11 June 2007

A Diver in Canberra : Playing with Seals and Sharks

| che
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As just about any diver will tell you, what they really want to see is sharks. From the movies everyone thinks of sharks as big scary eating machines. Lucky for me the grey nurse shark is not one of those and while they are unfortunately dwindling in numbers there are still some to be found. It was just after ANZAC Day back in 2005 when I went down to Narooma and got to see my first grey nurse shark in the water at Montague Island. The island is also the site of 2 different fur seal colonies, New Zealand and Australian. The Kiwis are bigger and more aggressive but only come over for the warmer season when they kick the Aussies off the nice side of the island. On the trip I also got to discover the lovely campsite that is Mystery Bay.

Montague Island

Dive : Montague Island, 7km offshore from Narooma
Driving time : 3 hours
Accommodation : Stayed at the Mystery Bay primitive campsite
Gear Hire : I’m part of the ANU Scuba Club so for club run trips the hire of tank, BCD and regulators is $10 for the weekend
Tank fills : I think it was $8 from Ocean Hut in Narooma (15 min drive into town)

Here are some ANU Scuba Club photos taken at Montague Island by Peter and Ron in Feb this year.

The Dive
Woke up the first morning and found the water to be smooth as glass. The trip out to the island usually takes 40 minutes, we did it in 15. It was a real thrill getting a little zodiac with a big engine to go that fast over such smooth water.

Going past the island we gave the fur seals a bark and a clap to wake them up before heading over to the shark gutters to drop anchor.

Unfortunately while the water was smooth as glass it was also a bit murky with visibility of only 5-8 meters. Once we dropped down to about 25 meters we set out in search of the elusive grey nurse shark. After following the contours of the bottom for a while we finally came across a large grey shape moving slowly through the water. Moving cautiously closer, and feeling the heart rate and breathing getting much, much quicker, we got a good look at the 3 meter long body and very black eyes, but couldn’t quite make out the row upon row of needle like teeth. Unfortunately that was our only sighting of a grey nurse in the water. Arriving back at the boat we found that the other boat just 40 meters away had managed to see 6 sharks in the water. Bugger.

On the way back to Mystery Bay we drove slowly past the fur seals and gave them another clap and a bark, and this time they all came crashing into the water and up to the boat. So cutting the engine I quickly grabbed a mask and jumped overboard to go for a swim with them. There would have been 20 in the water with us and they would circle then dive underneath then come in close and pull away quickly, just playing around, but still keeping about 2 meters distance from us. I’ve since played with other fur seals (in the Galapagos) that would come right up to you and blow bubbles in your face. As another first time experience Montague Island was very cool.

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I really like these stories. It’s great to find out about things to do around Canberra that you wouldn’t think of ordinarily.

Che has spoken.


If you were a Canberra Scuba diver or would like to be one then you can see what is available to you in the Canberra region. So no excuses for saying “I live in Canberra there is no beach therefore I’ll never learn to scuba dive” when just 2-4 hours drive away you too can have all these experiences.

Maybe they’re playing a joke on you scumdorg, by ignoring your piece about ignoring the flypast.

Is this really relevant to us here in Canberra? Why was this crap posted when my piece about WIN News and the ABC ignoring the flypast by the A380 Airbus wasn’t printed?

South West Rocks is trying to set up a conservation zone for Grey nurses, you could get some great shark action there in the near future methinks.

Grey Nurse Gutters in Coffs Harbour got fished out long ago.

Respekt the Snorkler !

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