Bucket List: Marine Adventures in Port Lincoln

The Eyre Peninsula is justifiably famous for its seafood, but dive beneath the surface and you’ll find some absolutely breathtaking marine encounters.

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The Eyre Peninsula is justifiably famous for its seafood, but dive beneath the surface and you’ll find some absolutely breathtaking marine encounters.

Heading out with Adventure Bay Charters as our guide, Glam Adelaide took in some of the highlights at Port Lincoln’s first ever Instameet.

First up is shark cage diving, which involves a three-hour boat ride out to the Neptune Islands. That’s more than enough time to think very, very carefully about the prospect of being face to face with a Great White.

Our crew helps to distract us by pointing out osprey and white-bellied sea eagles along the way, as well as seal colonies and even a friendly dolphin that accompanies us for part of the trip.

Nevertheless, there is plenty of nervous energy on board as we approach our destination, especially after we learn that this is where the live footage from ‘Jaws’ was shot.

As we anchor just off the coast some of our group don wetsuits and hop into the cages, while others relax in the glass-walled observatory that allows shark spotting with a hot chocolate in hand. Scanning the depths with trepidation, a school of silver trevally swarms around us while behind them our view stretches off into deep blue infinity.

After about half an hour, excited squeals announce our first visitor, a 4.5 metre beauty emerging from the depths who carries the unlikely name of Bruce. More than 100 individual Great Whites have been recorded here, and over the course of a few hours we’re lucky enough to see four of them.

Each has identifiable markings and the crew even tell us about their personalities once they recognise them.

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After the initial excitement, what’s most striking about seeing these remarkable creatures is how peaceful the experience is. While some operators throw chum into the water to instigate a feeding frenzy, Adventure Bay Charters use coloured lures and a range of sounds to pique the curiosity of these awe-inspiring predators.

Moving through the seas with surprising grace, it’s impossible not to marvel as the sharks swim right up to the cages. They seem genuinely curious as they approach, giving us ample time to examine them at unbelievably close quarters.

Most interactions with sharks are governed by fear, but once that element is removed we are left with a deep appreciation of how beautiful they are. Observing them in their natural environment is nothing short of a privilege, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The next day, we head off to Hopkins Island for an entirely different type of encounter. As our boat anchors in stunning turquoise water, a group of sea lions clumsily lope down the beach to greet us.

Stumbling over the flippers in their haste, these ungainly animals are transformed once they hit the water. Gliding about effortlessly, they exhort us to jump in and play.

Once I join them, they gleefully imitate my barrel rolls and somersaults like an underwater circus troupe. Soon I feel like the pied piper with an entourage of curious sea lions following me around and copying my every move.

There’s a reason they’re called the puppies of the sea, and everything within reach turns into a toy. Swimming right up to our faces, whiskers twitching excitedly, it’s impossible not to fall in love and it’s with genuine reluctance that I finally hop back on board to leave.

While the sharks are curious and the sea lions playful, all that can be said of the tuna at our next stop is that they are hungry. They seem completely oblivious to our entry, but once feeding time commences the 35kg fish start swarming all around us.

Pilchards land all around us and are snatched up with lightning speed. When one hits the water a few inches from my nose, I become acutely aware of the razor sharp teeth all around me. A particularly large specimen starts heading directly towards me and the laughs from the side when I recoil make it clear that I’ve lost this particular round of chicken.

Soon I’m used to the game, and even hand feeding them but just as I’m getting comfortable, it’s time for a “tuna spa”. Before I have time to ask what that is, a whole bucket of pilchards is thrown in and the water churns up in a feeding frenzy.

Going into this adventure, I would never have imagined that swimming with tuna was going to be scarier than swimming with sharks. But there’s a whole lot to discover under the surface in Port Lincoln.

http://adventurebaycharters.com.au/

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