Diving at South Tomi
Fascinating marine ecosystems and stories of pirates, pursuits and poaching can be discovered off Geraldton on a South Tomi diving adventure.
Geraldton is already renowned as the gateway to the scuba diving wonderland of the Abrolhos Islands. Now, however, this coastal city 450km north of Perth has another underwater attraction to lure diving enthusiasts – a sunken pirate ship.
The ship is the 57m confiscated fishing vessel South Tomi, which was scuttled in September last year to serve as an artificial reef and dive attraction. Already dozens of divers have visited the wreckage, just two and a half nautical miles from Geraldton city’s shores. Rock lobsters line the sand at the ship's base, schools of fish dart through the corridors and seaweed grows from every surface. And they say swimming weightlessly through the ship's cabins, galley, wheelhouse and bathroom is a surreal, almost eerie, experience.
The feeling is all the more surreal when you consider Tomi's wildly colourful history. Just two years ago, this very ship was sailing the southern oceans – a modern-day pirate ship plundering high seas for precious Patagonian toothfish. However, this illegal fishing activity came to a dramatic end after Tomi was captured in what was then the longest pursuit in Australian maritime history.
Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) crew pursued the vessel for 6100km over 14 days, from Heard Island 4100km south-west of Perth to within 390km of Cape Town, South Africa. Although the AFMA vessel remained within about two nautical miles of the Tomi throughout the chase, it eventually took an Australian Defence Force deployment of 35 officers to South Africa to wrest control of the vessel.
After storming the Tomi they then turned her around for the 19-day, 8500km return journey to Fremantle. The pursuit made news headlines across the country as the Australian population became entranced by the pirate-like story of Tomi's capture. Then Tomi made headlines once again after her spectacular scuttling, when international explosives experts set off a series of detonations, sending Tomi to a watery grave 25m below the surface.
Already sea life has begun inhabiting the vessel. Trevor Beaver, who led the scuttling effort, expects the fish, coral and weeds to increase substantially as full marine ecosystems develop over the new few years.
Trevor takes dive charters to the Tomi wreckage for qualified scuba divers, dependant on numbers and weather conditions. His business, Batavia Coast Dive Academy, is also the place to go to receive the necessary permits to dive to the vessel, if you wish to visit by yourself.
Trevor says the dive is suitable for any qualified diver, providing the weather is suitable. His charters include full tours of the vessel, through each of decks, the galley, engine room, toilet and wheelhouse. Your guide will point out small oddities like old, weed-covered boots nailed to the floor at the helm and fish cleverly disguised in their new home.
If you’ve got it, you're welcome to bring your own dive gear on a charter, but Batavia Coast Dive Academy can also hire you everything from wetsuits to scuba tanks, masks and fins. Chartered trips to the dive site cost $105 with scuba equipment included and $65 without equipment. Permits to visit the wreck cost $80 for one year, $40 for a week and $25 for a day, if you’re interested in exploring the scuttled ship in your own time.
Batavia Coast Dive also offers dive courses, which give you diving qualifications recognised anywhere in the world. For more information contact Batavia Coast Dive Academy on (08) 9921 4229.
- Address: Geraldton Coast,Geraldton,WA,