Shark Diving in NSW (A weekend in Nelson Bay)
Sharks are a conflicting animal for humans, for many people they are the reason to stay out of the water; this is not the case for divers. The more you learn about these beautiful creatures the more enticing they become.
Firstly, some important background for those of you on the other side of the fence, sharks are apex predators essential for the health of our seas, without them it’s easy for the ecosystem to become unbalanced. They are necessary for the health of our coral reefs, and with increasing environmental pressure from warming water the last thing we need is more stress on those critical habitats. Their danger is wildly exaggerated in our minds, in fact, according to the Florida Museum, you are 75 times more likely to be killed by lightning! The fact is that any kind of shark incident is considered hugely news worthy, so we hear a lot about it, this media bias ensures they take a larger part of our psyche than is due. Even those sharks for whom we could conceivably be on the menu really aren't out to get us; the majority of shark incidents are cases of mistaken identity. Sharks have lots of sensory equipment in their mouths and will use them to explore what something is; sadly this exploratory mouthing can prove fatal. There are lots of things you can do to avoid any serious incidents - for example if you are spear fishing you should hang your catch on your float, not on your belt right next to your femoral artery, it’s also sensible to keep out of the water when visibility is compromised - dusk, dawn, low tide, after heavy rain. Scuba divers are often protected from attacks by the nature of the sport - we normally prioritise good visibility.
In NSW there are several shark species that you will see regularly when diving or snorkelling, Wobbegong (at least 10 different species in Australia), Dusky Whalers in Manly and Port Jackson or Crested Horn sharks, who are adorable rather than intimidating.
However if you are keen to dive with sharks locally the one that really ticks all the boxes is the Grey Nurse. They had a ferocious reputation but this has since been completely disproven and they are currently the focus of recovery efforts. They won't attack people but with their incredibly "sharkey" appearance they are such a thrill to dive with.
One of my favourite places for an encounter is Broughton Island, off Nelson Bay. Nelson Bay is a beautiful little town just 3 hours’ drive from Sydney. If you are there for a few days there are some amazing shore dives available, just make sure to check the tides, due to the huge amount of water movement in Port Stephens they can only be dived on the slack high tide and you should take advice from a local dive shop before attempting them.
We normally book in our boat dive with Let's Go Adventures, their double boat dives are only $130 with a free second tank (more if you need to hire equipment) and their dive lodge is just $40 a night, so the weekend can come out pretty cheap. The lodge accommodation is basic bunk beds (if you get there early and are a small group you might be able to get a room to yourself) but it's an actual house with full kitchen and small private pool to relax by. A car is probably necessary as the lodge is some distance from the shop. We often head up with a group in the colder months and have the place to ourselves.
Once you get out to Broughton Island the shark diving is magical, to watch these beautiful creatures drift by is a once in a lifetime experience (which you will repeat time and time again if you are anything like me) and the marine life is phenomenal, to the point that the sharks can almost vanish in the schools of fish. This amazing dive was where my partner and I celebrated our first year of diving together and is somewhere we return to frequently. I hope to see you there soon.
You can come across sharks in any site but other main congregation sites to dive with Grey Nurse sharks in NSW:
South West Rocks
Maroubra, Magic Point (although not many about at the moment)
Byron Bay, Julian Rocks
Let me know if there are any other good NSW shark diving spots I've missed on Instagram @Charleston3a and check out a shark video by @aussie_bubbles here