DOUG OLDING skims the surface of the joys of scuba diving...
The weather’s looking good, the seas are slight, visibility is great and the excitement is building… planning and preparation has been happening all week, the tanks are full, the diving gear checked, the boat is fuelled and ready... another great weekend coming up for a diving adventure!
As all scuba divers, spearfishers and snorkelers know, the greatest way to explore the joys of diving is from a boat. It’s all fun jumping off rocks or waddling down the sand to the water, but the ultimate way to get to a dive site is by boat. Most really good dive sites are also well away from shore access/entry.
Boats open up endless possibilities, allowing you to explore unknown reefs, dive on shipwrecks, find new drop-offs, interact with fish and other marine life, as well as get away from the madding crowd.
A good boat with a GPS and depth sounder opens up incredible opportunities. You can be the explorer, discovering places and features you never knew or dreamed existed.
DIVE RIGHT IN
If you already own a boat and want to enjoy the freedom and excitement of diving, get yourself and/or your family and friends along to do a diving course. There are many diving schools in Australia catering for scuba, free diving and spear fishing.
Even if you are naturally like a fish in the water, you still need to get a scuba diving card to ensure you understand the issues of breathing compressed gases underwater. Suppliers of air fills for scuba tanks also require you to show a scuba card so they know they are selling to someone who knows how to use the product.
If, on the other hand, you are a diver without a boat, there are many ways you can remedy the situation and get yourself into life-changing boat ownership. The best way to know you are getting a good rig is to purchase through a BIA member.
SIZE IT UP
Obviously, the style, size and type of boats suitable for diving vary greatly, and what boat you buy is dependent on your budget and inclination.
Boats used for diving come in all shapes and sizes, from 3.60m inflatable boats to 5.00m tinnies up to 18m+ game boats. Ensure the boat allows a good method for entering and getting out of the water... a ladder, marlin board or dive door is essential.
WHAT CAN I SEE UNDERWATER?
The answer is ‘everything’. From underwater canyons, caves, arches, mountains, rocky reefs, coral reefs, shipwrecks, kelp forrests, reef fish, pelagic fish, sunfish, turtles, manta rays, seals, dolphins and even the occasional whale… if it’s in the water, there’s a chance you could one day see it!
Take as many photos and good memories of each dive as you like… but that’s about all you can take. In all states of Australia it’s illegal for scuba divers to spear fish. In some states you can take small numbers of abalone, crayfish and scallops, but be sure to check the local fisheries website for regulations in your area.
Free diving and spear fishing have different regulations and bag limits. Again, regulations must be checked in each area, as the laws regularly change.
A DIVER’S PARADISE
Australia is a diver’s paradise. The coastline is long and diverse, with many harbours, inlets, headlands, reefs and shipwrecks allowing every type of diving imaginable.
From Queensland’s fantastic Great Barrier Reef to Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef to the kelp diving of Tasmania, there is something for everyone when it comes to places available to dive and explore. (Just be aware when planning a dive trip to check any restrictions which may apply in regard to Marine Parks and reserves.)
There are many very well-known dives sites all around Australia with probably the only no-go areas being much of the Top End, which has a very special hazard – saltwater crocodiles.
Queensland has fantastic diving from Lizard Island down to the Gold Coast, including coral reef, tropical fish, rocky outcrops, caves and pelagic fish.
New South Wales has sub-tropical diving in areas like the Tweed Coast, Byron Bay and Julian Rocks, through to temperate water diving in the Merimbula / Eden area.
Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania all have great temperate water diving with canyons, rocky reefs, kelp forests, pelagic fish and plenty of shipwrecks close at hand.
Unbeknown to most, Western Australia has very similar underwater features to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia combined. From Monte Bello Islands and Ningaloo Reef in the north, to Margaret River to Albany to Esperance in the south, the wild west has it all!
POPULAR DIVING AREAS
Cairns, Mission Beach, Townsville / Magnetic Island, Whitsunday Islands, Mackay, Keppel Islands, Capricorn Bunker Islands, Agnes Waters / 1770, Sunshine Coast, Morton Bay, Gold Coast
NEW SOUTH WALES
Tweed Coast, Byron Bay, Solitary Islands, South West Rocks, Forster / Seal Rocks, Port Stephens, Central Coast (Terrigal, Avoca), Pittwater, Sydney / Long Reef, Cronulla, Jervis Bay, Montague Island, Sapphire Coast (Merimbula, Pambula, Eden)
Lakes Entrance, Wilsons Promontary, Westernport, Port Phillp, Apollo Bay, Port Fairy, Portland
Port Macdonell, Robe, Victor Harbour, Kangaroo Island, York Peninsula, Port Lincoln, Streaky Bay
Dampier Archipelego, Exmouth Coral Bay, Kalbarri, Abrolhos Islands, Jurien Bay, Rottnest Island, Bunbury / Busselton, Albany Coast, Esperance / Cape Le Grand
Give it a miss!