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Swim with the Tuna

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by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
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Published October 13th 2015
Coming to Victor Harbor This Summer
Swim with the Tuna, that hugely popular iconic attraction at Port Lincoln, is on the move. No it's not another great South Australian attraction heading overseas, and no its not being bought by some eager Victorians, but rather it is headed to a new home at Victor Harbor, or to be more precise it will be located a short distance in to the ocean from the Granite Island Kiosk.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Swim with the Tuna - Steve Hudson

Currently located in Boston Bay, the Swim with the Tuna will close for six weeks from late October, after which it will be cleaned, dismantled, packed up and towed some 150 kilometres from Port Lincoln to its new home, and then re-assembled ready for operations from the start of the December school holidays. I recently took a trip to Port Lincoln to see the platform in its last month in Boston Bay, and to enjoy a Swim with the Tuna.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Our boat - Steve Hudson

The boat trip to the platform starts from the Marina Hotel in the Port Lincoln Marina, and takes some 15 minutes to head out across Boston Bay where the platform sits in around 20m of water. A few anxious moments passed while we tried to dock in the slightly windy conditions, but once moored we were all led on to the platform where we split in to two groups.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Floating Platform - Steve Hudson

The first group were those who didn't wish to get up and close and personal with the fish, but rather were happy to feed them from the edges of the large tanks that they were swimming in. Meanwhile my group headed off towards the fitting rooms, and gathered ourselves a wetsuit, boots and goggles. After a short period of complaints about ever-shrinking wetsuit sizing the motley crew of seal lookalikes and myself as a giant whale headed across to the first tank.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Blue Morwong - Steve Hudson
Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Hello - Steve Hudson

Inside the first tank were numerous schools of fish including mackerel, tommy ruffs, snapper, blue morwong and some gummy sharks. With the snorkel on and body fully immersed, we gained confidence in our ability to swim (or float) close to the fish and to observe them observing us. I can but imagine what they were thinking !

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
No camera shyness here - Steve Hudson

With confidence boosted, and wetsuit now feeling warmer, off to the second tank we headed where the tuna were diving and darting across the waters taking a good luck at the motley crew who had just joined their waters. It didn't take me long to realise that they were looking at me trying to work out whether I'd be able to satisfy their appetite. I don't mean personally, but rather I think I was a transportation device for them and their impending feed of fresh pilchards - perhaps some sort of fish mule.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Time for the Tuna - Steve Hudson

Turning around, I caught sight of one of our tour crew who commenced throwing fresh pilchards to us in the water. The intent was for us to catch the pilchards, and then feed the tuna by hand. Lucky I remembered to put the gloves on as we were instructed, as apparently tuna have difficulties distinguishing between fresh pilchards and fresh fingers.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Battling with the Sea Tern - Steve Hudson

Now catching pilchards was never going to be easy with strange feeling water gloves and a go-pro in one of the hands while floating in a tank of tuna, but I never expected to have to fight the low flying sea terns, a somewhat disoriented cormorant, and some sub-surface tuna who saw an easy opportunity to get their feed. But perseverance was the key, and after a while we found that we could catch more pilchards than we lost in flight.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Extreme Fast Food - Steve Hudson

With pilchard in hand we would drop our heads below the surface and stretch the arm out offering the morsel to the tuna that were circling in front of us. It only took us once to realise that tuna are like magpies, and they elect to attack from behind you, and the adrenaline rush from having a tuna unexpectedly eat from your hand at 50kmh was something I had never experienced before. Wiser for all future feedings, but the rush and anticipation was just the same as we waited for one brave tuna to soldier past and secure the feed.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Just Browsing - Steve Hudson

Notwithstanding the fun themes on the trip, the educational piece on the Southern Bluefin Tuna was very interesting as we learnt that our contribution to the feeding of the fish was actually only a fraction of their normal diet, that tuna must keep moving to survive, and that tuna can weigh up to 200 Kgs, live to 30 years old and have a maximum speed of around 70 kmh.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Fast movers - Steve Hudson

After a good 30 minutes of fun feeding, the cool winds and water began to take their toll so we ventured out of the water, and changed out of seal suits in to more normal clothing, and secured a warm coffee and a couple of BBQ sausages from the onboard Divers Deli.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Divers Deli - Steve Hudson

A quick inspection of the tanks from the underwater viewing platform provided yet another different view of the tuna, especially when it was time for their last bucket of feed, an event which resulted in a comedic but near angry display of hunger amongst the sea terns and the tuna.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Hungry Birds and Fish - Steve Hudson

It was now time to get back on board the boat, and take the short trip back to the Marina, while reflecting on the 3 hours of fun that we had just had with the tuna, other fish and the angry birds. Swim with the Tuna finishes its time at Port Lincoln at the end of October before making its way across to Victor Harbor. Meanwhile its sister adventures of Swim with the Sealions and Shark Cage Diving both will continue to operate from the Port Lincoln Marina during their respective seasons. For further details refer to the Swim with the Tuna website or to their facebook page.

Swim with the Tuna, Boston Bay, Port Lincoln, Victor Harbor, Granite Island, Oceanic Victor, Encounter Bay
Swim with the Tuna - Steve Hudson

For details of the proposed Victor Harbor operations refer to the Oceanic Victor website or their facebook page.
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Why? One of SA's tourist icons
When: From December 2015
Where: Victor Harbor, South Australia
Cost: Circa $100 per adult
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