by Lloyd Borrett — 10 November 2021
Dragon's Smile | © Erhan Onfidan
Whenever I talk to people about my diving their usual reaction to thinking about diving in Victoria is some shade of dread. Diving at home in Melbourne, and further afield in Victoria, has a bad image to the uninitiated. Yet most local divers will tell you many of their best dives have been here in Victoria, not away elsewhere in Australia or overseas.
"Who would believe.. this is Melbourne!" by David Bryant, SeaPics
Yes, you have to work to dive in Victoria. Temperate water diving isn't as easy as diving in the tropics but it's definitely worth it. Plus, if you can dive locally and handle the restrictions of 7mm wetsuits, the extra kilos on your weight belt, the rushing currents, the sometimes average visibility, you get a greater sense of achievement. If you can dive comfortably in Victoria, you can dive almost anywhere in the world!
The main assumption that people have is that there isn't anything down there to see. Most people think that under the surface of the water is just mud, sand and stones. They would be amazed at the plethora of colourful underwater life, structures and of course shipwrecks to look at. The varied landscapes from rocky outcroppings to kelp forests hold another world of small to large creatures under the waves.
Blairgowrie Nudibranch | © Sam Glenn-Smith
Local divers have found more than one hundred species of nudibranchs (that's colourful sea slugs) under Blairgowrie Pier. The Weedy Seadragon capital of the world is Flinders Pier. The BBC Natural History Film Unit spent three weeks at Flinders Pier in January 2016 to get footage of Weedy Seadragons for episode 5 'Green Seas' of the documentary Blue Planet II.
Rye Seahorse | © Sam Glenn-Smith
Underwater footage illustrating the beautiful marine life found in the southern waters
of Port Phillip in Melbourne, Australia. | David Bryant, SeaPics.
If you're diving or snorkelling on the coastline of Victoria, you're looking at the Great Southern Reef. Approximately 70% of the Australian population live within 50 km of the Great Southern Reef. Yet most people haven't heard of it! If you go to the Great Barrier Reef 95% of what you see can be found elsewhere. However, the Great Southern Reef supports a greater diversity of marine life (especially flora and invertebrate fauna) and 85% of it can't be found anywhere else in the world!
Victoria has a rich maritime history. This has resulted in more than 800 ships coming to grief in Victoria waters with only about 30% of them having been found. There is an extensive Victorian Ships' Graveyard of scuttled shipwrecks south of Melbourne in Bass Strait. This includes four World War I submarines we love to explore, see J Class Submarine Wreck Dives.
These are the main reasons I enjoy Victorian diving. There is so much to see and if you're lucky enough you can find a playful seal or a beautiful shipwreck to explore. For most dives it isn't even what you find in the water that is the best thing about the dive trip, it's the people you meet and dive with that make the trip. You gain a second family of people you trust and go out with to share the underwater world.
"Oh, ok," they say, "but isn't it just green and murky?"
Yes, sometimes we can have poor vis, but in most places you can get fine visibility most of the time. Granted it's not often as good as it can get on the Great Barrier Reef, but it makes you focus on the smaller things and tests your navigation and buddy procedures to be a better diver. Most people are surprised when told we get our best visibility in winter!
"Ah, but isn't it cold?" They think they have me with this question.
If you're wearing the proper thermal protection then no, you should never be cold on a temperate water dive. I wear a 7mm wetsuit all year round, with an additional undergarment in winter. But I also have plenty of bioprene! Most people wear a 7mm wetsuit for the summer diving season in Victoria. Those that dive in winter prefer drysuits so they remain dry underneath and it's both quicker and easier to get dressed before and after the dive.
I also prefer diving in the colder months. The algae dies down improving the vis and there are fewer divers stirring things up.
As I write this I realise the conflict inside me encouraging more people to dive in the serene, quiet Victorian waters making it more crowded. But I want more people diving in general, as the more people diving mean that skippers and dive sites will be more accessible.
If you can't find any inspiration, or don't know where to go diving in Victoria, then just Google it, or check out the Melbourne Dive Sites section of our web site. It has information about of more than 500 dive sites in Victoria.