In December, I took the opportunity of having a few days spare in between scholarship experiences to visit my fellow Rolex Scholar from Australasia, Joanna, in her home: Tasmania.
World-renowned for the diversity of wildlife living there, I was very enthused about visiting the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, an orgnaization that rescues and rehabilitates native marsupials, mammals, birds and reptiles.
Of course, Joanna and I also couldn´t wait to go for our first ever dive together! Joanna introduced me to the beautiful temperate underwater world of Tasmania at Eaglehawk Neck on the peninsula of the Tasman National Park. On our first dive together, we dove the colorful Sponge Gardens at “The Thumbs”, and on the second dive we explored the stunning underwater arches and caverns of “The Cathedral”.
From Tasmania, I then flew to Port Lincoln and departed to the Neptune Islands, where I joined Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions. Here, I learned about responsible and safe great white shark diving from RFSE, one of the world leaders in this field.
Having never seen a great white shark before, it was an incredibly magnificent moment when the first shark manifested itself out of the blue of the South Australian Ocean. Peacefully and gracefully, the 3.5-meter long shark glided through the water and appeared and disappeared several times throughout this dive. Because RFSE has thoroughly been documenting every sighting for many years, we were able to identify this shark as “Flat White”. Flat White then graced us with her presence many times again in the following days, both on the surface and while we were in the bottom cage. What a special experience it was!
On the sea-journey towards the Neptune Islands, we also had the opportunity to stop at a colony of Australian sea lions, who we were able to swim and interact with. These “puppies of the sea”, as they are called by many, really lived up to their names, zooming around us, eyeing us and even jumping joyfully out of the water right in front of us. These playful encounters felt even more special to me because I had seen the misfortunes of so many pinnipeds in the rescue and rehabilitation facilities that I have been working with throughout my scholarship year. It really showed me how intelligent and precious marine mammals are and let my determination to contribute to their wellbeing grow even stronger.