Incredible underwater wildlife experiences
Escape the city, dive into the big blue and meet these wild and wonderful creatures of underwater NSW.
You don’t have to jump in a spaceship to visit another world, there are plenty of exotic lifeforms living a lot closer to home – in the waters of NSW.
If you want to feel as free as a dolphin, as playful as a seal or as weightless as a weedy sea dragon, there’s only one thing for it: join them in their realm and get a taste of what life is like beneath the surface.
Snorkel with turtles
Cook Island, a volcanic outcrop less than a kilometre off Fingal Head, on the Tweed coast, used to be known as Turtle Island. And if you head out there with Watersports Guru, you’ll discover why. Three of the world’s seven species of sea turtle live here, and on a Snorkel with the Turtles experience, there’s a good chance you’ll get to swim with all of them: the hawksbill, the loggerhead and the most abundant, the green turtle, which can have a 1.5m-long shell and weigh in at a whopping 300kg.
Spending time in the world that these majestic creatures inhabit is a real privilege, made all the more special by the fact that you might encounter everything from rays to octopuses to giant Queensland groupers as well.
Swim with seals at Montague Island
Is there any creature more graceful in the water than a seal? Or any that looks like it’s having more fun? One of the best places to get close to them is around Montague Island, 9km off Narooma EurobodallaSouth Coast. On an excursion with Underwater Safaris, you’ll pull in to a sheltered bay and jump in the water with some of the resident Australian and New Zealand fur seals to experience first-hand just how amazing these animals are.
You can snorkel or scuba dive (no experience necessary) with the seals, who will swim below and around you, come up close to check you out with their big dark eyes, leap out of the water, and just generally frolic in a way that will make you feel glad to be alive and lucky to be able to share some time with them. Other operators include Montague Island Discovery Tours and Narooma Charters.
Dive off the shore on the Sapphire Coast
You don’t have to go kilometres out to sea for an amazing dive experience. You don’t even have to get on a boat. Down in the far south of NSW, there’s an incredible underwater world to explore right by the shore. Guided dives with Dive Eden start on the beaches or wharves of the spectacular Sapphire Coast.
Just a stone’s throw from normal life, you’ll descend into a hidden realm that’s home to octopus, seahorses, stingrays, Port Jackson sharks, moray eels, nudibranchs and weedy sea dragons. It’s an eye-opening experience – and if you don’t fancy the scuba bit, you can explore on a snorkelling tour instead. Dive Eden also does wreck and cave dives, as well as diving and free-diving courses.
Be part of a dolphin pod in Port Stephens
What would it feel like to be part of a dolphin pod? The nearest thing to it would have to be heading out into the waters of Port Stephens with Dolphin Swim Australia. It’s pretty exciting when a pod of dolphins joins you for a bit of fun, riding the bow wave of your 54-foot catamaran, but then things get really interesting. The boat slows to a halt, you drop into the water, attached to a rope, strung between the bows, and the boat sets off again.
Dolphins are famous for being inquisitive, intelligent and playful, and you’ll discover exactly how they got that reputation as they dart around you and make eye contact – and often plenty of noise, with those distinctive clicks and whistles. It’s an experience that moves some guests to tears. And it’s entirely on the dolphins’ terms – when they get bored, the boat moves on, to find a new pod that’s in the mood to play.
Free dive at Julian Rocks
Diving unencumbered by a scuba tank can be a liberating experience: you’re more mobile, you feel freer, and some say the marine life is more accepting of you. Whether you’re an experienced scuba diver or a novice, you can learn to free dive on a three-day course with Byron Bay Dive Centre.
After practising breathing and relaxation techniques, you should be able to hold your breath for 3min or longer and free dive to a depth of anything from 10 to 20m. On your two dives at Julian Rocks, just a 5min boat trip from Byron Bay, you’ll be fully immersed in a wild world in which the appearance of a 1.5m-long kingfish scatters the smaller fish, turtles float by serenely, and, in winter, grey nurse sharks give off a real sharky vibe. More than 600 species of fish live here; it really is like escaping to another planet.