When I decided to study abroad in Sydney, Australia, I decided there was no way I was going to get right next to one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Natural World’ just to look at it. Would you travel to China just to look at its Great Wall, or are you going up for a hike? I’d be the latter. The Great Barrier Reef was much too intriguing just to have a look- I wanted to interact with and truly experience it as a living member of the biodiverse ecosystems it inhabits. That’s when I decided I wanted to get scuba certified.
Ole Miss offers three scuba diving courses, from open water diver up to dive master, and I originally found it quite frivolous to complete them. Honestly, a friend told me about her course and I thought it was an expensive hobby and a fun excuse for a few extra credits. I now believe they were some of the most influential of my life, as they really brought my passion for the sea to its height and gave me the skills and opportunity to access such vast, magnificent pieces of our planet firsthand that most people will never see in their lifetime. My certification is valid worldwide and allows me to save tons of time and money when going for dives. It also helps me feel safer in the water to know that I am prepared for any situation and know how all of my equipment works. Scuba diving has brought me face to face with some of the most beautiful creatures you can imagine and has intensified my sense of adventure to no end. Whale sharks, manta rays, groupers, crawfish, eels, turtles, cuttlefish… the list never ends! To be part of their world firsthand is an experience I’ve yet to have matched. While it may not be for everyone, diving has really opened up so much in me and allowed me to find who I am in a way, by finding my place in the world- on, in, by the ocean.
See photos from my top three Australian diving adventures below and read a snippet about each!
SS Yongala- Ayr, Queensland, Australia
While I didn’t get too many great pics on this dive (too mesmerised, I suppose), it was by far the best dive of my life! Not only was it the deepest dive I’ve ever done, taking me more than 80ft below sea level, but I’ve never seen as many sea creatures (neither in abundance or variety) at one natural site, or even during my dive at the Georgia Aquarium. I saw fish larger than the 6 foot male who was my diving buddy and I saw a sea turtle as big as me! It was also fascinating to see how the tragedy that is a shipwreck can become a part of the environment and support so much life.
Museum of Underwater Art (Great Barrier Reef)- Townsville, Queensland, Australia
The Museum of Underwater Art was a close runner-up and is certainly the most innovative project I’ve ever witnessed. Sculptures and works of art were placed here just off the John Brewer Reef to create an underwater environment that is not only beautiful to the eye, but beautiful to the environment. Using materials that support coral spawning and serve as makeshift shelters for a variety of sea creatures, this was a magnificent site! It also felt so exclusive given that such a small portion of the global and even local population will ever visit this museum. 😉
Shelly Beach- Manly, New South Wales, Australia
Shelly Beach is a beautiful and easily accessible site in Manly (a Sydney suburb) that serves as a great swimming, diving, picnicking, and coastal hiking site. As a busy site that truly does it all, the hustle and bustle actually adds to the experience, which is hard to say with a lot of places! Diving right off the beach and seeing the swimmers above you and the stingrays below you is quite fascinating. This was one of the longest dives I’ve ever done, staying under the surface for more than 45 minutes! There was so much to see, both in and out of the ocean, and in such an upbeat, collective environment, we were never bored! Being beginner-friendly and still well worth it for more experienced divers, Shelly Beach is one I’d definitely would recommend.
If any of this sounds as appealing to you as it does to a fish like me, I’d definitely recommend trying out scuba and looking for diving opportunities at home and on your trip abroad!
Best of luck! <3