Busselton is one of South Western Australia’s hidden scuba diving gems thanks to its famous jetty
The Great Barrier Reef might be Australia’s most famous scuba diving destination, but there are scores of other equally amazing places to go underwater dotted round this brown continent’s coastline.
Busselton, on the south west coast of Australia, is one such example. Only a couple of hours drive from Perth, Busselton is one of the top tourist towns in the south west. The town is famed for the Busselton Jetty, which at nearly two kilometres long, is the longest timber jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s so long a train runs along it to take tourists back and forth. But I wasn’t that interested in what was on top of Busselton’s jetty, more what lay beneath it. Because the jetty has been in place in one form or another for nearly 140 years, it has developed its own unique marine ecosystem. In other words – there’s lots of fish. So spectacular is the aquatic life beneath the jetty that an underwater observatory has recently been opened so those who don’t want to get wet can still see what lies beneath the pylons and the planks.
A quick phonecall a few days before had secured me a place on one of the diveboats that run regularly out of Busselton. As well as the jetty, Busselton has several other dive sites, the most prominent of which is the HMAS Swan, an Australian frigate which was deliberately sunk to create an artificial reef. I signed up for two dives on the Swan and one on the jetty and, to be honest, I was more excited about diving on the frigate. The jetty sounded like it was just going to a series of chances to bang my head against pylons…
The two dives on HMAS Swan were suitably impressive – the water was pretty clear and wasn’t too cold. After descending down the anchorline, we followed our guide through the blue until we saw the huge grey shape of the Swan looming in front of us. It had landed on the seafloor upright, and it looked distinctly eerie sitting at the bottom of the ocean. We followed our guide over the bow, where we could fin out over the top of the deck and look straight down the ship’s side, giving that fantastic feeling of flying. Then we penetrated the wreck (stop laughing at the back), swimming through the top deck and into the bridge, where the captain’s seat still remained intact.
It wasn’t until I hit the water again once the boat was moored just off the jetty that I realized why it has such a reputation. It was like descending into a technicolour forest. All the jetty’s vertical pylons were covered in long, finger like corals in bright reds, oranges, purples and whites which swayed with the gentle current – thousands of them running from the top to the bottom of each pylon. Moving amongst them felt completely surreal and absolutely amazing. Hanging around between the pylons were huge shoals of fish, seemingly unphased by our presence, happy to let us swim by and follow us en masse with one beady eye. I could pretend that I managed to identify all the different species that were down there, but to be honest I was too busy trying to stop my mouth falling open and losing my regulator. Because the dive is so shallow – 10 metres maximum depth – it means you can spend ages down there. When my guide finally signaled that we should surface, I thought we’d only been down for 10 minutes, so entranced was I by the colours of the coral and the fish. Turns out we were down there for 50! Back on terra firma with a coldie firmly in hand, my dive buddies and I could only agree that it had been a truly spectacular day of diving – and even better, we’d had both dive sites to ourselves. We felt suitably smug at having discovered one of WA’s many hidden diving delights.