I never expected to come face to face with a bird’s feet while snorkelling. It’s amazing what you can do close to Melbourne on a hot and sunny Australia Day public holiday.
Clad in a full-length 6mm thick wetsuit, the anticipation and excitement level was high as our group looked for ‘Nemo’ in the water near Portsea pier. Nemo was a dive boat.
About 5km out from Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula sits an artificial structure called ‘Pope’s Eye’ - a semi-circular ring of stone boulders that seems quite out of place in the middle of the sea. Touted as one of the best (and smallest) marine parks in Victoria, it was easy to see why once the snorkelling action began.
Giant kelp beds and plentiful, colourful reef fish awaited under the surprisingly clear water, but it was the animals on top of the water here that were equally interesting. The structure is also a nesting ground for a colony of Australasian Gannets (birds) and their droppings into the water have resulted in a nutrient rich environment in which the marine life thrives. It was the first time I have snorkelled amongst birds and it’s hard to describe the feeling of eyeballing a winged creature in the water just inches away from your face.
The Gannets were soon yesterday’s news once we arrived at Chinaman’s Hut, a custom-built hut (in the middle of the sea) which is home for a bunch of fur seals that inhabit the bay.
With their playful antics and big, puppy-dog eyes, it was ten minutes of pure delight to be in the water twirling, diving and playing up close and personal with these gorgeous ‘Labradors’ of the sea.
We went in search of Nemo but found so much more.