Learning to Scuba Dive at Shelly Beach, Sydney

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I’m happy to say that I’ve finally had my first scuba diving experience.

After all the trips we’ve done to popular dive destinations like South East Asia, the Pacific Islands and Hawaii, I learned to scuba dive in Sydney.

Crazy I know.

Over the years when I’ve met foreigners for the first time and they come to realise that I’m Australian, that I grew up on the east coast of Australia, right by the beach, the two questions I’ve heard over and over again are

You must be a surfer?


You must know how to dive?”

It bemuses them when my answer is NO!

Yes, we are an island nation. Yes, we have some of the best dive sites and surfing beaches in the world. But, not every Aussie male is a surfer and not every Australian has been scuba diving – shocking I know.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the beach, I love getting active and out on the water, and I’m interested in what life is like under the sea, but I have only ever snorkeled.

Why? No good reason.

Maybe a slight fear of deep water and sharks. I was always under the impression learning how to dive and get certified took forever. Caz has never been interested due to her mild asthma and MASSIVE fear of sharks. And it never crossed my mind that I could do it right here in Sydney.

Well, turns out, it doesn’t take forever to get certified and Sydney has a very cool dive location for beginners like me, Shelly Beach in Manly.

So last week I had my first diving lesson thanks to the guys at Pro Dive and a program called Priceless Sydney which is a MasterCard initiative that allows all MasterCard holders to experience priceless offers and events including sport, dining, retail, hotels and entertainment.

Not only was it my first dive, but it was also my first visit to Shelly Beach. I didn’t even know this beach existed – I love discovering new places in Sydney – and on the clear winter’s day we had, it was beautiful.

Shelly Beach is a popular shore diving location due to the fact it’s the only west-facing beach on the east coast of Australia – meaning it’s well protected – and it sits in the only Aquatic Reserve within Sydney, Cabbage Tree Bay.

A sandy beach next to the ocean

mountainside next to the ocean

a sign on the beach

My instructor for the day was Howard, an experienced diver originally from Leeds in the UK. Luckily for me, it was one-on-one instruction.

After a short pep talk on land about the technical aspects of diving, it was time to suit up and practice my safety hand signals and recovery drills under the water.

Learn to Scuba Dive at Shelly Beach in Sydney, Australia
Howard and me ready for action!!

If there was one thing I was a little anxious about, it was the breathing and being able to equalise.

During my first lesson, we only went down in 3 metres of water. I struggled a getting my breathing right and equalising, but the clear vision I had of the surface above put me at ease.

Howard repeatedly reassured me, “It’s all about relaxing and just breathing naturally and once you start looking around you forget about it.”

On my second go, I felt more comfortable and completed all the safety drills.

It was now time to get amongst the sea life

There are two dives at Shelly Beach, and both are suitable for novice divers. The first one follows the promenade back towards Manly Beach.

I felt comfortable again in the knowledge we were only diving to a maximum depth of 8 metres, and we would be following the sea bed down gradually.

We were under for 40 minutes and it was such a unique and enjoyable feeling.

It was exactly as I have heard over the years – it’s a whole other world down there. It was peaceful, relaxing and we saw some pretty neat stuff: giant cuttlefish, yellow tails, pomfrets and a stingaree (type of stingray)

Lion Fish - Diving at Shelly Beach in Sydney, AustraliaPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

Stingray - Diving at Shelly Beach in Sydney, AustraliaPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

man scuba divingPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

fish underwaterPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

sea animal in the waterPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

Feeling empowered, and a little jelly legged as I left the water for our break, it was time for some hot soup and to reflect a little on my experience – this could get addictive I thought.

Shelly Beach has a cool cafe, and if I don’t come back again for more diving, I will definitely be back for breakfast, a cappuccino and to admire the views.

a beach

Scuba Diving Sydney 301

palm trees on a beach

On our second dive we followed the right hand reef wall from the beach.

I was really starting to like this diving thing, and I could definitely see myself diving more often. On this dive we saw even cooler stuff: a blue groper, large bull ray, AND, an old abandoned motor bike:

Blue Groper - Diving at Shelly Beach in Sydney, AustraliaPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

coral underwaterPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

coral underwaterPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

Bull Ray - Diving at Shelly Beach in Sydney, AustraliaPhoto Credit: DiveBuzz.com

I had a ton of fun diving and totally recommend it if you have been hesitant like me.

I really enjoyed exploring the world beneath the surface and felt completely safe with an experienced dive buddy right beside me.

So after many years of not bothering to take the plunge, I can say without hesitation that I would LOVE to give it a shot in some of the top dive spots around the world – bring it on.

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Have you scuba dived in Sydney before? Where’s your favourite place to scuba dive?

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