Male Ornate Cowfish (Julian Finn, n.d.).png

The wonders of Port Noarlunga Reef


When thinking about going snorkelling in Australia, the first location that usually comes to mind is the Great Barrier Reef, but did you know that right here in South Australia, just out of Adelaide, we have our own reef teaming with fish and other marine life, known as the Port Noarlunga Reef!

Port Noarlunga Reef is a part of the ‘Great Southern Reef’ which stretches along Australia’s southern coast from Kalbarri in Western Australia all the way to northern New South Wales. Many of the wonderful and slightly unusual species that are found along the ‘Great Southern Reef’ can be spotted right here in Port Noarlunga just out from the end of the jetty!

 Male Ornate Cowfish (Julian Finn, n.d.)

Ornate Cowfish

When you hop into the water from the platform at the end of the jetty, one of the first creatures you spot may be an Ornate Cowfish hanging around the jetty pylons. Their colours allow them to stand out from the others, with females being brown with white stripes, and males having yellow and blue markings. They are curious little creatures, and some may even come up to say hello!


 (Port Jackson Shark (Good Living, 2018)

Port Jackson Sharks

The name may alarm you, but these sharks are definitely not one to be feared. Port Jackson Sharks are harmless and can be found in large numbers at the Port Noarlunga reef around late winter and spring, as this is their breeding season. These sharks are oviparous, meaning that their offspring are laid in eggs. Their eggs are spiral shaped and when laid they are soft-shelled, allowing the females to push the eggs into rock crevices to protect them from predators. These egg cases are often found washed up on the beach.

Port Jackson Sharks are also unusual as they can eat and breathe at the same time, a trick that few sharks can perform due to their reliance on keeping their mouth open to allow water to flow over their gills.


 Decorator Crab (Don Silcock, n.d.)

Decorator Crabs

Have you ever seen a crab playing dress up before? Well, that’s exactly what the Decorator Crabs spend their time doing. These gorgeous little creatures use seaweed, sponges or anything else they can find to decorate their body, which allows them to camouflage against the sea floor. Each individual has a different look depending on their environment, which is what makes them so unique. They are such a delight to spot if you can dive your way to the sea floor.


 Spotted Wobbegong (Erik Schlögl, 2009)


These funky looking sharks spend a lot of their time hiding under ledges of the reef and will hunt for prey such as crabs and fish at night, making them a little difficult to spot, but if you’re game enough for a night dive, you may spot one! They are known for their flat bodies, spotted appearance and small outgrowths around their mouth that help them to detect prey.

Port Noarlunga Reef is full of many more beautiful and unique creatures, so if you’re ever looking for a place to experience our wonderful marine life, this is definitely the place to be!


Article written by Tamika Heath