Scuba Diving Australia
Australia is known for its unusual animals, rich marine life, fascinating culture. But when it comes to visiting below the ocean’s surface, one particular part of its marine heritage stands out above all others, the Great Barrier Reef.
Australia is a country, and continent, surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans – the sixth-largest country on this large planet – is dazzlingly diverse: a sing-along medley of mountains, deserts, reefs, forests, beaches and multicultural melting-pot cities. Its major cities – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide – are coastal, but its capital, Canberra, is inland and nicknamed the “Bush Capital.” The country is known for its Sydney Opera House, Great Barrier Reef, the vast Outback (interior desert wilderness) and unique animal species including kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses.
Scuba Diving Australia
Completely surrounded by water and rich in islands and reefs, Australia is a diver’s dream. Australia’s waters shelter a treasure trove of marine life, with more than 4000 species of fish and the world’s highest diversity of sea grass. Swim with the giant, gentle whale shark on Ningaloo Reef or with sea-lions and dolphins on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Learn to dive on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest living organism. Or snorkel in sheltered and scenic Clovelly in Sydney. Discover kelp-encrusted submarines off the Mornington Peninsula or a maze of underwater caves along Tasmania’s east coast. Our temperate waters are calling, so come dive in.
Rated as both Australia’s and one of the world’s top scuba destinations, diving the Great Barrier Reef should be at the top of any true dive enthusiasts’ must-do list of places to visit, particularly the main attractions such as the Cod Hole, Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef.
Australia has other great places to dive too, such as the Rowley Shoals in Western Australia, and South Australia where you can enjoy incredible cage diving experiences with great white sharks.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
Queensland / Great Barrier Reef:
When people say they want to dive Australia, what they usually mean is that they want to scuba dive Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system. The Great Barrier Reef is the only living structure on earth that can be seen from outer space. Made up of nearly 2900 individual reefs, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays, it’s the world’s largest single structure comprised of living organisms. Queensland takes up almost a quarter of Australia and offers more diving adventures beyond just the Great Barrier Reef. The Sunshine Coast, southern Queensland, has purpose-sunk wrecks, sandstone formations covered with corals, ledges, caverns and pinnacles to explore.
Western Australia – Ningaloo
Perth, is closer to Bali than it is to Sydney – so it gets less attention than the Eastern states, but not to be missed under any circumstances for some great diving. There is the Ningaloo Reef, famous for its Whale Sharks, Exmouth Pier and the Rowley Shoals up in the north of the state to mention but a few of the excellent dive sites Western Australia has to offer. Join the tropical-coloured party at Ningaloo Marine Park, the world’s largest fringing reef. Its home to 200 species of hard coral, 50 soft coral and over 500 species of fish. Snorkel or shallow dive with brightly adorned fish in the Bundegi Bombies reef sanctuary. Get up close to sci-fi sponges, gorgonians and sea whips at the entrance to the Exmouth Gulf. Mingle with turtles, manta rays, dolphins, dugongs, batfish, angelfish and clownfish, among others, at Lighthouse Bay. Discover spectacular reef diving and a glamorous underwater crowd at the Murion Islands. Between April and June you can even hang out with the whale shark, the world’s largest fish.
Northern Territory – Darwin Harbour
World War II wrecks and a coastal reef teeming with fish in balmy Darwin Harbour. Approximately every second week, the tidal currents let you discover these underwater secrets. Swim through moss-covered hulks of ships, sunk in 1942 air raids, and now home to coral trout, wobbegong sharks, jewfish and barracuda. See gorgonians, soft coral trees, harp corals, vase sponges and sea squirts in the shallow reefs lining either side of the harbour. Experience one of Darwin’s famous flamingo sunsets before a night dive in the warm, glass-smooth seas. You’ll spot slate pencil urchins and the occasional octopus in the naturally illuminated water.
Victoria – Mornington Peninsula
Dive with sting rays, seahorses, cuttlefish, squid, urchins, rock cod and weedy sea dragons in Port Phillip Heads Marine Park. This magical marine world sits off the Mornington Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. Marvel at the abundance of fish, birds and seals in the tiny sanctuary of Popes Eye. Swim with dolphins at Sorrento. Drop from 8 to 18 metres, past the underwater cliffs, ledges and caves of Kelp Beds Reef. Or go even deeper at Port Phillip Heads, which offers wall dives, drop-offs and submerged World War I submarines. Learn to dive at Portsea Pier and discover a diversity of fish on the trail around Rye Pier.
