Sydney diving is not just a summer hobby. I LOVE diving in the winter, even though I’m an unashamed wimp when it comes to cold! I’m going to share my favourite things about winter diving, as well as some hints on keeping warm.
1. The visibility is better
During the winter, there are less algal blooms because the water is cooler. The prevailing winds and currents in winter also push cool clear water close to the coast. These factors result in more days of clear blue water in winter to give your dives that extra ‘wow’ factor.
2. Port Jackson season
The Port Jackson shark is endemic to temperate Australia, and during the winter months they come up from deeper waters into the shallows to mate and lay eggs. Unlike many sharks, they do not need to swim to breath. They have the ability to pump water through their gills whilst stationary so can frequently be seen resting on the sand.
Shelly Beach is a great place to spot these sharks during the winter, you can often see multiple individuals on each dive, and get close enough for some fantastic photos.
3. The Giant Cuttlefish
This species of cuttlefish (Sepia apama) is found only in temperate Australia. Winter is their mating season and this is when they are at their largest, up to 1.2 metres, and most feisty. They can be very interactive towards divers. Many a diver has had their torch, camera or dive computer ‘felt up’ by a cuttlefish, as they seem to be attracted to our shiny objects.
The surprising thing about the giant cuttlefish is that they only live 1-2 years, so their rate of growth is even more impressive given such a short lifespan. They die shortly after mating and laying eggs, so you’ll see them looking like ‘zombie’ cuttlefish towards the end of the winter. They can be spotted on both shore and boat dives and they like to hide in rocky overhangs or caves.
4. Humpback whales
During June and July, migrating humpbacks pass through Sydney on their way to warm tropical waters. This means that if you join us on one of our boat dives in the harbour, your surface interval is likely to double as whale-watching time. Humpbacks may be seen breaching, tail slapping and frolicking at the surface, and particularly curious individuals have even been known to approach and inspect dive boats. During your dives, listen out for the enchanting song of the humpback as it can travel 40km through the water.
5. You’ll have the beach to yourself
As much as I love the warmth of summer… I do NOT miss trying to find a parking space at my dive site! In winter the beaches and dive sites are quieter. You have the joy or arriving at your favourite shore dive site and having your pick of the parking spaces. You can walk over the beach without weaving around sunbathers or sandcastles, and often have a whole dive site to yourself.
6. Night dives
There must be some benefit to the shorter days, and the fact it’s already dark outside when you leave work. Short days mean you don’t have to wait for it to get dark to go on a night dive! Manly has fantastic ‘muck diving’ sites where all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures come out at night, including the blue-lined octopus and pyjama squid which can only be seen in temperate Australia. During the darker winter evenings they will be out hunting that little bit earlier. Ask us about upcoming night dives!
How to Stay Warm:
Thermal Protection – A semi-dry suit of 6.5mm or more is best for the winter, combined with a Sharkskin vest or long-sleeved top underneath for extra insulation. Since a large percentage of body heat is lost through the head during dives – hoods make a massive difference. Wearing wetsuit gloves will also reduce the chill factor.
Surface Intervals – If you are doing multiple dives, especially if you’re out on a boat, make sure you have a good windproof jacket to put on for the whole surface interval, as well as a warm beanie hat. Prepare a thermos of hot tea or soup to have after the dive to raise your body temp.
Dry Suit Diving – If you are prone to cold, or want to extend your dives, then dry suit is the way to go. I always wear a dry suit in winter and with good undergarments, I don’t feel the cold at all. The other great thing about a dry suit is that after your dive you can literally step out of it and straight into the café for breakfast without having to dry yourself off! Ask us about trying a dry suit and enrol in a Dry Suit Specialty Course to prepare for the cooler months.