Twelve Apostles Marine National Park

2012-10-30_0524-00609Twelve Apostles Marine National Park is a 7,500-hectare marine park near Port Campbell, on the south-west coast of Victoria, Australia. It borders Port Campbell and Great Otway National Parks.

The iconic golden cliffs and crumbling pillars of the Twelve Apostles can be found 7km east of Port Campbell. They are protected by the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park which cruns along 17km of stunning coastline. As well as the above water beauty the park protects some of Victoria’s most dramatic underwater scenery. Spectacular arches, canyons, fissures, gutters and deep sloping reefs make up the environment below the waves. Wild and powerful waves of the Southern Ocean constantly pound the coastline which has shaped the area into what you see today.

The remarkable underwater structures provide a complex foundation for magnificent habitats including kelp forests and colourful sponge gardens.

Many animals prosper both above and below the water including seabirds, seals, lobsters, reef fish and sea spiders. The intertidal and shallow subtidal reefs are known to have the greatest diversity of invertebrates on limestone reef in Victoria.

Marine mammals, such as whales, are also known to visit the area. Patient visitors after dark or in the early morning may see Little Penguins which nest in caves below the Twelve Apostles.

Spectacular above and breathtakingly beautiful below, the park has some of the most unique underwater scenery in the world making it a must for diving and snorkelling.

The powerful swell of the Southern Ocean has created awesome sub-tidal canyons, arches, cliffs and walls lined with an amazing diversity of invertebrates and sponge gardens in which colourful seastars can be found.

There are also a number of historic shipwrecks including Victoria’s worst shipping disaster – the loss of the Loch Ard in 1878.

The Loch Ard departed England on 1 March 1878, bound for Melbourne, commanded by Captain Gibbs and with a crew of 17 men. It was carrying 37 passengers and assorted cargo. On 1 June, the ship was approaching Melbourne and expecting to sight land when it encountered heavy fog. Unable to see the Cape Otway lighthouse, the captain was unaware how close he was running to the coast. The fog lifted around 4am, revealing breakers and cliff faces. Captain Gibbs quickly ordered sail to be set to come about and get clear of the coast, but they were unable to do so in time, and ran aground on a reef. The masts and rigging came crashing down, killing some people on deck and preventing the lifeboats from being launched effectively. The ship sank within 10 or 15 minutes of striking the reef. Only two survived.

Conditions for scuba diving vary enormously and depend very much on swell and weather conditions. Diving in these areas should only be attempted by qualified divers with extensive local knowledge or with a an experience guide.

Local dive shops and dive operators can provide opportunities to dive at the best sites and wrecks.

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