Day 163: 9 November – Great White Shark Cage Diving in the Neptune Islands

Author: Mrs A

Location: Port Lincoln & the North Neptune Islands

Distance: 60km as the crow flies – about 2.5 hours by boat

The day began early with a 5.45am alarm. Of course it had begun multiple times throughout the night, as is often the case when you’re excited and don’t want to miss waking up in time! Today Mr A and I went separate ways for the day as I was ticking off a bucket list item – cage diving with Great White Sharks.

A bus collected me from the campground at 6.15am and took me to the harbour where I met my fellow divers. We were provided with tea, juice and breakfast before boarding the Shark Warrier at 7am and heading off on our adventure.

Our wildlife spotting began early, as we were invited up on deck to see a pair of ospreys nesting on a barge in the harbour. This barge cannot be used now until the chicks have flown:

From here, it was a 2.5 hour journey out to the Neptune Islands – a group of islands at the entrance to the Spencer Gulf…

We were soon joined by dolphins which abandoned their fishing to ride the bow wave of our boat. A couple of hours later, we arrived at the islands, and selected a spot beside one where we could see plenty of fur seals (shark food) and also see some Great Whites on the radar, settled on the sea bed. The cage was lowered into the water, and we got changed in to our 7mm wetsuits, hoods, boots and gloves in anticipation of the 16 degrees centigrade water.

The company I had chosen to dive with was Adventure Bay Charters. Unlike their competition, they do not entice the sharks with blood and fish berley (chopped up fish), rather they use vibrations from music and the slapping of ropes and rattles to mimic the sound of a distressed animal, piquing the shark’s curiosity. This has the result of keeping the interaction more natural, and doesn’t send the sharks into a frenzy – associating humans with food. 

We jumped in to the water…16 degrees is rather fresh (much like the English Channel I am guessing!), and given you are moving very little in the cage, you can only last in there for about 20 minutes before you begin to feel numb. On my first dive, I saw lots of silver trevally fish, but unfortunately no sharks. We could still see the sharks on the radar, but clearly they had already filled up on a seal pup and were not feeling peckish.

                 Our skipper continued working hard to try and entice them over, but to no avail. We settled down for a delicious lunch and the boat was moved over to another island to try again.

The afternoon warmed up and it got quite steamy in the wetsuit. I decided to go in for another dive in anticipation of success. Just as I was climbing into the cage, the cry went out – ‘shark!’. Usually this means get out of the water, but I sped up and climbed on in. And there he was. A three metre male, many nicks and scars, gracefully cruising around the cage, wondering how he could reach the tasty looking morsels inside. He was soon joined by a female. Incredible. Swimming along with their mouth open teeth always ready to chomp, they do look strangely serene and peaceful. You half forget they have the power to tear off a limb and end a life in seconds.

I lost track of how long I was under water this time, but was ready for a hot shower by the time I climbed back out on to the boat. What a fantastic view of some incredible creatures. Apparently they have very poor eyesight and their only way of testing their food is with their teeth. They don’t actually eat humans once they have attacked. We are much too bony. They far prefer the fat and blubber of a seal.

Research has shown that the majority of taste-tests on humans have occurred when the light is weak – when it is overcast, at dawn and dusk. Few happen when the sun is bright and the water clear. So don’t go in the water at the high risk times, I say!

Once dry, everything was packed up and we set off on our way back to Port Lincoln, with a few diversions on the way. First of all, to Memory Bay in the Lincoln National Park where we called in on a New Zealand fur seal colony, their fur blending in nicely with the granite rock:

From there we continued around the coast, spotting a white breasted sea eagle nest and another osprey nest, both with chicks in.

We were joined by more bottlenosed dolphins as we headed back to the harbour – finishing off an amazing day out. 

It’s very hard to take photos of dolphins – a bit like photographing lightning or fireworks! 

The bus dropped me off at around 8pm – the end of a long but incredible day – Definitely worth doing if you are out this way.

Mr A had kindly prepared dinner for me too after his day of exploring the Port Lincoln area on bike. It doesn’t get much better than this! Awesome!

Day 129: 6 October – Back on the bike again

Author: Mrs A

From: Clifton Lake

To: Australind (just north of Bunbury) – for map see ‘Where are we now?’

Distance driven: 60 km

Distance cycled: 26 km

It was a lovely peaceful night’s sleep and we woke to sunshine streaming in through the trees, kookaburras, ring neck parrots and magpie larks all around us. It just so happened there was a bakery about 100 metres from where we camped – Mr A wondered whether he had woken up in heaven as he trotted over for a look and found freshly baked pies and sausage rolls. No prizes for guesssing what we had for brunch before we headed off on our way.

We drove south a short way south, just a 45 minute journey to Australind, before setting up at our caravan park. Australind was one of Western Australia’s earliest settlements, named in the 1800s as a combination of Australia and India – in the hope the two countries would maintain a prosperous trade of cavalry horses and food.

Once set up we jumped on our bikes for an explore. I decided it was about time I stopped being lazy (breathing much better now, voice still channelling my inner porn star i.e husky!) and joined Mr A for some activity. Our first visit was to a jetty which juts out into the Leschenault Estury.  The wind coming off the water was icy cold, and after admiring the view and many black swans, we rushed back to put on more clothes. 

More appropriately dressed, we decided to follow the cycle lanes into Bunbury, the nearest large settlement. For the most part, it was a lovely ride, just a couple of kilometres were alongside a very busy road. Bunbury impressed us. It is clearly a city (they call it a city, we would say small town) with a great deal of money flowing into it. The public areas are beautifully landscaped and shared pathways are everywhere, weaving behind dunes and past the large modern houses with incredible views out to sea.

Bunbury is surrounded by water – rivers, harbours, beautiful beaches lining the ocean front. 

We rode along to the black and white striped lighthouse, then around to the helter-skelter-lookout up on the hill. We climbed up the 91 steps to admire the full view.

On our return cycle we were entertained by some bottle-nosed dolphins in the estury chasing fish in the shallow water, creating a fabulous wake behind them, and a black shouldered kite hovering over the nearby bushland, hunting its Friday evening meal.

Talking of Friday evening meal. We Andersons are having a wild one. Already in PJs by 6pm, we are sipping on a delicious Central Otago Squealing Pig Pinot Noir, which (if there is any left) will accompany our fish curry dinner. Another fine day in WA.

Oh and Miss Tassie? She enjoyed a day catching up on sleep after yesterday’s busy day of travel.

Day 82: 19 August – Dolphins on cue

Author: Mr A

From: Denham

To: Monkey Mia

Distance: 27 km

It was a 6.30am alarm and on the road by 7 to ensure we were in time for the briefing by the rangers who staffed the 'Dolphin experience' at Monkey Mia. 

For over 50 years dolphins have been fed here, initially by the fishermen who shared their catch with them. Dolphins, as we know, aren't daft and started turning up at the same stip of beach every morning licking their lips. Then the tourists started to flood in and the dolphins who came were breeding pups who didn't know how to hunt for their own fish because they had never seen mum do it. So the WA Wildlife folk stepped in during the early 1990s and now regulate the whole thing, with only a few snacks being delivered by the lucky few chosen from the hundred or so of us watching. 

It was a great experience to see these mammals up so close, literally metres away from the beach, rolling over, waving a flipper, and yet know although humanised they are still 'wild', and make a choice as to whether they turn up or not, and when.

We were back in Denham by lunch time and spent a very productive afternoon washing and cleaning…dull but necessary given everything is covered in red dust. That stuff can get inside a vacuum sealed flask…incredible.