While Australia is known as a “sunburnt country,” the vast continent also happens to be surrounded by oceans. These waters make the nation one of the best spots in the world to enjoy encounters with sea creatures such as whales, sharks, dolphins, manta rays and more. From cage diving for a close up view of predators like the great white shark, to scuba diving with manta rays or swimming along next to playful dolphins, there is a wide variety of marine activities for tourists to take part in around the country. If you’re keen to head below the sea to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s ocean creatures, read on for some of the top experiences to add to your bucket list.
1. Dive with Sharks
There are multiple places in Australia where you have the opportunity to dive with sharks. At Seal Rocks, near Forster on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, Action Divers runs safe shark encounters. The tour operator takes customers on dives that bring them right up close to grey nurse sharks. While they look fierce, these ocean creatures are actually harmless, and sometimes divers can see a group of 50 or more of the sharks at a time.
For an action-packed adventure that will get the heart racing even more, head to South Australia. Here you’ll find Rodney Fox (known in Australia for having been attacked by a shark while spear-fishing in 1963) running cage-dive tours around the Neptune Islands where great white sharks reside. Along with his marine biologist son, Andrew, Fox conducts awe-inspiring marine encounters that bring travelers face to face with the toothy ocean dwellers. Clients are lowered into the water in a metal cage that allows for close views of the sharks, while still remaining safe. The cage-diving tours leave from Port Lincoln and run for two-night stays.
2. Swim with Dolphins and Sea Lions
In Nelson Bay, New South Wales, tourists have the chance to swim with enthusiastic, wild bottlenose dolphins. Enjoy watching the creatures zip through the water, ride waves, and emit plenty of loud clicks and squeaks underwater as they acknowledge the presence of people. Between the months of September and May each year, Dolphin Swim Australia runs tours in the Port Stephens Marine Park.
Alternatively, over in South Australia, around Baird Bay in the Eyre Peninsula, you can swim with another fun-loving ocean dweller: sea lions. Baird Bay Ocean Eco tours, run since 1992, enable customers to swim and snorkel alongside playful Australian sea lions, an endangered species with less than 15,000 left locally. The whiskered aquatic animals love to show off their acrobatic skills, making for a fun day out for both children and adults.
3. Swim with Whales
If you’ve always wanted to travel to Australia in order to experience the natural wonders of sunny Queensland, you’ll love the swim-with-whale tours available in the state. On the Great Barrier Reef, during June and July only, travelers can book a four- to six-day tour with Eye to Eye Marine Encounters that involves swimming with dwarf minke whales.
In Hervey Bay, known as one of the best places in Australia to see humpback whales, tourists have the chance to swim with the huge ocean dwellers during their migration south. The tours are new, and just one operator has received permission from the Parks and Wildlife office to run the expeditions at this stage. Swims only happen if the sea conditions and humpback locations are right, but lucky customers can sometimes get within touching distance of humpbacks on the day tours that are run from Kingfisher Bay resort and Hervey Bay between the months of August and October.
4. Scuba Dive with Manta Rays
A classic sea encounter is a dive session off Stradbroke Island in Queensland, run by the Manta Lodge. Here tourists can be awed by the sight of graceful manta rays gliding through the waters around Manta Bommie, a 10-minute boat ride from the island. This spot is used as a cleaning station by the manta rays during their annual migration over the months from November to March. In the clear water, divers can get a truly up-close view of the giant creatures.
5. Snorkel with Whale Sharks
The World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is an ideal spot to swim and snorkel with whale sharks, which are often over 25 feet or more in length. The whale shark season runs from April to July every year, with a number of tour operators in Exmouth running sessions. Companies such as King’s Ningaloo Reef uses spotter planes to ensure swims are conducted in areas where whale sharks are swimming at the time. Day tours can be booked with the company for both adults and children.