Piccaninnie Ponds

The seas around Australia, particularly the Coral Sea, offer some of the best open water diving in the world. Less well known are the freshwater cave and sinkhole dives around Mount Gambier in South Australia.

This area has the finest cave diving in Australia, with over 40 sites available. One of the finest  is Piccaninnie Ponds.

The marvellous photograph below, from the January 1984 issue of National Geographic, catches it perfectly.
On the surface it is a small lake surrounded by reeds. Below the surface there is a chasm which is 5m wide by 50m long and 60m deep. At 10m divers can swim through an opening into the Cathedral. This is a beautiful cave that is 30m high and 20m wide. The walls are clean white limestone. There is very little silt and the exits are clear so there is no need to run a line.

Divers can exit the Cathedral through another opening at 25m to swim down to the bottom of the chasm at 57m. At the very bottom of the chasm is the entrance to a tunnel that goes no one knows quite where; though some have died trying to find out. The tunnel is narrow and once in offers few opportunities to turn around. One can only stay at the this level for a few minutes since 57m is almost twice the maximum safe depth for air diving. This video shows a dive down the tunnel.

The real attraction of Piccaninnie Ponds is the remarkable clarity of the water. It is as clear as tap water. Visibility must have been 40m when I was there and gave me the sensation that that I was  flying in air. If the dive is done at the right time on a bright sunny day the sunlight illuminates deep into the chasm and creates a magical effect.

Several divers have drowned in Piccaninnie Ponds. Divers now require a permit from the Department of Land Conservation and this is only granted to people holding the Deep Cavern  certification of the Cave Divers Association of Australia. If you are in that part of the world and already cave certified it is well worth contacting the CDAA and getting approval to dive the Ponds.

There are no technical difficulties and it can be dived with just a single tank rig. I found it an excellent dive and a worthwhile entry in any logbook.

1 comment:

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Looks like an interesting place...