3 Underwater Encounters You Can't Miss in Australia

Three of the most unusual underwater marine life encounters that you need to dive and photograph when visiting Australia
By Brent Durand, photos by Various

There are two different types of underwater photo and video trips: those where you go to a known destination to create great images of common subjects, and those where you spend hours researching unique subjects and behaviors in the hopes of creating some unusual images.

Australia happens to be home to some of these unique opportunities and we've decided to put some of the preliminary research together for you. Whether you shoot photos, video or simply enjoy being in the water with your dive buddy, these are some marine life encounters that you need to add to your adventure list (I'm not big on bucket lists because mine would overflow in 2 seconds!).

So pack your camera bags, grab your dive gear and prepare to be amazed by the ocean, once again.


1. Giant Cuttlefish Aggregation

Point Lowly, Whyalla, South Australia


Looking for some contest-worthy underwater images? This is it. Every winter, hundreds of thousands of Australian Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama) migrate from all over the southern half of the country to the shallow waters of the upper Spencer Gulf near Whyalla, South Australia to mate. Similar to other cephalopods like market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens), the giant cuttlefish generally meet in small groups to mate. This is when divers see the eggs on buoy ropes, rock structure or forming baskets on the sand. The aggregation in Whyalla is the exception, however, and provides much more insight into the character and lives of these animals.

When so many giant cuttlefish show up to one area it becomes much more competitive to find a mate. The males put on elaborate displays to impress females who are out looking for a mate, flashing radical colors and textures to complement their fluttering . Smaller, less desireable males put on more vibrant shows, even disguising themselves as the females, in order to sneak in and succeed in aquiring a mate. Like all cuttlefish, once the male mates he swims off to die. The female lays the eggs before doing the same.

These interactions and behaviors create incredible photo opps for visiting photographers and videographers.

Photos by Peter & Kathy Cave.




2. The Spider Crabs of Rye Pier

Rye Pier, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Have you ever seen an entire sea floor covered with a writhing blanket of spider crabs? If you hang out in Victoria, Australia during the early winter months, then you absolutely have to dive the rye pier once word gets in that the spider crabs have showed up. Similar to the cuttlefish aggregation above, the spider crabs migrate to this precise shallow water area to mate and molt (at least, that is the common belief).

Upon arrival, the crabs cover the bottom, sometimes in multiple layers for about a week. They mate, molt, and then disappear. The only evidence left behind is the debris field of molts. The crabs normally rely on their hard exoskeleton for protection and are left defenseless while they slowly wriggle out of their old shell, attracting opportunistic predators like rays.

Needless to say, this is the only place (to my knowledge) where you can witness an event like this. Smaller aggregations do occur (even here in Southern California) but nothing even close to the event at Rye Pier.

Read about the full experience in The Spider Crabs of Rye Pier, by photographer Matt Krumins (on Facebook, on Instagram).





3. Leafy Sea Dragon

Southern coast of Australia


Along the coast of southern Australia lives the Leafy (and Weedy) Sea Dragon. Simply put, this is just a very beautiful creature to photograph. Living in shallow sea grass beds, the Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques) may be hard to spot at first, with wavy appendages that provide excellent camouflage.

The Leafy is the marine symbol of the state of South Australia and once of the most iconic marine animals in the world. Every underwater photographer should want to have a nice leafy shot in their portfolio!

Photos by Mike Bartick (on Facebook, on Instagram), manager and photo pro at Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, Philippines.




Read all of our Marine Life Facts and Articles.


Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer and story teller from California.

Brent is an avid diver and adventure photographer, and shoots underwater any time he can get hands on a camera system. He can be reached at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

Follow Underwater Photography Guide on Facebook or Instagram.


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