Did you know that the majority of platypus sightings in the wild happen in The Mackay Region? It’s no wonder visitors from all over the world can be found searching the freshwater billabongs for a glimpse of the little creatures.
But finding them is not an easy feat and requires a mix of patience and local know-how.
That’s where Rainforest Scuba comes in. The unique diving company west of Mackay provides the opportunity to come face-to-face with the reclusive creatures while leaving their environment untouched in the process.
Rainforest Scuba has been operating safe, exciting and eco-friendly diving expeditions at Finch Hatton since 2012.
It has been listed as a Top 3 Australian bucket list experience (being the only Queensland experience on the list) by Australian Traveller magazine two years running.
Part of the experience is meeting owner and instructor Luana Royle – a diving veteran who has spent decades under water. Luana is extremely passionate about exploring the unique aquatic life and preserving the natural environment. She operates under her mission statement “look with your eyes, not with your hands” and is one of the most eco-friendly diving companies you’ll find.
“Finch Hatton is one of my all-time favourite dives. I think it’s because you see something new every time and it’s not all there in front of you,” Luana says.
“It’s not like the ocean where you jump in and there’s coral and fish waiting for you. Here the billabong can change after every bit of rainfall so you never know what you’ll find.”
“It’s relaxing as well as exciting… I know that’s a strange combination but it’s true. Relaxing because of the rainforest and looking up through the water to the trees, and exciting because you don’t know what awesome creature you will find or what the billabong will hold.”
The diving experience begins with a 30-minute education session, as well as a 15-minute ‘show-and-tell’ about aquatic life that can be found inside billabong including fish, turtles, eel-tailed catfish, eels, shrimp (crayfish) and, of course, the platypus.
“There’s still so much we don’t know about the platypus,” Luana said.
“For instance, they are born with teeth which is believed to be from prehistoric times. It appears that the teeth fall out just before they leave the nest while they are biting on their ‘cage’ or just before they eat real food.”
Armed with a little more knowledge about the species you may find within the billabong, you will be taken on a short drive from the PADI dive shop to the Gorge area and, depending on the time of the year, you can pass through the sleepy town of Finch Hatton and enjoy spectacular scenic views of cane fields and rainforest.
Divers are taken to the crystal-clear waters of the billabong, which is engulfed by an almost fairy-like rainforest. After fitting the equipment, Luana discusses breathing techniques and ensures her clients and first-time divers are both calm and safe inside and out of the water.
The dive allows participants to crawl slowly across the billabong floor while taking in life under water and stopping to explore and ask questions.
“I always tell my divers that they can stop me at anytime and we can stand up and discuss the dive, feelings and what we see,” Luana said.
While it’s not guaranteed that you will see a platypus, the dive will offer an exciting and spectacular underwater experience.
“Platypus are very elusive creatures and they don’t have a pattern so we can’t predict when we will see them. That makes it all the more special when we do.”
Rainforest Scuba has won several tourism awards and has been showcased on a variety of shows including The Living Room, Queensland Weekender, The Project and documentaries in Japan and South America. Luana has also worked closely with Tom Grant, a platypus guru and expert.
The Rainforest Scuba experience is a fun and exciting experience for all levels and there’s no experience necessary, with Luana’s youngest diver being 8 years old, and her oldest being 82 years old. The company offers one-on-one dives or can take groups of up to six people.
Luana also runs PADI courses, including a rainforest dive and the Great Barrier Reef shore dives, and provides a large range of diving equipment for purchase.
What to take?
Shoes (preferably thongs or flip flops)
All scuba diving equipment
Fitting rooms and toilets
Educational talks prior to dive
Transport to the dive location (if needed)
Guided scuba dive
Sunscreen and mosquito repellent