Where to swim with giant cuttlefish in South Australia

Where to swim with giant cuttlefish in South Australia

Every win­ter thou­sands of giant Aus­tralian cut­tle­fish con­gre­gate in SA. Learn where, why and how to swim with them.

The giant Aus­tralian cut­tle­fish is exact­ly what its name sug­gests – the largest of all the cut­tle­fish species. Males can be par­tic­u­lar­ly big in size and mea­sure up to 50 cm long and weigh about 10 kg.

They are expert colour-chang­ers and mas­ters of cam­ou­flage, and can change shape and tex­ture to look like rocks, sand or sea­weed – a spec­tac­u­lar sight to see.

Where to swim with giant cuttlefish in South Australia

Giant cut­tle­fish can be found any­where between the south­ern coastal waters of Aus­tralia to the east-coast of Queens­land, and on the west-coast up to Ninga­loo Reef in West­ern Australia.

Giant Aus­tralian cut­tle­fish con­gre­gate off the coast of Whyal­la in South Aus­tralia, along a 10 km stretch of the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park. Cut­tle­fish num­bers usu­al­ly increase through­out May and peak in June and July when the breed­ing sea­son is in full swing.

So if you’re head­ing to Whyal­la or Spencer Gulf, pack your wet­suit and snorkel gear and get a glimpse of these majes­tic creatures.

Why do they all get it on in South Australia?

It’s a nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non. SA’s waters are the only place in the world where the cut­tle­fish aggre­gate annu­al­ly on mass and with such great predictability.

The waters around Point Low­ly and Stony Point in the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park have rocky seabeds, which pro­vide the per­fect envi­ron­ment for females to lay and del­i­cate­ly attach their eggs.

The sheer num­ber of cut­tle­fish makes the Whyal­la breed­ing aggre­ga­tions unique, not just in Aus­tralia, but in the world.

Why the colour­ful show?

As part of the breed­ing process, male cut­tle­fish make it a point to look absolute­ly stun­ning. They put on a spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of colours and shape-shift­ing to attract and keep a mate. Kind of like a dance-off!

How can you swim with them?

You can wit­ness the giant Aus­tralian cut­tle­fish up-close by snorkelling or div­ing in waters around Point Low­ly and Stony Point, also known as Cut­tle­fish Coast.

Where to swim with giant cuttlefish in South Australia

You can go at it alone or book a guid­ed snorkel tour.

The best spot for young fam­i­lies to expe­ri­ence the giant Aus­tralian cut­tle­fish con­gre­ga­tion is at Stony Point, about 20 km north­east of Whyal­la. There’s easy access via a board­walk to the shal­low water and a waist-height chain to hold onto for sup­port, mak­ing it the safest point to enter or exit. 

Top tip: You can some­times find cut­tle­fish in less than a metre of water.

What should you wear?

In the win­ter months, the water is cold so a well-fit­ting full length 5 mm or 7mm thick wet­suit with hood, gloves and boots is the way to go. If you haven’t got your own gear you can always hire it from Whyal­la Div­ing Ser­vices.

Do the cut­tle­fish care that you’re there?

At first the sheer size and rapid colour-changes of these crea­tures is intim­i­dat­ing, yet after a few min­utes you realise there is only one thing on their mind – procreation.

If you’re care­ful to move slow­ly, you can get up close with­out dis­turb­ing the cut­tle­fish. They seem obliv­i­ous to peo­ple and are focused on breeding.

But remem­ber to respect their space – look but don’t touch.

Where to swim with giant cuttlefish in South Australia

Are cut­tle­fish safe to swim near?

Snorkelling is safe along Point Low­ly and Stony Point, but you do need to be care­ful when enter­ing water over rocks and boul­ders, as they can be unsta­ble and slippery.

Top tip: Pre­fer to see these majes­tic won­ders with­out get­ting a foot wet? There’s also a glass-bot­tomed boat expe­ri­ence you can try. 

If you’d rather learn about the under­wa­ter crea­tures hang­ing out in SA’s waters from the com­fort of dry land, check out our blogs about sea drag­ons, blue dev­il fish and squid.

(Main image cour­tesy of Jamie Hicks) 

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in May 2019 and has been updat­ed with new information.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living