The ocean is there to be discovered and Steve Brady is an intrepid diver who has explored many underwater locations with a salty tale to tell.
“We’ve got it all and there’s just so much diversity of marine life in and around Australia. It’s amazing” Brady says. “This is probably a funny thing to say but if I had gills I’d be a very happy boy.”
With a litany of dive experiences under his belt, Brady wanted others to learn what the ocean has to offer. Informed by research from marine biologists and feedback from pro divers, he developed a calendar featuring marine wildlife events throughout the year, and uses the calendar to schedule dive trips at all levels of experience from beginner to advanced around Australia and beyond.
“Finding where you can go to see certain marine life is a very big thing for people and I’m the same. I want to see mola molas, I want to see mantas, so I want to go to a place that has the best chance at the best time to see them” says Brady.
Brady has an eye for adventure and despite the unpredictable nature of the sea, he is not deterred from making new discoveries. He recalls an incredible rendezvous with a manta ray after travelling out to an open ocean destination via spotter plane in West Australia.
“In West Australia we went to the township of Coral Bay. We specifically went out on a trip where they have spotter planes, and you aren’t on a reef. You’re in open water. Sandy bottoms, maybe twenty metres of water and you’re snorkeling with them. They’re just down there, just swimming around, very acrobatic, very inquisitive. Just to have one of them come gliding over the top of you, that’s very special” says Brady.
Australian dive sites are world renowned for their pristine waters, thanks to clean up projects led by conservation organisations and social media groups. Despite the awareness campaigns and changes to the community’s attitude toward disposing rubbish, microplastics are severely impacting the health of marine life globally.
When marine organisms filter seawater for their food and to absorb oxygen, they vicariously take in these tiny microplastic pieces. This plastic can become lodged in digestive and respiratory tracts, causing animals to suffer health problems or worse, mortality. In the ocean, it’s not just small filter feeding species like corals and clams that are being negatively affected, the larger pelagic animals, whales and sharks, are also being hit hard by this invisible threat.
“Plastic is everywhere, even in places we can’t see” says Ian Kiernan, founder of Clean Up Australia, an organisation that coordinates community clean up events of the environment every year in Australia and worldwide.
“Even if you aren’t really concerned about the health of marine creatures, you might pause when you know that you cannot escape that easily because they are in our drinking water” Kiernan says.
To decrease the problem of microplastics in our water, Kiernan recommends consumers buy clothes made with natural fabrics instead of synthetic material and avoid purchasing products like cosmetics, soaps, shampoos and detergents, that do not clearly state they are free of microplastics.
Another way of overcoming obstacles to the continued health of the marine world is through ecotourism, which is offering coastal communities the benefit of financial return, by showing visitors how beautiful preserved natural environments are.
The Great Barrier Reef along Queensland’s coast and Ningaloo Reef off Exmouth in West Australia, both World Heritage listed areas, are prime examples of ecotourism’s success.
Divers share their once in a lifetime experiences when they dive with whales, sharks and dolphins through social media, attracting a lot of attention which ultimately turns marine species into major tourism draw cards overnight.
“People’s expectations are all different and everyone enjoys diving around the coral. But when people are fortunate enough to see species like mantas that would be their trip for the rest of their lives” says Brady.
Spectacular Coral Sea locations lying beyond the Great Barrier Reef are a prize ready for the taking.
“You’re talking thousands of metres of water, massive drop offs, just awesome visibility and you will get large pelagic marine life out there. If you like sharks, that’s the place to go” says Brady.
Another exciting dive destination is the S.S. Yongala shipwreck, which sunk in 1911 off Alva Beach, Ayr, in North Queensland.
“It’s a feeding station for mantas, bull rays, groupers and sharks. It’s safe to go learning to dive because you don’t have strong currents. You’ve got pristine visibility. You’ve got nice corals. I would promote it as one of the best places to learn to dive” says Brady.
The Ribbon Reefs are part of the Great Barrier Reef, which extend from Port Douglas all the way up passed Lizard Island.
“In June, July each year, you get the migration of the Minke whale coming through and that’s very special. That’s really a highlight for me in terms of marine species” says Brady.
And for the nouveau diver who stumbles upon a manta ray or a whale shark for the first time?
“You just let them be in their natural environment, you let them be the inquisitive one and you’re in for a great experience” says Brady.
Report by Gabrielle Ahern
Steve Brady manages ‘Dive In Australia’ located in Cairns (https://diveinaustralia.com.au) a travel agency matching dive companies to divers looking for their ideal wildlife encounter.
My interview with Steve Brady will feature in a future podcast episode of the Noisemaker series. So stay tuned.