31 October 2022
Explore what the region has to offer beneath the sea.
Australia’s Coral Coast is renowned for its cerulean waters, ideal for swimming, SUP boarding, and boating. But, beneath them, a whole other world of sponges, sea lions, and seagrass meadows is waiting to be explored. If you've got your PADI certification – or you’re looking to complete it – the region boasts plenty of well-known dive sites for an unforgettable underwater adventure.
They’re infamous for the Batavia mutiny in 1629, but the reef-ringed Abrolhos Islands attract tourists for more than just their gruesome history. The 122 islands and islets are right in the path of the warm Leeuwin Current, bringing tropical reef from the north to the more temperate waters of the midwest.
Buried in colourful corals, some 4-6m below the surface, you can find the wrecks of both the Dutch East Indies Trading ship and the Batavia. Both are divable by anyone of any level, though you’ll need almost perfect conditions to safely attempt the Batavia (rated as the #1 dive site in the state).
Getting there: The Abrolhos Islands lie 60km west of Geraldton, a 4.5-hour drive or 50 minute flight from Perth. You can take a private boat out or book a tour and let the experts navigate to the dive sites for you.
When to dive: Any time of year.
Three nautical miles off the coast of Geraldton lies a seized and sunken ex-Patagonian toothfish fishing vessel. Sent to its fate at the bottom of the Indian Ocean in 2004, the seaweed covered-South Tomi dive wreck is now home to a risk of rock lobsters and umpteen different species of fish. You’ll need to get a permit to descend the 25m to the wreck, which you can pick up from Batavia Coast Dive and Watersports (ask about their tours while you’re there).
Getting there: Finding the unmarked dive site can be tricky, so join a tour departing from Geraldton (a 4.5-hour drive or 50 minutes flight from Perth).
When to dive: Calm conditions are needed.
Don your fins and diving cylinder and explore the gaping limestone caves and swim-throughs of the Jurien Bay Marine Park. There’s a curious mix of tropical and temperate sea life beneath the surface, thanks to the meeting of the warm northern waters with the cooler southern waters. Follow along the barrier reef as it runs parallel to the shoreline, exploring the shallow lagoons and cuttle-fish-filled seagrass meadows on one side and the deeper drop-off on the other. Or, head 1km offshore to Boullanger Island, where you can find a group of bommies to dive around.
Getting there: Jurien Bay is a 2.5-hour drive north of Perth.
When to dive: Autumn and spring bring mild weather and calm oceans.
Though the two Muiron Islands are just north of the Ningaloo Reef – some 9.8 nautical miles off the tip of the North West Cape – the kaleidoscopic reefs that surround them are quite different. On the west side of the islands, expect to see plenty of soft, fleshy corals, yellow and black nudibranchs, and potato cod. If it’s turtles you’re hoping to see, gently drift dive between the two islands, where you might even spot a manta ray or two.
When to dive: Diving is available year-round, but September to November has the best visibility.
With more than 200 documented dive sites across the entire Ningaloo Marine Park from Carnarvon to Exmouth, you’re spoilt for diving choices. Beginners can try their hand at an accessible offshore coral dive site, while advanced divers can head out into open waters for something a little more challenging.
Time your dive trip 7 days after the full moon in March, and you’ll be in for a real treat; it’s coral spawning time. Watch as the entire reef releases eggs and sperm bundles simultaneously in the spectacular mass breeding event.
Getting there: Drive from Perth to Carnarvon, Coral Bay or Exmouth. Or, you can fly from Perth to Exmouth's Learmonth Airport with Qantas or to Carnarvon with Regional Express Airlines. There are plenty of access points to the marine park from any of these towns.
When to dive: Autumn and winter have the best dive conditions. It’s also when the whale sharks are more active along Ningaloo.
As the name implies, there’s plenty of sealife to see within the bounds of Shark Bay. As well as generally harmless hammerheads and wobbegongs, the temperate waters around Dirk Hartog Island and Steep Point are home to turtles, cuttlefish, mackerel, and dugongs. Find the former as you dive through the underwater cave systems formed by ancient tectonic shifts and the latter grazing along the world’s largest seagrass meadow.
When to dive: The high season is from April to October.