Numerous islands are scattered across the open waters at the southern end of the Spencer Gulf. The Sir Joseph Banks group is one such group of islands, with gin clear water and brilliant marine life.
There is a lot of sand in between , but perfect for night dives as all the nightime creatures come out of the sand and crawl around looking for food, or mates.
A few of these islands are close enough to be visited on day trips, but most can only be reached by long-range, live-aboard boats.
The waters are full of fantastic marine life and are applicable to scuba diving and snorkeling and have superb sites for underwater photography.
Lightning Volutes Ericusa fulgetrum were quite common around the Sir joseph Banks group and professional shell divers found thousands in the early years of discovering their habitat. Due to the over – exploitation some populations
( especially on the mainland ) have declined.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Numerous islands are scattered across the open waters at the southern end of the Spencer Gulf. A few of these islands are close enough to be visited on day trips, but most can only be reached by long-range, live-aboard boats. Fortunately there is such a boat one of the most unique dive boats in all of Australia the 35 m-long ketch Falie.
The two-masted ketch was built in 1919, and looks as if she just sailed out of the last century. She was brought to South Australia in 1922 to work as a general cargo ship. In 1982 she was taken out of service, and the South Australian Government purchased the ship, giving her a complete refit. She now runs regular sailing and dive trips around the islands of South Australia.
Zig – zag Sea Urchins Amblypneustes formosus are often found in shallow water sea grass meadows. They grow to 45 mm and feed on algae and sea grass.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Falie is available for charters to the Gambier Islands, the Sir Joseph Banks Group, the Neptune Islands (where they conduct great white shark cage trips) and the Investigator Group, way out in the Great Australian Bight.
Some of the best diving in South Australia is found off Wedge Island, the largest of the Gambier Islands. Spectacular diving can be enjoyed off its rocky shores, in depths to 25 m. Countless boulders are scattered over the sea floor, forming gutters, ledges and caves. Take a flashlight to illuminate the brilliantly-coloured sponges, gorgonians, zoanthids, soft corals, bryozoans and anemones which cover the walls of the caves.
Usually only seen out during night dives, the polyps of the commensal zoanthid Epizoanthus sp. feed on plankton. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Blue devilfish, bullseyes, globefish and numerous species of invertebrates are often seen under the ledges and in the gutters. Leafy sea dragons, catsharks, stingrays, old wives, wobbegongs, morwong, harlequin fish, perch, wrasse, leatherjackets, seals and some large friendly blue gropers are found on the rocky reef.
Easily recognised by its broard black bands, the Magpie Perch Cheilodactylus nigripes feeds mostly by taking in mouthfulls of sand and bottom debris, sifting out the organic content and allowing the residue to be ejected through the gill openings.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Sir Joseph Banks Group
Located only 25 km east of Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsula, the 17 islands of the Sir Joseph Banks Group are best dived from a live-aboard vessel. Most of the islands offer interesting diving in depths to 20 m, and the wonderful marine life below the waves is almost matched by the animal life above. Shore visits are a must to see wallabies, Cape Barren geese, little penguins, lizards, snakes, sea eagles, ospreys, parrots and colonies of sleepy seals.
Held in a cradle of death, the bivalve has no escape from the grip of the Granular Sea Star Uniophora granifera. The sea star puts opposing pressure on each valve of the bivalve, forcing it to open slightly. Once the bivalve relaxes, the deadly enzimes from the sea stars extruded stomach enter and begin to digest the bivalves flesh. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The largest island in the Sir Joseph Banks Group is Spilsby Island. The best dive sites are found on its south-eastern side. Here the rocky reef supports vast numbers of fish including silver drummer, trevally, yellowtail, bullseyes, cowfish, blue groper, leatherjackets, wrasse, boarfish, zebrafish, sweep, blue groper and lots of morwong.
Somewhat prone to colour variation, the Delightful Chromodoris Chromodoris epicura is endemic to southern Australia and feeds on the sponge Darwinella gardineri. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The most exciting dive sites at Stickney Island are two narrow slots that cut through the centre of the island. These slots are a photographers dream walls with sponges, gorgonians, soft corals and species such as nudibranchs, cowries, sea stars, feather stars and spider crabs. Many fish are attracted to the slot, typically morwong, bullseyes, boarfish, blue devilfish and old wives.
Mostly seen in South Australia and even more so in south Western Australia, the Harlequin Rock Cod Othos dentex is a diurnal 'wait and watch' style predator. Some colour forms make it amongst the most colourful of southern Rock Cods.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
One of the Investigator Group, Pearson Island is surrounded by wonderful dive sites in depths beyond 30 m. Countless kelp-covered boulders are found in the shallows, and sponge gardens deeper down. Seals are regularly seen, and seem to take great pleasure in accompanying divers. Harlequin fish, blue devilfish, morwong, perch, drummer, blue gropers and masses of wrasse and leatherjackets are common reef fish. You can also expect to find schools of pelagic fish, and solitary wobbegongs, rock lobsters and catsharks hidden in caves and ledges. A shore visit to Pearson Island is well worth the effort. Many of the animals seen in the Sir Joseph Banks Groups are common here, plus the added bonus of seeing the rare Pearson Island wallaby, only found on this group of islands.
A common inhabitant of the subtidal marine fauna of Australia, the Tangled Tubeworm Filograna implexa occurs throughout the Indo – Pacific and right around Australia. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The Australian sea lions at Langton Island regularly swim with divers. Forget the scuba, as snorkelling allows more freedom when swimming with these playful creatures in only 2 m of water. Divers can perform somersaults with the seals, or play a game of chase. For really close encounters just lie on the bottom and the seals will do the same. They may even come close enough to touch you with their whiskers.
This first image of the Black Cowry shell on its eggs were taken in 1971. There are around 50 eggs in each capsule, but only one is fertile. When the fertile one comes out of its small egg inside the egg case, it feeds on the other eggs ( which are known as nurse eggs) until it is big enough to emerge from the capsule and take up life as a juvenile on the reef.( photo: Neville Coleman)
Many walls and gutters provide exciting dive sites at Topgallant Island, in the Investigator Group. Around the rocky reef nudibranchs feed in the sponge gardens, bold blue devilfish guard their caves, rock lobsters rest, silver drummer school off the reefs edge, blue gropers look for a free feed and a marvellous variety of reef fish adds colour to the seascape.
Due to its supposed similarity to a human brain, the Brain Ascidian Scycozoa cerebriformis is quite easy to recognise in its living state. The species is found from southern Queensland, south and around to central Western Australia, and has a number of colour variations. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Neville Coleman's diving expeditions, fauna surveys, photographic fauna surveys and marine life identification courses include every major group of marine life.
Neville Coleman's expertise in marine life identification extends to the identification of Algae, Sea Grass, Forams, Sponges, Stony Corals, Soft Corals, Sea Anemones, Sea Jellies, Zoanthids, Corallimorphs, Black Corals, Flatworms, Segmented Worms, Crustaceans, Barnacles, Shrimps, Rock Lobsters, Hermit Crabs, Squat Lobsters, Molluscs, Chitons, Univalves, Bivalves, Cephalopods, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Squid, Opisthobranchs, Nudibranchs, Sea Slugs, Bryozoans, Sea Mosses, Echinoderms, Sea Stars, Feather Stars, Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Ascidians/Sea Squirts, Marine Fish, Sharks and Marine Mammals, all found in the waters along the coastal reefs and jetties around Spencer Gulf.
( Copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel Marsh)