'The Prom', as Wilsons promontory is commonly known, is a rugged bushland peninsula.
These rocky reefs are covered in kelp in the shallows with spectacular sponge and soft coral gardens in deeper water, making it ideal for scuba diving and underwater photography. The marine life is impressive, a remarkable variety of invertebrates, reef and pelagic fish, and numerous colonies of fur seals.
The only limiting factor can be rough weather and access, as the most exciting dive sites are offshore and best reached by a fast boat. Several charter boats run day and live-aboard trips to this area. These leave from Port Albert, Port Welshpool and Port Franklin on the eastern side of The Prom.
There are a number of Australian Fur Seal colonies and 'haul outs' around ' the Prom' and its islands. The waters are clear , deep and very lonely. The offshore islands stand like giant granite castles, sparcely wooded and rounded by the screaming gales which sweep in from the southwest and without warning turn the Straits into a boiling caldron of giant swells and blinding rain.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
'The Prom', as Wilsons promontory is commonly known, is a rugged bushland peninsula featuring a wide variety of native animals, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, emus, echidnas, platypus, koalas, fur seals, little penguins and many species of birds. Located 140 km from Melbourne, The Prom has always been considered something special and was declared a national park in 1908.
Many thousands of people visit each year, to enjoy the many interesting bushwalks and camping areas, although access to these is limited. The main camping ground is at Tidal River, where boats can be launched across the beach. Each weekend dozens of divers explore the bays and islands at The Prom from small craft.
The Yellow – stripe Leatherjacket Meuchenia flavolineata generally confines its activities amongst the kelp forests and as such, mostly goes unoticed.
Never the less it occurs all along the Southern Australian coast and grows to 30 cm.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
The striking landscape of granite headlands, boulders and islands continues underwater, forming sheer walls, caves and many pinnacles. These rocky reefs are covered in kelp in the shallows and spectacular sponge gardens in deeper water. The marine life is impressive, a remarkable variety of invertebrates, reef and pelagic fish, and numerous colonies of fur seals. The only limiting factor can be rough weather and access, as the most exciting dive sites are offshore and best reached by a fast boat. Several charter boats run day and live-aboard trips to this area. These leave from Port Albert, Port Welshpool and Port Franklin on the eastern side of The Prom.
On overcast days, or at night, Southern Basket Stars Conocladus australis can be seen with their arms extended across their 'home' sponges.
( photo; Neville Coleman)
Here a steep, rocky wall drops to 20 m, covered with pretty sponge gardens. Have a close look among the sponges for sea stars, sea spiders, feather stars, basket stars and a variety of nudibranchs. The rocky and sandy bottom is alive with reef fish, morwong, perch, leatherjackets, boxfish, old wives, southern coral fish, boarfish, goatfish as well as an occasional school of kingfish. Divers often see stingarees, Port Jackson sharks, weedy sea dragons, cuttlefish and draughtboard sharks.
At the southern end of Bareback Cove are a number of granite pinnacles which provide excellent diving. The tops are coated with kelp, but as they drop deeper into 25 m the pinnacles are encrusted with sponges, ascidians, gorgonians and zoanthids. In the many caves and under edges are rock lobsters, cuttlefish, bullseyes, bearded cod, leatherjackets and blue devilfish.
The only species in its genus, the Maori Wrasse Ophthalmolepis lineolata is often a divers constant companion. They have learnt that divers cause disturbance, which causes things like crabs to move and then they are there to take advantage. Much like a cow in a paddock with a flock of Herons waiting
for the grass hoppers to jump. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Granite boulders tumble into 40 m of water, forming fantastic walls and caves in this deep water bay. Carpets of yellow zoanthids and sea whips can be seen by flashlight in the caves, and numerous rock lobsters wave their antennae in the semi-darkness. Photographers will find an endless variety of subjects including giant cuttlefish, draughtboard sharks, nudibranchs, sea stars, blue devilfish, long-snouted boarfish, schools of kingfish and many over-friendly leatherjackets.
South East Point
Walls and gutters with the usual multi-hued sponge gardens, reef fish and invertebrates, are located at depths to 28 m. Scattered along the sea floor beneath the lighthouse are piles of supplies, lost while being off-loaded from supply ships by crane.
At 30 to 40 metres the amount of reef life is amazing. The entire bottom is totally covered with sessile invertebrates. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
West Moncoeur Island
A large fur seal colony on West Moncoeur Island provides hours of fun, as hundreds of seals join divers in the water. Some are curious enough to nibble on fins or fingers, usually gently. Divers can either sit on the bottom in only 10 m of water and enjoy the show or swim with these superb acrobats. Either way, no-one ever leaves till their air runs low.
