Mount Gambier, South Australia
Type of dive: Sinkhole
Access: Land (Permit required)
Minimum qualification: Deep Cavern
Depth: 40+ metres (130+’)
Visibility: 30+ metres (100+’)
Water temperature: 10°C (50°F) – 15°C (60°F)
Best time to visit: Anytime
Snorkelling: Yes, mind blowing!
The Limestone Coast of south eastern South Australia is littered with limestone caves and sinkholes. In fact, the township of Mount Gambier is built on them.
Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park is just 30 kilometres (19 miles) south east of Mount Gambier near the coast and the Victorian border.
The two main ponds contain crystal clear water which has been filtered through the limestone substrate for thousands of years, both are interlinked and separated by a small weed covered wall.
Piccaninnie Ponds is connected to the sea by shallow narrow channels meandering through the coastal marshland. Unlike Ewens Ponds, snorkelling to the coast through the wetlands is not allowed.
The first pond is a water filled doline, a collapsed limestone cave, the size of two basketball courts and approximately 13 metres (45’) deep. The bottom of the lake is silty and easily stirred up; and the sides of the lake are covered in reeds and aquatic weed that support eels and other species of native fresh water fish.
The eastern side of the pond has a jetty for easy access to the crystal clear water and on the west side, there is a huge underwater trench called the Chasm.
The first sight of the Chasm after snorkelling across the first shallow lake is absolutely breathtaking!
The Chasm is a 35 metre (115’) deep narrow sheer walled underwater canyon which continues on into a very narrow restriction at the bottom called the ‘Cork Screw’. Entering this constriction is very dangerous. It has cost lives in the past because of the depth and the danger of ‘blacking out’ due to the fine silt which is easily dislodged.
On the west side of the Chasm scuba divers can enter the ‘Cathedral’, a spectacular underwater cavern with almost pure white limestone walls. The entrance is between 10 and 24 metres (30-80’) and inside, the top of the Cathedral is six metres (20’) in depth, with the bottom around 35 metres (115’).
A permit from the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources is required to snorkel or scuba dive Piccaninnie Ponds and bookings are essential. Scuba divers require a Cave Divers Association of Australia (CDAA) approved Deep Cavern Diver certification to obtain a permit.
The Cave Divers Association of Australia (CDAA) offers relevant training and certification.
Copyright C 2015 Steve Sinclair
Other great cave & sinkholes to visit while you are there:
Ewens Ponds, The Shaft, Pines, Kilsbys, Little Blue, Gouldons and One Tree
When in Mount Gambier, a scuba dive or snorkel in Ewens Ponds is a must.
Ewens Ponds consists of three interconnected crystal clear ponds terminating in the ocean via a mashland channel. The ponds have eels and a range of fresh water fish. Often bream and mullet make their way to the ponds via Eight Mile Creek which connects the ponds to the sea. Freshwater crayfish known as pricklybacks are also prevalent in the small underwater caves.
A snorkel down the creek to the sea is an amazing experience.
Ewens Ponds does not require a permit or CDAA training and certification, therefore all divers can enjoy access to the ponds.
Phone: (+61) 8 8738 7274