Words by Fatema Sitabkhan
Photos by Fatema Sitabkhan, Jessie Krieg, & Ben Walker
Australia has been blessed with a gorgeous coastline with so many underwater beauties. With summer well and truly here, there are limitless possibilities of going underwater and exploring our colorful marine life, in addition to cooling off in our scorching heat. While there are options of water sports around Adelaide and South Australia, there’s one that has been lesser known but is such an affordable way to get up, close, and personal with the hidden gems living under the sea – SNUBA diving. No, it’s not a typo, and yes, it is one heck of a thrilling experience!
With a colorful underwater trail with 12 plaques along an 800 metre stretch, there’s so much to see and so much to unearth about the beauty along our South Australian reefs.
Port Noarlunga SNUBA is a local business that made a breakthrough in the Australian market 6 years ago and is owned and operated by Ben Walker. Within minutes of chatting with Benny, it became apparent that he has always had a soft spot for the ocean and its unimaginable beauty nestled underwater. Ben talked about how there is a “hole in the market” to introduce people to the underwater world. He says, “there are so many snorkelers out there that will never go scuba diving because they’re too intimidated and scared, or they do not want to invest their money and time into extensive training”.
SNUBA diving is about bridging the gap between snorkeling and scuba diving and makes it easy for everyone to enjoy the underwater world. Ben found his passion for this fantastic concept while working in the Caribbean. A certified PADI Scuba instructor and a qualified SNUBA Guide himself, Benny has helped bring Australia’s first (and only) SNUBA licensed program.
Bring together the core elements of snorkelling and scuba diving and voila! You’ve got yourself an awesome water sport called SNUBA. You can participate in a guided tour with Benny and experience the calm and protected waters created by the Port Noarlunga reef. The great thing about SNUBA is that you do not need to wear any heavy bulky equipment that is required for scuba diving. All participants are linked via an air line to a SNUBA raft that floats on the surface and holds air tanks (with a sufficient amount of air for the entire duration of the tour). The air line is then connected to a scuba mouthpiece regulator, which is in your mouth for you to breathe through. Participants can go up (or down, shall I say?) to 6 metres underwater and explore the marine life that lives within, without the need of a diving license.
Before we started the briefing, Benny let us know of his 3 simple rules:
2. Be comfortable in the water
3. Have fun
The 2-hour tour is made up of:
- 15 mins: A short briefing with instructions about the tour + “sign language”
- 15 mins: Suit up (wetsuit, mask, pair of fins, SNUBA harness, a lightweight belt)
- 15 mins: Walk down the jetty and meet Benny by the stairs that lead us to the water
- 30-40 mins: Get into the underwater experience aka the best part!
- 15-20 mins: Get out of the water, walk down the jetty, and take off equipment
Upon arriving to the appointment, I was welcomed with the biggest smile by Benny, who was excited to get into the water on a beautiful, sunny day. His enthusiasm and passion for this incredible sport put my nerves at rest on multiple occasions. I participated in a guided tour with 4 other individuals – a lovely family visiting from the United States – and we congregated together under the cozy tent. Words cannot describe the different shades of blue that I witnessed as I peeked underwater. I saw the an innumerable amount of black, white, and grey fish, orange and sand-colored reefs, and sea-green seaweed in every direction. It was at this time that I felt like I was in an alternate dimension where peace, tranquility, and beauty triumphed at its peak. You suddenly feel weightless and there is a newfound carefree perspective that lasts even after you’ve got out of the water. Once you get used to the equipment and feel comfortable enough to breathe through the mouthpiece, you feel like a mermaid in an underwater paradise. The Ariel vibes were strong throughout this expedition! Benny was routinely making sure (through his signalling) that we were all comfortable and hanging around alright, so you’re never alone and if there’s any difficulty whatsoever, he would help you out straight away. Before you know it, you’ve been in the water, you’ve played with the beautiful fishes, you’ve held a gorgeous starfish with the silkiest and most velvety texture ever, and you’ve cruised along admiring the reefs.
While I was nervous to go further below the water, I still felt like I got a lot out of this incredible experience. I did feel disappointed in the fact that my anxiety got in the way of me touching the ocean bed, but as Benny reminded me, “no one can really fail at SNUBA-ing”. And honestly, he’s so right. You don’t realize the essence of what lies in the water till you’ve taken a dive (pun intended) and experienced it yourself. And it was a magical experience, to say the least!
This is one of the coolest and underrated water sports out there, where people from the 8-80 age bracket can participate in what’s aimed to be a fun-filled and relaxed experience with a subtle but enduring tinge of adrenalin. Whether you’re a pro-diver or have never attempted a water sport before, you’re in for a treat that will give you a whole new way to enjoy the summer season!