Wilsons Promontory is significant for so many reasons – it is the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland and a spiritual Aboriginal place, with spectacular granite rock formations and stunning underwater seascapes – what a destination for a week of Reef Life Surveys!

The rugged, difficult-to-access terrain meant that a liveaboard was the best option to cover the twenty target sites in the time allowed. So, thanks to funding by Parks Victoria and effective planning in conjunction with the RLS team, we set off on a cool late-summer night for the six-hour steam aboard “Tura” from San Remo down to The Prom.

Despite some rocking and rolling on moderate seas on the trip down, all ten divers emerged from below decks early on day one ready for surveys. This commitment and enthusiasm was maintained for the rest of the trip too by RLS coordinator Antonia Cooper and volunteer divers Bill Barker, Chris Gillies, Simon Reeves, Jen Hoskins, Deb Dalziel, Kris O’Keeffe, Yanir Seroussi, Gideon Heller-Wagner and myself. Chris Hayward from Parks Victoria kept crews in the water with his skilled boat driving and patient boat sitting, and the crew of Tura – Chris, Danny and Dan – got us to each location, safely and well-fed.

As the trip progressed, it became clear that we would cover all target sites with a little time to spare. We completed 45 surveys in five days, recording 76 fish species on method 1, 57 invertebrate species and 16 cryptic fish species on method 2. Marine debris was thankfully scarce, noted on only three of the surveys.

Highlights for me started with the stunning diving; cool water seascapes dominated by waving crayweed forests, many wrasse, leatherjackets, boarfish, sea stars and vibrant sessile invertebrates covering every spare inch of rock. The occasional big lobster, weedy seadragon or Australian fur seal brought a dash of excitement to each day. Back on board each night, the usual debates over identification, perhaps the odd slightly exaggerated underwater story and a rowdy card game or two kept the adrenaline running until it was time to climb into our bunks to be ready for the next day’s adventure.

So it was with some sadness that we watched the jetty at San Remo approach on our last day. We would miss the stunning sunsets and sunrises, the gentle rocking of the boat at night, and the great camaraderie of a skilled team with a clear purpose. Yet new friendships had been made, and old friendships had deepened. A huge thanks goes to everyone involved – and I’m already hoping that we get to do it all again in 2018.

To check out some more images from this trip, please go HERE

– Written by John Turnbull

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