The second smallest State in Australia, Victoria is generally over-shadowed by the other States as a dive destination. However, there are many excellent scuba diving, snorkeling and underwater photography sites and dive shops to support them.
The remains of hundreds of ships (including a few submarines) litter the bottom and there are colourful sponge gardens, rocky reefs, caves, pinnacles, kelp forests and jetties, with plenty of marine invertebrates and fish to be found all along the coast. There is also scuba diving and snorkeling with fur seals and the possibility of observing the occasional southern Right whale.
One of the most spectacular drives in Australia is along Victorias Great Ocean Road. The scenery along this stretch of coastline is breathtaking, towering cliffs, deep gorges, incredible rock pinnacles and weathered carved arches.
This section of coastline was a danger to early mariners, and many a fine ship was lost after being driven into the cliffs by wild seas. Around Port Campbell are some of the areas most famous landmarks, such as the Twelve Apostles, the Arch, the Grotto and the London Bridge (now collapsed). ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Victorian divers are some of the keenest in Australia. On any weekend in the middle of winter, thousands of divers explore the waters around Melbourne, no matter what the conditions. These divers may seem a little 'mad' to some, but after experiencing the surprising variety of sites and marine life found in the waters off Victoria, you will appreciate their enthusiasm and perhaps join in.
Captain Cook first sighted Victoria in 1770, when he sailed past Cape Everard in the Gippsland region of Victoria. Although many explorers surveyed the coastline in the years that followed, and a number of sealers and whalers established small settlements, the State was no truly settled until after 1826, when a party landed at Phillip Island. The possibility of a Russian invasion in the 1880s prompted the building of forts, tunnels and gun emplacements. One of these unfinished forts in Port Phillip Bay (Popes Eye) is now a popular dive site, and part of a marine reserve.
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, was established in 1835 after a treaty with the local Aborigines, but the population of the city and State did not increase dramatically until gold was discovered at Ballarat in 1851. The population of Victoria grew rapidly during the gold rush that followed, and Melbourne soon rivalled Sydney as the most important city in the colony. After Federation in 1901, Melbourne was named the capital of Australia, until Canberra was founded in 1927. Victoria is now one of the most important industrial States in the nation and the base city for some of Australias biggest companies.
The State covers an area of 227,600 sq km, which represents just three per cent of the Australian continental land mass. Even so, Victoria has a wonderful variety of natural environments, one-third of the countryÕs national parks are contained within its border. Visitors are sure to enjoy the natural attractions, the snowfields, mountain ranges, rivers and lakes, native bushland, lush green valleys, scrub land and deserts. Your itinerary could also include the penguins and other wildlife at Phillip Island, the spectacular scenery of the Great Ocean Road and the sheltered waters of Port Phillip Bay, the rugged beauty of Wilsons Promontory, and the endless maze of waterways of the Gippsland lakes. The historic towns and old goldfields, the many cultural events and the famous Melbourne shopping are more big drawcards.
Victoria has a reputation for miserable weather, and while four seasons in one day may be experienced, the picture is not altogether unpleasant. During summer the State enjoys an air temperature range of 10-24¼C, during winter a range of 4-14¼C, and a wild fluctuation between these at any time. Summer and autumn provide the most consistently good weather, especially for divers. The seas are usually calm, the sky blue, the winds light and the temperature pleasant. The water temperature can sometimes reach 20¼C, although it usually varies from 12-18¼C from winter to summer.
A large number of dive shops are located in and around Melbourne, but there are only a handful of facilities throughout the rest of the State. Many excellent sites, especially along the east coast, are not accessible to most divers because of a lack of dive shops and charter boats. One of these sites is Gabo Island, with its brilliant sponge gardens, and the historic wreck of the Monumental City.
Numerous shore and boat dives are available along the coast of Victoria. A few live-aboard boats operate trips to Wilsons Promontory and the islands of Bass Strait. These offer some of the most exciting diving to be experienced anywhere in Australia. Visibility varies quite dramatically across the State, ranging from 5-15 m. The clearest water in Victoria can be experienced off Wilsons Promontory. On a good day visibility may be over 45 m. Divers in Victoria generally use 5 mm wetsuits in summer, and 7 mm wetsuits or dry suits in winter.
Visitors to Victoria will find an excellent range of accommodation on offer, and a number of first-rate dive lodges. Transport throughout the State is good, but if you are from outside the State and driving yourself, check the local driving regulations. Melbourne has an excellent tram (cable car) system, a popular way to explore this cosmopolitan city.
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 off the Victorian coastline.
( Copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel Marsh)