapped a shot of it as it headed off. I tried to follow but it quickly disappeared into the reef and my mask was too fogged up to see where it was headed. Giving off a few fist pumps at such a cool sighting, I made my way back to the beach to join the others. Tom and Mel had gone off to get coffees for everyone while they waited so that was a great way to finish. We all stood in the sun warming ourselves up as I regaled everyone with my tales of the ray sighting. Once everyone was dry and warm we decided to have breakfast at the North Beach Deli to round off the lovely summer's morning.