13/09 Mount Gambier Cave Diving Weekend

Mount Gambier CDAA Cave Dives

Over the weekend Diving Adelaide tec diver/ instructor Mark Williams, myself (divemaster Damian Bishop) and a customer Ryan Post went on a trip down to Mount Gambier, for some beautiful fresh water diving. Mount Gambier is a town about a 5 hour drive South East of Adelaide. The whole Mount Gambier region is on a bed of limestone, and this, with the abundance of groundwater makes for some excellent cave diving sites. Mark and I led the dives for Ryan. The plan was 4 dives in total, two Saturday and two Sunday, so that Ryan could get the required experience and log enough sinkhole dives to do his CDAA (Cave Divers’ Association of Australia – the group who controls access, trains divers and monitors the cave diving in Australia) cave course in November. The planned sites included Kilsbys, Little Blue and One Tree.

Mark & I left Friday night after work, met up at Tailem Bend for a quick dinner stop and then drove onto Glencoe, a small town 10 minutes outside of Mount Gambier, where Pine Tank Dive Lodge is located. Pine Tank is one of a handful of accommodation options for cave divers down around Mount Gambier. It also offers air fills & mixed gas (nitrox & trimix). Ryan Post (“Postie”), a former Adelaidian who now lives in Canberra, had a much longer drive, leaving Friday morning, but we all arrived Friday night, in time for a couple of drinks and a friendly chat with the other divers staying at the lodge.

Mount Gambier Dives with Damian CDAA

Saturday morning was an early start, so as not to be late to our first dive site, Kilsbys Sinkhole. Kilsbys is a large, deep, water filled cenote (sinkhole); with a depth around 62m and crystal clear water. On a clear day, you can look up from 40m and see the clouds moving in the sky, and the ducks sitting on the surface of the water. It is on privately owned land, and the owners have a lease arrangement with the CDAA, allowing CDAA members access each weekend. There is a maximum of 12 divers per day. We did two dives here, the sun was shining and it was simply amazing. Cave diving is the closest I’ll ever get to flying; the water is so clear it looks like air… the sites are breathtaking, but unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it!

The 3 of us were diving air, with a 50% deco mix from 21m up to speed up our decompression. We usually had around 25 minutes at depth, around the 40m mark, looking at different features and swimming through different ‘swim-throughs’, before ascending to a shallower depth to check out what was there and slowly making our way around the outside of the hole while ascending, almost like a corkscrew. Each dive was around the 75-80 minute mark. Drysuits here are a must!

Mount Gambier Dives with Damian CDAA

After the second dive at Kilsbys, and after packing up, it was time for a drink! The social side of diving is often the most enjoyable, as it is when new friendships are formed and old ones strengthened. We headed to the Bellum pub, halfway between Mount Gambier & Port MacDonnell, for a drink and then dinner. It is a great country pub, great service, cold beers & amazing food! The food at the Bellum is often what draws the crowds. It also offers accommodation and is only 5-10 minutes from some of the best sinkhole sites the Mount Gambier region has to offer. Afterwards we headed back to Pine Tank lodge to fill tanks, charge lights and get a good night’s sleep, ready for the next day’s adventures.

Sunday was slower paced and relaxed, as there was no rush to be at a dive site at a particular time. Our original plan was to dive One Tree & Little Blue, then head home. One Tree didn’t work out, as the previous group had locked the gate and taken the key diving with them! As we couldn’t get access, we decided to dive Little Blue Lake, a lake 5 minutes drive from Little Blue on public council owned land. We arrived and found a group of divers just coming up from their dive. They had camped over night, and were trying to cram in as much training as they could muster, in preparation for their next course.

Mount Gambier Dives with Damian CDAA

Our plan was a decent time on the bottom, around 30 minutes, in which we’d explore the site, as Little Blue is very different from Kilsbys! The visibility is 5 metres or so on the bottom, and a lot less when you get closer to the surface. Despite its name, there is nothing blue about Little Blue, the water has a definite green hue. As this is a hole on public land, it has become a dumping ground for junk and unwanted goods. Amongst the common items, such as beer bottles, soft drink cans and fencing wire, there are several push bikes, a safe, many council signs, a petrol bowser and a car down there! There is also an abundance of redfin, small fish that follow you around curiously. We had a good dive looking around, as it has been probably 18 months or so since I’ve done Little Blue, and Postie had never done a proper dive there, only ever training dives, which usually involved a lot of no mask work!

After the dives, we bid farewell to the other group, headed for a quick drink at the Bellum pub before saying our goodbyes and thanks for a great weekend, and parting company, Postie starting the long drive back to Canberra, and Mark & myself headed back to Adelaide. Once back, it’s the familiar routine of unloading the car and organising all the dive gear, ready for the next adventure!!

If you would like any information on cave diving or the CDAA, please don’t hesitate to ask myself or Mark. Diving Adelaide can organise the Deep Cavern course for you, through a CDAA instructor we have linked to the shop. We can also give you a full range of training in Advanced Nitrox, Decompression Procedures & Trimix. Contact the shop for details.


(Damian Bishop)