South Australia – Baird Bay
Swim, snorkel or dive with playful sea-lions and bottle nosed dolphins in tranquil Baird Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. This fishing village has become famous for the colony of endangered sea-lions that live in a sheltered lagoon offshore. Watch parents and pups somersault through the clear water, just a whisker away. Stare into their soulful, brown eyes and let them nudge you and invite you to play. Dive in deeper water with pods of fun-loving, but more elusive dolphins. In nearby Port Lincoln, you can swim with cuttlefish and tuna and even cage dive with great white sharks.
New South Wales – Clovelly and Gordons Bay
Just eight kilometers from Sydney, divers will be treated to a rainbow community of fish in the picturesque, rocky channels of Clovelly and neighboring Gordons Bay. Blue groper, bream, snapper, kingfish, eastern blue devifish, giant cuttlefish and flathead crowd the ocean. Go night-diving in sheltered Clovelly Pool or in the bigger waves off Sharks Point, at Clovelly’s northern end. Wind around Gordons Bay on the 500 metre Underwater Nature Trail, past rocky reefs, sand flats and kelp forests. Amongst the usual marine suspects, you’ll find weedfish, seadragons, wobbegongs and Port Jackson sharks, as well as sea stars, slugs and urchins.
Tasmania – East Coast Dive Trail
11 spectacular diving spots along Tasmania’s east coast, from Binalong Bay to the Tasman Peninsula. The clear, turquoise water has visibility between 10 to 40 metres. See big-bellied seahorses and weedy seadragons on a shore dive in Waubs Bay, near Bicheno. Glide past jewelled anemones and schools of butterfly perch in Governor Island Marine Nature Reserve. Swim through the enchanting caves of Isle de Phoque, also home to a large seal colony. Dive the scuttled Troy D near Maria Island or off the boat into the large reefs and caves of Waterfall Bay. Kick through the Fortescue Bay Kelp Forest or around the SS Nord, which in 1915 sank 40 metres deep.
Located about 1,600 miles northwest of Perth, it is a territory of Australian. Christmas Island has some of the longest drop-offs in the world. The island rises dramatically from the edge of the Java Trench, Indian Ocean’s deepest point. While you will experience some quick currents in parts of the island, most of the sites have very predictable and slow water movement. Reef fish are everywhere, huge schools of velvet surgeons with Indian triggers up in the water column feeding on plankton, large Maori wrasses and double-headed parrot fish crunching their way along the reefs, colorful Indian Ocean wrasses, fusiliers in huge schools arcing this way and that following the plankton swarms they feed on. It is also home to the annual spectacular red crab migration.
Visibility: Tides, Current and Surge all affect water clarity inside the Great Barrier Reef, but it averages 15-21 metres/50-70 feet and can hit a high of 30 metres/100 feet. Outside the reef, visibility averages a reliable 18-30 metres/60-100 feet and often soars to more than 46 metres/150 feet in the Coral Sea.
Water Temperature: Expect water temperatures around 30° C/85° F during the summer throughout the central and northern Great Barrier Reef. Expect around 24° C/75° F in winter and cooler water off the Sunshine Coast.
Weather: In tropical Queensland, daytime air temperatures vary from the mid 20°sC/80°sF in winter to the mid 30°sC/90°sF in summer. Diving is great year round, but different seasons offer different rewards. December through February mean great visibility and warmer water, while June through November pays off with minke whales and humpback whales spotting and coral spawning.
Featured Creatures: Everything from dwarf minke whales, sea turtles, manta rays, sharks, carpet sharks, sea snakes, cuttlefish, bumphead parrotfish, leopard moray eels, potato cod and macro life. It’s the world’s largest reef system so you can truly expect to see a bit of just about everything.
Diving Season: Australia as a whole is a year round dive destination but, for most part, late August to early December yields the best Great Barrier Reef diving conditions.
How To Dive Australia: Day boats are the norm for most of Australia’s dive areas, although there is some shore dives. One of the best & most common ways to dive the Great Barrier Reef is from a Live-aboard.
