The port of Bunbury is Western Australia's third largest city after Perth and Mandurah. It is near the mouth of the Collie River at the southern end of the Leschenault Inlet, which opens to Koombana Bay and the larger Geographe Bay that extends south to Cape Naturaliste.
Bunbury has a rich maritime heritage. The estuary, deep-water port, a sheltered bay, protected boat harbour and the Indian Ocean are minutes from wherever you are in the city.
Western Australia has a reputation among divers for its great Dive Wreck Trail. The trail has scuttled and naturally sunken ships to explore, including The Gundrun at Shark Bay, The Batavia near the Abrolhos Islands, South Tomi at Geraldton, SS Orizaba in Rockingham, HMAS Swan in Dunsborough, HMAS Perth in Albany and Sanko Harvest in Esperance.
Getaway checked out the interesting story behind the sunken Lena, a 55m Russian-registered, long-line fishing vessel. It was spotted in 2002, 4000km south of Albany in Australian waters. It was illegally fishing for Patagonian toothfish, a large predatory fish with powerful jaws and sharp teeth.
For several weeks the Lena was chased down by HMAS Canberra. When apprehended and towed to Fremantle, the crew was charged for illegal fishing activities. Authorities found 90 tonnes of illegally caught toothfish on board.
The Bunbury Chamber of Commerce and Industry made a bid to secure Lena with the intention of sinking it and turning it into a dive wreck. The alternative was it becoming scrap metal. The bid was successful and for 11 months a busy team made the vessel diver-safe and environmentally clean.
The Lena is 5km off the Bunbury coast, 18m underwater. The dive site has excellent visibility and a sandy bottom. As its scuttling was so well prepared, Lena is said to be the most complete wreck in the southern hemisphere.
It provides an exciting diving experience for all diver levels. While the HMAS Swan and HMAS Perth are warships with rooms and corridors, Lena is a fishing vessel with large open spaces to swim through. At every part of the wreck, divers have three or four exits, so it's really safe. It takes around 45 minutes to explore the entire ship and from the bridge, there is excellent perspective of the bow and the stern.
It has chairs, an intact fish processing plant, a 40m freezer, and the engine room is open to divers. Its main engine and generators have been left in place. The propeller remains and is now home to many fish.
The Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory allows non-divers to enjoy the colourful reef and sea life under the jetty, once accessible only to divers. The observatory is 1.8km off-shore and is reached by train. Up to 40 people at a time can be accommodated 8m below the surface. They will see amazing corals and fish through 11 viewing windows at various levels within the 9.5m-diameter chamber.
Busselton Jetty, described as Australia's greatest artificial reef, has been forming for years and is home to more than 300 individual marine species, forests of brilliantly coloured tropical and subtropical corals, sponges, fish and invertebrates.
The Busselton Jetty has been named as one of Australia's top 10 dive sites.
It can all be explored with the help of Coastal Water Dive, owned and run by Torry and Tiffany Goodall. Torry was involved in locating the Lena site and cleaning the internals so it was safe. He was also part of the group lobbying governments for funds.
Coastal Water Dive is one of the few charter operators taking divers to Lena. Torry is also well-versed on other dive sites and state crayfish laws. Their services include PADI dive courses, gear hire, Lena Dive Wreck permits and dive and fishing charters.