Freelance journalist? Guilty. Adventure, food, people and performing are my passions.
Published May 7th 2011
For some experiences in life you need to completely immerse yourself; throw yourself all in. And scuba diving is one of them.
Dive into the blue, and you'll encounter the thousands of underwater creatures that call Melbourne waters home. Weave your way through worn pier pylons and rocky reefs, and explore some of the 79 known wrecks in and around Port Phillip Bay.
The immense variety of dive site, and the varied conditions of Victorian waters make Melbourne divers some of the best trained in the world. And there are numerous dive centres in and around Melbourne waiting to gear you up and take you under.
One of the best ways to see if it's for you, is to do an introductory dive course. For around $195, the professionals will teach you the basic skills and theory, before taking you into the water for your first open water experience.
Once your hooked, there are a number of qualifications you can aim for. The basic certification of Open Water Diver will allow you to descend to 18 meters unguided. This will cover you for most shore dives, and shallow boat dives, and that's all a lot of people want or need.
Pier dives can also often be the most colourful, due to their relatively shallow depth. See schools of fish dart between pylons, giant sting rays glide like shadows beneath you, long strands of sea weed wave in the currents. As you dive deeper, you'll notice colours lose their vibrance; reds turn to browns, and most things become a shade of green, blue and black.
For those qualified to venture a little deeper, wreck and reef dives are where it's at. Often the fish are bigger and the sites are larger. But be warned, the currents can also be stronger. For those unfamiliar with Victorian waters, you'll need a 7mm wetsuit or drysuit.
Just off the Port Phillip Heads are the skeletons of scuttled barges, steamers, tugs, dredges, lighters, coal freighters and World War One submarines. Here in what's known as Ships' Graveyard, you'll find up to 42 wrecks at depths of 30 to 82 meters.
A popular wreck dive is the SS Coogee, resting at 35 meters below the surface. The old steamship was mostly used for ferrying people and cargo between Melbourne and Geelong. It endured more than a few accidents in its 41 years of service, colliding with several boats and sand bars, before being stripped of its engine and sunk in 1928.
Ledges, overhangs and bommies (rock formations) are also worth exploring in the many reefs scattered along Melbourne's coast. The Lonsdale Arches are a cluster of bommies popular for their many easily navigated swim-throughs and exciting variety of marine life. If you're lucky you'll spot Swell Sharks hunting through the kelp for crayfish and abalone.
The Grotto, Ramsden Reef and Boarfish Reef are also worth checking out.