Lifestyle Boating & Motoring Life Aquatic: Dive Sites
Life Aquatic: Dive Sites
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

scuba_ningaloo.jpgWA has hundreds of islands, many shipwrecks, and one of the most pristine undersea environments in the world. If you are a recreational diver, you are spoilt for choice by local dive sites.

Retired Augusta GP Dr John Williams has seen it all in a lifetime of diving adventures. John was the "Diving Doc" with the Maritime Museum, which took him to some of the most exotic dive locations in the world.

"I had the privilege of diving on many of the historic wrecks on the WA coastline, as well as salvaging Ming dynasty porcelain from a 12th century Chinese wreck in Thailand, and of course, being present at the discovery of Dampier's Roebuck at Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Freycinet's Uranie in the Falkland Islands," he said.

Perth's wrecks

For many Perth-based divers, their first experience exploring the depths is at Rottnest Island.

"Rottnest Island has a ‘wreck trail' that is well publicised. What makes these sites so special is their place in our history, and each site has such a fascinating story to tell."

Rottnest's shipwreck trail forms a mosaic story. Each of the fourteen wrecks has an information plaque that can be found on the ocean bed.

Just off Rockingham, cavernous reefs, seagrass meadows, and shipwrecks await at Shoalwater Marine Park. The islands off Shoalwater make for a great day trip for Perth-based divers. Topside, there are sea lions and penguins, too.

Majestic reefs

"As far as recreational diving, I would recommend Christmas Island as my favourite dive destination," John said.

And no wonder! Christmas Island is surrounded by a narrow tropical reef that plunges into the abyss of the Java Trench. The reef is pristine and abundant in small tropical species such as surgeon fish, wrasse, butterfly fish, gobies, anemones, and eels, making it photographer's paradise. The occasional whaleshark visits the area between November and April.

Ningaloo Reef is an underwater jewel that John said West Aussies were fortunate to have their doorstep. Famed for its clear waters and abundant marine life (including whalesharks, dolphins, dugong, manta rays, and turtles), Ningaloo (via Coral Bay or Exmouth) is a must-dive destination.

Other sites

South of Ningaloo, the Abrolhos Islands near Geraldton, derived from the Portuguese Abre os olhos, meaning "keep your eyes open", has plenty of diveable wrecks - it is the site of the famous Batavia and Zeewijk wrecks, plus eighteen others.

The Rowley Shoals near Broome make for an exciting adventure. Access to this natural wonder is by boat only, with charter operators the best option due to the Shoals' remote location.

At Esperance, experienced divers can explore the Sanko Harvest, which is rated one of the advanced best dives along the WA coast

John's diving tips

Divers don't come more experienced than John. Here are his tips to maximise your safety and enjoyment:

1. Never dive alone.

2. Research the history of each wreck and site (try the Maritime Museum)

3. Take a good underwater camera

4. Strictly obey your 'Dive Tables'

5. Never attach speared fish to your belt!