It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon and the water beckons. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) discovery rangers Luke Brown and Rob McKinnon are fitting and kitting out soon-to-be snorkellers with wetsuits, flippers and face masks in the Snug Cove car park.
We’re about to head over to the far side of Twofold Bay in the Merimbula Divers Lodge RIB and snorkel for a couple of hours to catch a glimpse of the protected weedy sea dragons.
Luke and Rob will be snorkelling with us to help us spot the well-camouflaged sea dragons.
The rangers are relaxed, efficient, and knowledgeable. They handle each and every question asked with attentiveness and a quiet confidence. They’re as skilled at handling the kids as they are the adults.
This holiday activity is just one on offer by the NPWS that give access to knowledge and builds awareness of our pristine marine and national park environment.
The description ‘not-to-be missed’ is used indiscriminately these days. For my 16-year-old daughter and me the snorkelling tour was miraculous and certainly not-to-be-missed.
The fast boat ride over the water around the navy wharf to Edrom Lodge is a buzz. There’s nowhere better to be on a warm summer’s day than on the water in beautiful surrounds and everyone on board wears a big smile.
Luke and Rob give us a short and informative talk about the weedy sea dragons. There is a small colony here that is protected because this rare species, only found in southern Australia, is considered an aphrodisiac in some parts of the world when dried and ground into a powder.
Thankfully for the sea dragons, they are so well camouflaged that it takes a keen, expert eye to point them out for us.
While we look and look for about ten minutes it’s one of the rangers who is first to spot and share the afternoon’s first sea dragon encounter.
Sea dragons are between 10 and 45 cm long. They look much like a piece of floating seaweed until you spot one, see their resemblance to seahorses, and begin to pick them out as they swim on the edges of seaweed covered, rocky outcrops.
There aren’t masses of them and I dare say I may never see one again without an expert to do the spotting for me, but they are simply beautiful, and over our two hour snorkel we were privileged to spot five weedy sea dragons. I couldn’t tell you if we saw the same one twice or even three times. I do know that every encounter was wonderful.
Towards the end of our adventure some snorkellers were getting a bit cold and elected to return to the RIB. When we were all back on board, everyone was a buzz.
This is an affordable, well run tour and there are more on offer over January and February. While it does require good swimming ability in deep open waters, it’s suitable for most people. To book any of the NPWS summer holiday activities, phone the NPWS Far South Coast regional office on 6495 5000 or 1300 361 606.