Last month me and my boyfriend went on a road trip through Australia. One of the places we decided to stop was Adelaide. The reason? Leafy Sea Dragons.
What are Leafy Seadragons?
Leafy Seadragons are beautiful mystical creatures that really exist. They can grow as big as 43cm but usually when they’re spotted they’re around 30cm. They live in and near seaweeds and seagrass beds often at edges of the reef or near jetties. They blend in really well with their surroundings and that’s a good thing because they’ve nothing to defend themselves with. They move slow and can’t protect themselves. With that said, most marine life if not all can’t find them, that’s how good they’re camouflaged.
The Leafy Seadragon’s biggest threat are, as usual, humans. Illegal caption for aquaria for example. But also divers that surround them with strobes and dive lights. Just like sea horses, sea dragons don’t have eye lids. Keep that in mind when photographing these beauties, as you’re pretty much blinding them with especially constant lights.
Where are the Leafy Seadragons?
Leafy Seadragons are found only in Australia. Mostly in Western Australia and South Australia. There’s been a few sightings in Victoria and Tasmania as well. But so few sightings that it wouldn’t make sense to go looking for them there. No, the best place to be looking for Leafy’s is South of Adelaide. So that’s where we went.
Leafy Seadragons near Adelaide
So basically, there are 3 spots in South Australia where Leafy’s are frequently spotted. The best two being the Rapid Bay Jetty and Victor Harbor in Fleurieu Peninsula. Both within an hour and a half drive from Adelaide. The third option is a little less sure thing, but Tumby Bay above Port Lincoln also sometimes has Leafy Seadragons. There are several diveshops in Adelaide that organise guided dives with the Leafy’s at Rapid Bay and Victor Harbor. It’s also possible for certified divers to just rent tanks (and additional gear) and go on your own. We got in touch with Diving Adelaide to rent tanks and they told us that at the moment sightings of Leafy’s where highest at Victor Harbor. So off we went!
Dive site description; Victor Harbor – South Australia
At the end of Victor Harbor at the Bluff, there’s a jetty where often people are fishing from. Approximately 50 meters before that is a staircase that leads down from the road onto the beach. This is where you want to park your car and get ready. Once geared up and ready, you take the stairs down to the small beach and walk all the way to the end. Then swim to the corner of the jetty. Keep like 5 meters distance or more if there’s fishing going on. Don’t want to get entangled! Once around the corner of the jetty you can start your descend and stay at a depth around 4 to 6 meters with the higher reef/wall on your right shoulder.
Our search for the Leafy Seadragons
When descending you’ll immediately get surrounded by yellow seaweeds, that look just like Leafy Seadragons. This where the real challenge starts. Finding these beautiful buggers. My boyfriend and me started searching straight after our descent. We only had one focus this dive and that was finding them. We kept searching and searching. No leafy’s! Not one. I was trying everything. Go deeper and look up. Put my nose straight in the weeds. No move and just keep staring at fixed points. Nothing worked. It was so frustrating, but at the same time I wanted to keep my spirit up because any moment now one could show up right. You really start doubting yourself, is it me? Are they here but am I just Leafy Seadragon blind? What is it? Where are they?
After 40 minutes my boyfriend tapped me on the shoulder, requesting we would turn around. I was actually getting cold, but once I’ve set my mind on something I can keep going. We both had plenty of air as we were diving quite shallow, but my boyfriend knew if he didn’t turn us around now… I would never stop. So we turned around and surfaced a total of 1h10m later, without any Leafy Seadragons. I was cold (water temp was 17C) after spending that much time in the water in “ only” a 7mm but moving slowly. I was cold and disappointed. No Leafy Seadragons for me, and sadly we didn’t have enough time to do a second dive. Invisible Leafy Seadragons.
Pictures by James Redden
I wasn’t going to write about my Leafy Seadragon experience until I actually had one to show you guys. But then, my Instagram friend James uploaded all these fantastic pictures of Leafy Seadragons from Victor Bluff! He dove there a couple weeks ago and was a lot more successful at tracking down these beautiful buggers! Good job James! I’m even more jealous now, all the more reason to come back some day.