The skies may have looked ominous but the dive conditions off Port Kembla on Sunday were brilliant, with fantastic visibility. From the easy seven-minute boat trip out to the island, where the seals seemed to be waiting for us to drop anchor, to the amazing marine life spotted at a variety of depths, this really is a dive for everyone!
The quick trip was a blessing, as a few of us began to stare out at the horizon, staving off nausea from the increasing swell. But any seasickness was put to rest as we approached the dive site and spotted a colony of Australian fur seals lifting their heads to check out the incoming boat.
A few seals had made their way into the water even before the first diver was off the boat, but kept their distance at first. After an easy entry and descent, we began to explore the area. The rocks at the edge of the island on which the seals can be found were brilliant. For a brief moment, I forgot that I was supposed to be searching for seals as I was swept away by the abundance of sea urchins, fish (surprisingly, given the predators nearby!), a couple of eels, and incredible rays. The ease with which the huge rays undulated by was nothing short of mesmerising.
Then, out of the blue, the seals descended. Twisting and turning, eyeing us off, these graceful “dogs of the sea” amazed us with their theatrics. Their pointed faces and sharp teeth are reminiscent of their canine relatives, but there were no teeth flashed at us today – just large, doe-like eyes watching us intently. This is one dive where permission to wave your arms around is granted! In fact, the more you move, the more likely the seals are to hang around and play. Stay still and you’re just too boring for them! These curious creatures were intrigued by our flailing arms, waving, twisting and exaggerated antics. As they circled the area, checking us out, their sleek bodies cut through the water with incredible speed – a reminder that our sluggish selves are but visitors to their world.
About an hour was spent in the water across two dives. On the second dive, there was initially no need to descend, with the seals playing around with each other on the surface for a while! The cool of the wintery water could be felt just towards the end of the dive – a long-sleeved Lavacore shirt, 7mm wetsuit, hood and gloves helped to ward off the chill for the most part, and had the day been sunny, the entire dive actually would have been very comfortable.
All in all, this is hands-down a must-do dive, and is sure to garner an even greater appreciation for these animals. It’s devastating to think that the biggest threats to the population of Australian fur seals come from humans – fishing line and net entanglement, along with plastic bags being mistaken for sought-after squid. Maybe if everyone could experience the privilege of diving, they’d think twice before tossing their trash.