This feature article appeared in Westside Living Magazine Summer 2023
Imagine swimming through a I world of deep orange starfish, black and white butterflyfish, and tiny delicate seahorses amongst vast beds of seagrass.
This underwater paradise is closer than you think. Save yourself a three hour flight to the Great Barrier Reef and simply dive into Port Phillip Bay!
Jawbone Mangroves split © Sheree Marris
Over 80% of marine life found in the southern shores of Australia is found nowhere else in the world. Marine biologist, former Young Australian of the Year and documentary maker, Sheree Marris, explains: “Port Phillip Bay is a great place to explore as it’s reasonably sheltered, and that Melbourne’s changeable weather is a positive thing! The weather shapes what the visibility is like, but also what species are available to see”.
Marris’ book ‘Melbourne Down Under: The Jewels of Port Phillip Bay’grr showcased the stunning marine environment on our doorstep, that rivals tropical reefs in diversity and colour. From beautiful kelp forests to reefs that explode in a kaleidoscope of colours, dragons that sparkle, plants that walk and animals that bloom! Not to mention, creatures that breathe through their backs, and those that light up a starry night.
The best way to experience this underwater wonder is to learn from a professional.
Karl Graddy, co-owner of Snorkel and Dive Safari Altona, is another avid advocate of Port Phillip Bay underwater adventures. The shop (as its name suggests!) offers both snorkeling and scuba diving courses and day trips. He has providing the Hobsons Bay community with equipment and training for over fifteen years.
Sign up for a snorkeling course with Snorkel and Dive Safari and learn flotation techniques, underwater maneuvers, surface swimming, surface dives and how to clear your mask and snorkel. After you get comfortable snorkeling, then you can just get fitted with snorkeling equipment by Karl and his friendly staff, and dive right in!
The best spots for a leisurely snorkel in the western suburbs are in Williamstown. Locally known as “the crystals”, this unassuming local area near the surf club is a great stretch of water to start exploring beneath the water.
Jawbone Marine Sanctuary is another hidden gem. The Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve is a wonderful place for a peaceful stroll amongst the birds, and away from the crowds. Why not go one better, and glide into the waters of the marine sanctuary where you’ll find an even more spectacular and peaceful experience.
Photos by Sheree Marris
Despite its proximity to the city, the marine sanctuary remains relatively undisturbed. It is also the perfect place for first time snorkelers, with an easy, gradual sandy slope into the water which reaches a maximum depth of 4 – 5 meters.
A surprising variety of fish, sea urchins, nudibranches, starfish and mangroves are all found at Jawbone Marine Sanctuary. The Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Care group, released a publication with fantastic information and images that highlight the unique biodiversity of the area. Karl Graddy explains: “people are most surprised that the colours underwater in the bay can be more remarkable than a coral reef”.
The average temperature of Port Phillip Bay is 17.5 degrees, which qualifies as a cold water swim. Scientifically proven benefits of cold water swimming include: a dopamine release resulting in a feeling of euphoria or ‘post swim high’, increased tolerance to stress, a boost to self esteem, an opportunity to practice mindfulness, strengthening of the immune system, decreased inflammation, radiant skin, and improved general wellbeing.
So just grab a snorkel and mask, head down to any one of these beautiful spots and get snorkeling. If you want to dive deeper, sign up for a scuba diving course at Snorkel and Dive Safari, Altona.
Photos by Sheree Marris
Snorkel and Dive Safari: https://www.snorkeldivemelbourne.com.au
To order your copy of the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Care groups new book simply send a message to: https://www.facebook.com/JawboneMarineSanctuary