Hello, I’m Hannah, one of the editors at Curieux. I’ve been studying at UC for the fourth year of my BA Honours course in Creative and Professional Writing with International Experience. I’m a UK exchange student on placement in Australia from my home university of Bangor, North Wales, UK. As an exchange student, I am always looking for opportunities to experience the Australian culture and fully immerse myself within the environment I am now living in.
Whilst creating content for Curieux’s Instagram, I came across an opportunity advertised by the UC Environmental Society. A two-day trip away to go snorkeling with seals off the coast of Montague Island! For $100 the trip included: camping fees, boat charter, equipment hire, and a secured place on the trip with the club who kindly designated carpools to take the members down to the coast.
I was part of the group who left campus at 6am on Saturday 25th March 2023. An early start allowed us to have a morning swim on the way to our final destination of Narooma, NSW.
As a UK exchange student, it never fails to surprise me how warm the waters are in Australia compared to back home. The reefs are filled with more life as well. Only a short distance from the shoreline you can find shoals of brightly coloured fish darting through the large foliage of seaweed drifting on the tide.
Taking in the underwater sights with the members of the UC Environmental Club was an amazing start to the day before we got back in the cars and headed off to find breakfast.
When we arrived at our campsite, the skies had turned the same shade as the London skies back home – grey. However, everyone got stuck in and helped with putting up tents so that we all had a dry place to stash our gear. By then the rain had cleared, more members had arrived, and we headed off to the beach…
I always enjoyed rock pooling when I was growing up in the UK. Australia’s coastline invited more sights to be added to my collective memories. We did not just find the odd crab, but a whole variety of different rock pool inhabitants. My favourite were the starfish who had coloured themselves the same shade as the rocks. They were hard to spot at first, but soon we found them in multiple pools along with minnows and blue bottle jellyfish.
One of the UC Enivronmental members found a Blue Glaucus Nudibranch. A form of sea slug that had washed ashore. They are not very well known or common to find on a beach so you can imagine the excitement experienced between the club members.
Between them all, the members have a depth of knowledge about the natural world that is fascinating to hear. I enjoyed listening as the members shared their knowledge about different types of marine life and recounted their experiences of finding them.
After a quick shower, we headed out to the nearest pub known as Club Narooma. They had a lovely menu, but I especially loved the vibe of the night as we all bustled around a table sharing our thoughts of the day.
That night we camped in our tents; the rain started off as heavy but soon quietened down, dampening the air to the noise of the Australian bush.
There was another early start as we packed the tents away for half seven. By 8am we were down near the docks waiting for the boat that would take us to Montague Island.
On the way to Montague Island, we spotted Rays in the bay. There were many shoals of fish whizzing around the boat. Black Cockatoos soared over the tops of trees near the mainland. We saw more than three, which I’m told is an indicator of rain. It was true.
Half an hour’s boat ride later, we arrived at Montague Island. A green dot in the sea with rocky ledges cut into the cliffs provided the perfect platform for the many grey seals sunning themselves. They were all different ages, from the young males fighting over territory on the upper parts, to the mothers with their pups in the water. None of them seemed to mind the boat or us as we grabbed our gear and slid into the water.
The trip had originally described itself as ‘An Experience of a Lifetime,’ I agree. Viewing the seals on the rocks was nowhere near as extraordinary as watching them under the water. Beneath the waves, they played, darting and diving around us. I had never seen seals up close – their shiny brown eyes and swift beats through the water only added to my newfound appreciation of these beautiful creatures.
Joining them in the water, our team also spotted other marine life such as Angel Fish, Eels, Sea Urchins and a huge Blue Groper who we all enjoyed swimming with. There was even a Wobbegong Shark who many of us swam alongside, watching as it disappeared into the depths.
Back on the boat we were all eager to share our experiences with each other whilst taking in the views of the sea. Some of the club had taken underwater footage of the seals and marine life. I am looking forward to seeing it soon.
On the mainland we packed up and drove back towards Canberra. A few of us stopped for food in the historic town of Mogo NSW and browsed some of the little stores there. Finally, we enjoyed a scenic drive home. I’d like to thank Lewis for driving and for his amazing road trip playlist, it’s certainly one I’ll be taking back with me to the UK.