Home to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most extraordinary natural wonders, Australia is a no-brainer when it comes to being a premier destination for scuba diving enthusiasts. With attractions such as the Cod Hole, Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef, the reef contains over 1,500 species of fish, humpback whales, minke whales and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, as well as great white sharks, which can be viewed up close in cage diving immersions, and six species of turtle, including the olive ridley, leather back, green, flatback, hawksbill and loggerhead turtle.
Scuba Diving Certification
In order to scuba dive in Australia, you must be certified. Beginners must take part in basic training, which permits divers to descend to certain depths. The Professional Association of Dive Instructor (PADI) Specialty Diver course is ideal to enjoy diving in Australia. The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course allows divers to record their experience, while the PADI Enriched Air Diver certification is also recommended since enriched air nitrox is widely available in Australia. Since Australia is considered a technical diving destination, you may want to consider PADI TecRec courses, such as the PADI Rebreather Diver course.
Scuba diving certification, which entails an academic training session, a confined water session and an open water dive, requires that divers be in good physical and mental health, and be ten or older. PADI certification, which is recognized around the world and is valid for life, enables divers to reach a maximum depth of 40 feet under the direct supervision of a PADI professional. Certified divers are also able to secure air fills, and rent or purchase scuba diving equipment. For more information on certification, visit Padi.com.
Scuba Diving Safety
The risk of fatality while diving in Australia is lower than in the United States, however, divers should consider the following safety tips:
A report on diving fatalities in Australia showed that in 25% of the cases divers had a pre- existing medical condition, and in 9% of the cases, the divers were advised against scuba diving by an instructor or a doctor. Those who have consumed alcohol in the previous eight hours should not dive.
The medical conditions that may preclude a person from scuba diving include asthma, respiratory tract infections, decreased lung function, pneumothorax, prior chest surgery, scarring of the tympanic membrane, cardiovascular disease, epilepsy, and diabetes. Australian standards require a full medical exam for all scuba diving certification course participants.
Divers are advised to breathe naturally while diving, since holding your breath can result in serious injury or even death. Upon descent, the lungs will contract, and they will expand during ascent, therefore, if the excess air is not expelled, the lung walls may rupture, which can be fatal. Also, ascending too quickly can cause bubbles to form, which can lead to decompression sickness if the nitrogen absorbed into the bloodstream is unable to dissolve as the pressure decreases towards the surface. The rate of ascension should be approximately 30 feet per minute.
Checking Your Gear
PADI advises divers to adhere to the following pre-dive check, which is known by its acronym - BWRAF:
B – BCD & Buoyancy: Check your partner’s buoyancy compensator to ensure the low pressure inflator hose is properly attached and the inflator button is not sticking. Divers should also deflate the BCD to verify that it deflates correctly, and check their buoyancy in water to ensure they are properly weighted.
W – Weights/Weight Belt: Ensure that your partner’s weight belt is properly fastened to ensure a quick release.
R – Releases: Verify that your partner’s BCD is properly strapped and all belts are tightened.
A – Air: Check that your partner’s air is turned completely on and then turned back halfway. They should take a couple of breaths to check the pressure gauge for needle fluctuations, or purge the regulator while observing the needle. The tank should be full and all air connectors should be intact. You should also check your partner’s alternate air supply and verify that it is connected to the BCD and visible.
F – Final OK: A final visual inspection of the fins, mask, snorkel, dive computer and dive flashlights should also be carried out, as well as a compass bearing.
Best Australia Scuba Diving Locations
The best scuba diving locations in Australia include the following:
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef, which features the world’s largest single structure comprised of living organisms, includes 2900 individual reefs, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays. The Sunshine Coast in southern Queensland offers divers the chance to explore sunken wrecks and coral-covered sandstone formations, ledges, caverns and pinnacles.
New South Wales
New South Wales, stretching across 1,243 miles of rocky coastline, features the popular Byron Bay and Cook Island Aquatic Reserve, as well as Coffs Harbour, Solitary Islands Marine Park and South West Rocks. Near Newcastle, divers can explore Port Stephens and the Great Lakes Marine Park, and near Sydney, divers can visit Bass Island, Jervis Bay and Batemans Bay, as well as Lord Howe Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At Port Noarlunga or Seacliff Reef, divers can view the varied marine life, as well as the Norma, an enormous four masted ship, which sank in 1907. After another ship collided with the Norma and sank, both were dynamited, leaving a unique collection of pieces to view on the ocean floor.
Victoria features dives at Flinders Pier, on Mornington Peninsula, which showcases seadragons and seals, as well as huge bull rays, and Rye Pier, known for the Octopus’ Garden, which is populated by octopus, seals and seahorses. Along Shipwreck Coast, divers can explore the Lock Ard wreck at Port Campbell.
In Western Australia, divers can observe the extraordinary Ningaloo Reef and swim with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. The Abrolhos Islands contain nudibranchs and numerous shipwrecks, as well as a collection of coral reefs. Off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island features a variety of fish and spectacular shipwrecks, as well as a Marine Reserve.