CLIMATE: Most of the country receives more than 3,000°hr of sunshine a year. Australia experiences temperate weather for most of the year. Generally, the north is hot and tropical, while the south tends to be sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. . Like all countries in the southern hemisphere, Australia’s seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. December to February is summer; March to May is autumn; June to August is winter; and September to November is spring.
LANGUAGE: English. Generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults.
ELECTRICITY: 240/250 volts, AC 50Hz. The Australian three pin power outlet is different from that in North America so you will need an adapter socket. If your devices are not or do not have a built in converter for 240/250 volts you will need a voltage converter.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: Australia’s national currency is the Australian dollar which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations. Currency exchange is available at banks, hotels and international airports. Australian banks offer the same range of services typical in other western nations, and cash withdrawal machines or Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread, although facilities may be limited in remote towns and the Outback.
VISA or MasterCard are commonly accepted and are both accepted everywhere credit cards are accepted. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains and many tourist destinations. JCB is only accepted at very limited tourist destinations. Discover is not usually accepted.
Traveller’s cheques are not as widely accepted in Australia as in many other countries. If you do purchase them, it is best to buy them in Australian dollars as smaller shops, restaurants, and other businesses are unlikely to know what the exchange rate is if you present a cheque in a different currency such as US dollars or British pounds.
TIME ZONES: Australia is divided into three separate time zones: Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) covers the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania & the Australian Capital Territory. AEST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 10 hours (UTC +10).
Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) covers the state of South Australia, the town of Broken Hill in western New South Wales and the Northern Territory. ACST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 9½ hours (UTC +9½).
Australian Western Standard Time (AWST) covers Western Australia. AWST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 8 hours (UTC +8)..
GRATUITIES: Tipping is never compulsory and is usually not expected in Australia.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Australia has three nationwide cellular (mobile) phone networks based on the GSM standard (900 and 1800mhz). Check your Carrier to see if they offer coverage. You can buy a cheap prepaid mobile phone in Australia with a SIM. Australia offers many Internet access options for travelers. Be aware that many internet companies cap usage, finding an unlocked Wi-Fi connection is uncommon.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: All visitors – apart from citizens of New Zealand – require a visa in advance of travel. Electronic travel authority (ETA) Visas can be obtained: An Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) provides authorization to travel to and enter Australia and is electronically linked to your passport.
Many visitors can get an ETA through any International Air Transport Association (IATA) –registered travel agent or overseas airline. They make the application direct when you buy a ticket and issue the ETA, which replaces the usual visa stamped in your passport – it’s common practice for travel agents to charge a fee, in the vicinity of US$25, for issuing an ETA. This system is available to passport holders of 32 countries, including the UK, USA and Canada, most European and Scandinavian countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Korea.
You can also apply for the ETA online: www.eta.immi.gov.au which attracts a non-refundable service charge of $20.
DEPARTURE TAX: The Passenger Movement Charge of A$47.00 – also known as Departure Tax – which is levied by the Federal Government. All of the taxes and charges are paid by the airlines and included in your airfare, so there are no added taxes to pay.
CUSTOMS: Australia has strict quarantine requirements regarding importing animal and vegetable derived products (any food, wooden products, seeds, etc). You must declare all such material and baggage is frequently scanned and may be examined by dogs. You may be fined $220 on-the-spot if you fail to declare, or even prosecuted in very serious cases. Processed and sealed commercially prepared foods (chocolates, cookies, etc) are often permitted. They will be examined and returned to you, but still must be declared. Some prohibited items can be treated by quarantine at your expense and picked up at a later time.
Some shells, coral and items made from a protected species are also prohibited to discourage the trade in items that may originate from a threatened ecosystem or species.
While there are no restrictions on the amount of money that can be brought in or out, Australian customs also requires you to declare if you are bringing AUD 10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) or more in or out of the country and you will be asked to complete some paperwork.
GETTING THERE: Australia is a long way from anywhere else in the world, so for most visitors, the only practical way of getting into Australia is by air. Approximately half of all international travelers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, (IATA: SYD). After Sydney, significant numbers of travelers also arrive in Australia in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international services into Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island though these are largely restricted to flights from New Zealand, Oceania, or Southeast Asia.
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