Forty Food Rocks
These two rocks rise 10 m above the surface, and drop to the sea bottom at 70 m. A gutter between the rocks lies in only 24 m of water, and everywhere around the rocks are numerous caves and ledges. Jewel anemones, sea whips, yellow zoanthids, gorgonians, ascidians, sea tulips, sponges, bryozoans all make for brilliant photographs. Port Jackson sharks, schools of kingfish, yellowtail, bullseyes, boarfish, rock lobsters, and cuttlefish are common. A few fur seals have established a colony here.
Usually seen in small groups, or as a solitary over reefs, the bastard Trumpeter Latridopis forsteri grows to 65 cm and is distributed from New South Wales to South Australia. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Breathtaking is the best description of the diving at Rodondo Island. The island towers 40 m above the dive boat, and then drops straight into 50 m of water. A number of exciting sites around the island feature walls, caves, swim-throughs, gutters and ledges. Kelp dominates the upper areas of the rocks and wonderful sponge gardens and associated marine life are found below. A variety of nudibranchs and sea stars can be seen on the reef, plus cuttlefish, rock lobsters, hermit crabs, shrimps and molluscs. Many species of reef fish are found alongside Port Jackson sharks, catsharks, kingfish, pike, trevally and schools of butterfly perch.
Also known as Skull Island, Cleft Island looks as if it were created for a movie set. The island rises 113 m out of the water, has a rounded top and deep caves cut into it. Underwater, the granite pinnacle has fascinating caves and walls, to depths of 40 m. The northeast side offers some of the best diving, among piles of boulders covered in sponges, sea whips, zoanthids and gorgonians. Fur seals, boarfish, old wives, blue devilfish, morwong, butterfly perch, Port Jackson sharks, stingarees, boxfish, kingfish, bearded cod and scorpionfish are just a few of the animal residents.
Turning the cold southern depths into a fairyland, the masses of the colonial Yellow Zoanthid Parazoanthus sp. covers the walls and drop offs in deeper water, totally covering their host sponges. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Over 2000 fur seals have established a colony on Kanowna Island and, at times, the water can be thick with these friendly animals. The action is so fast that photographers find it hard to concentrate on taking photos, especially when a curious pup swims up and stares at its own reflection in the lens, or decides that a strobe deserves a little chew. Although diving with seals is hard to beat (no matter where you dive there are bound to be seals), have a look at the numerous caves and walls around the island.
Bottom – dwelling 'wait and watch' ambusher, the Red gurnard Perch Helicolenus alporti is only known from Victoria and Tasmania and is generally restricted to deep water. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Anser Island offers interesting underwater caves lined with jewel anemones, encrusting sponges, ascidians and golden patches of yellow zoanthids. Make sure you take a flashlight to spot rock lobsters, conger eels, beautiful blue devilfish, scorpionfish, bearded cod and maybe an anglerfish. On the southern side of the island lie the remains of an unidentified shipwreck that has been thoroughly pounded by the sea.
The islands on the western side of The Prom all provide excellent diving. Dannevig Island is no exception, with rocky walls to 35 m, and numerous caves. Lovely sponge gardens cover the rocks beyond 15 m, and wrasse, leatherjackets, boxfish, stingarees, perch, morwong, southern coral fish, scalyfin, sweep, sea stars, catsharks and nudibranchs can always be found. Rock lobster, Port Jackson sharks, schools of pelagic fish and butterfly perch are also likely to be around.
Feeding on sponges, bryozoans and algae, the Multi – spine Sea Star Nectria multispina is common in the waters of Victoria and grows to around 160 mm. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Great Glennie Island
In rough weather many boats shelter in the bay at the northern end of Great Glennie Island. This protected area is an excellent place to dive. At depths to 18 m, along the sandy/rocky, kelp-covered bottom are fiddler rays, skates, stingarees, weedy sea dragons, draughtboard sharks, catsharks, scallops, sea pens, nudibranchs and plenty of reef fish. At the outer edge of the bay, the bottom drops to 30 m, and here the boulders are covered with a wonderful array of sessile organisms. Usually seen underneath the many ledges are kingfish, boarfish, bullseyes, pike, perch, morwong and blue devilfish.
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 around Wilson's Promitory.
( Copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel Marsh)