The leafy seadragon has to be one of the strangest and most beautiful fish in the ocean.
Leafy seadragons can be found year-round at Rapid Bay, only 90 minutes drive from the city of Adelaide in South Australia. Covered in leafy appendages (used only for camouflage), it grows to ~25cm (~10 inches) and is only found at a handful of locations along the southern side of Australia (WA, VIC and SA).
It was my second trip to South Australia to find the leafy seadragons, after a failed trip in 2012 where we didn't managed to find any. After the disappointment of my last trip, it was a great relief to find the first dragon 2 minutes into the first dive! On this trip (April 2017) we saw many leafy seadragons under the old derelict jetty at Rapid Bay.
The Neptune Islands are located in the Spencer Gulf in South Australia, about 6-8 hours boat ride south of Port Lincoln. The Neptune Islands are renowned as one of the best places in the world to see large great white sharks.
It was my third trip to the Neptune Islands with the Rodney Fox team, and my 2nd trip with regular dive buddy Andy Thirlwell (www.andythirlwell.com). We were lucky enough to have excellent conditions for the entire trip. We had more sharks than we knew what to do with, excellent visibility and unusually warm water.
We travelled in the Australian winter (June - August), as this is generally the best season to find large female Great White Sharks around the Neptune Islands. We had up to seven Great Whites at a time, with some sharks approaching lengths of up to 5 metres (16.5 feet).
My favourite image of the trip was taken late in the afternoon of the last day, when a large Great White came in close with his jaws open at just the right angle for the setting sun to illuminate the inside of his mouth (see below). The fisheye lens distortion makes the shark's head appear enormous and cartoonish relative to its body.
Previous trips to the Neptune Islands had been cut short by large seas, a regular occurrence in this part of the world in winter. When the seas are calm, the nearby Hopkins Island colony of endangered Australian Sea Lions can be visited. I've wanted to dive with the Sea Lions at Hopkins Island for more than a decade, but had missed out on earlier trips due to poor weather.
Finally, on this trip we got the opportunity to get in the water with these beautiful animals. Highly curious, interactive and set within a stunning underwater landscape, it was one of nicest dives I can remember. I highly recommend a trip to Hopkins Island if you're in this part of the world.