Date of stay: April 2012
Where you stayed: Port Lincoln Tourist Park
Travelled with: Girlfriend
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned – Part tour through Adventure Bay Charters
One of the first things we decided when we moved to South Australia in 2010 was that we wanted to make the most of our time living here and experience places that we wouldn’t normally go to living on the eastern seaboard. One of the first experiences that we decided was a must was to head over to Port Lincoln to go cage diving with great white sharks, something that is only offered in a few places worldwide. This was initially planned for 2011 but due to a brief trip to Africa (see Rwanda blog), we finally got around to it on the Easter long weekend in 2012.
So you may be asking, where is Port Lincoln?? It is a small town located on Boston Bay at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula. It is approximately a 7.5 hour drive from Adelaide (or a 45 minute flight from Adelaide) so for those flying from interstate, you will need to come via Adelaide to visit. For flights, there are plenty of flights each day and the route is serviced by Regional Express and Qantas.
As time was an issue for us, we decided to fly and chose Qantas. The flights were very cheap ($114 each way) and this included luggage and a meal – which is quite good considering the length of the flight. Upon arrival in Port Lincoln we made our way to our Toyota Prius hire car (www.airportrentacar.com.au), and sat in the car park for 10 minutes trying to work out how to turn it on – damn keyless ignition, and drove into Port Lincoln. We highly recommend this company – the car was great and it seemed substantially cheaper than anyone else that was on offer.
With the accommodation we wanted something nice but not too expensive and stayed at Port Lincoln Tourist Park in an executive cabin. We paid $140 per night which was much cheaper than any other hotel we could find at the time. The cabin was spacious and clean plus our front veranda faced out into Boston Bay. For those interested, they have a number of other cheaper options, including camping which was all reasonably priced and in a great location.
After having settled in, we hopped in the car and travelled over to nearby Coffin Bay and the national park there ($10 entry fee – plus fees for camping if you so choose). This is well worth the trip and it is such a beautiful place with plenty of bushwalking trails as well as lookouts with amazing views. However, some parts of the national park are accessible by four-wheel drive so take this into consideration when planning a day there.
After finishing at Coffin Bay, we then headed over to Mikira station, a campground with a large population of wild koalas. As with the national parks, there is an entrance fee and this needs to be paid at Port Lincoln visitors centre to get a key for entrance. Having never seen a wild Koala before we were a bit skeptical about how many we would see but within about 100 metres we saw 12 Koalas plus plenty of native birds. As you expect, the Koalas don’t do much, but it was quite amazing to see so many of them in such a short space.
Of course, the above trips were only decided as we arrived and the main reason for our visit was to take part in all of Adventure Bay Charters activities and these began the following day. So this company offers three main activities (along with some other more recent additions) which are Swim with the Tuna, Swim with the Sea Lions and Swim with the Great White Sharks and we strongly recommend all of these – you get the swim with Tuna for free if you do the Sea Lions and Great White Sharks tour.
Our first adventure was Swim with the Tuna and the Adventure Bay Charters boat took us out to their own Tuna farm in Boston Bay. Following a brief explanation about the Tuna farm, we were in our wetsuits and into the water. It is quite amazing how big these fish can be – and apparently these were quite small. To liven the experience up, our guide was constantly throwing pilchards into the water (normally right in front of someone) making the tuna go crazy. During this time there are plenty of photo opportunities and Adventure Bay Charters supply an underwater camera for you to take photos with. Also, for those that are not so excited about getting in the water, you can feed the tuna (with long tongs!) from the deck or view them from their underwater viewing platform as well as taste Tuna sashimi. I have to admit though, if I was to go back again, this is the only activity I probably wouldn’t do again. Don’t get me wrong, it was good but the following two were so much better.
On the afternoon after our Tuna trip, we headed back out again to Swim with the Sea Lions. This was a slightly longer journey out to Seal Cove but the wait was worth it. Sea Lions are described as the puppies of the sea and it doesn’t take long to see why. Once we arrived at Seal Cove, the guides started whistling to the Sea Lions and they all started waddling down the beach into the water. Again, we hopped into our wetsuits and swam over to meet them. We have swum with dolphins before and that was amazing but the Sea Lions are something else. They will mimic you in the water. If you roll over, they will roll over and they will get right up into your face and they seem to be enjoying it as much as you do. The more you do in front of them, the more you will get out of it. It almost seems like they are the tourist checking out these strange people.
The next day was the trip we had been waiting for. A full day out cage diving with Great White Sharks, we left the Marina quite early in beautiful, calm weather and started the 3 hour journey to the Neptune Islands. On the way we went along the Port Lincoln National Park Coastline for some amazing views, including sea eagle and emu sightings. This part of the trip was lovely and calm, but once we hit the open ocean things got a little hairy. Our guides told us this was a good day and it was calm but of the 18 people on board, almost half were badly sea-sick and one person was panicking thinking we were going to sink and die (not us – although I was getting very close to being sick towards the end of the trip) – but don’t let this put you off. I would recommend for anyone going on this trip to take some form of anti-sea-sickness medication prior to leaving – it is definitely worth it.
Anyway, eventually we arrived at the islands, home to a large seal colony – which is probably why there is also a large shark population, here we set up the cage. There was a slightly more complex safety briefing for this (as you would expect) and we were taught how to use the hookah (breathing apparatus – no need for diving certificates thankfully). Once this was all done we were geared up and ready to hop in. Now, many tour operators use burley to send the sharks into a frenzy but to ensure they protect the natural environment, adventure bay charters have taken another approach to attract the sharks and this is audio sound vibrations. So once the speakers had been lowered in and the sharks favourite tunes (ACDC) started playing, we hopped in and for the next hour we floated there mesmerised at the sharks that swam by. This was easily the best moment of the trip and is up there with some amazing travel experiences we have had and despite our concerns about being eaten, or attacked, we felt completely safe and at ease the entire time under water. Even after surfacing to let others have a go in the cage, we still were able to watch the sharks casually swim up and check out the boat and cage. We do have to admit though that we were apparently quite lucky and not all trips get the opportunity to see that many sharks, or even sharks at all.
While the trips with Adventure Bay Charters were the main reason for the visit to Port Lincoln, we also took advantage of our time in the area to visit some local attractions. We can highly recommend visitors to check out both Coffin Bay and Port Lincoln National Parks as well as Mikira Station (to see wild Koalas) and Whalers Way (for some amazing scenery). Note though that all of these attractions require an entrance fee, some of which need to be paid at Port Lincoln Tourist Information Centre.
Overall, an amazing experience and something we will never forget.
Points to highlight:
While you can drive, flying is probably a much easier option although you must go via Adelaide. In the high season, book early. Port Lincoln Tourist Park was excellent accommodation and quite reasonably priced. Adventure Bay Charters were amazing. These guys made sure we had the best possible time and they also approach these tours aiming to protect the natural environment. Also, they did mention a story where another operator who used burley ended up with a shark that jumped out of the water onto an occupied viewing cage which is something that would be terrifying.
Be aware that the sharks aren’t around all year so take that into consideration when planning your holiday.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your tour: Yes
Would you recommend your hotel/hostel: Yes
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
By: John & Ang