Port Stephens divers share tales of life below the surface

Malcolm Nobbs taking a photo of Trevallies at Darwin Arch in the Galapagos Islands. Picture: Andy Murch
Malcolm Nobbs taking a photo of Trevallies at Darwin Arch in the Galapagos Islands. Picture: Andy Murch

With close to 30 years experience and 3800 scuba dives under his belt it is hard to believe that Malcolm Nobbs really wasn't keen on diving until he tried it.

But that's all it took. One "try dive" back in 1994 and the man from Nelson Bay in the NSW Hunter region was hooked.

"I had no interest in diving. However, my late wife Eve did and in 1994 I reluctantly joined her on a 'try dive'. To my amazement, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I still do. Diving is the underwater equivalent of flying and who wouldn't want to be able to fly?" Nobbs said.

In the 27 years since his first try dive the 67-year-old retiree has logged 3867 - and counting - dives across 37 countries. He aims to complete 200 dives per year.

Nobbs has spent more than 4116 hours under water exploring what the world beneath the surface has to offer and been snapping photos of what he has encountered along the way in that time to create an extensive photo collection.

"Like most newly qualified divers I was keen to capture memories of my underwater dives," Nobbs said when asked how he got his start with photography.

"I began by shooting video but soon became seduced by, in my opinion, the greater challenge of stills photography. Well that and very few people wanted to watch my videos."

Nobbs' vast catalogue of underwater photos are available to see on his website, malcolmnobbs.com, but he also supplies them to dive magazines such as Oz Diver.

"Prior to 2009 I provided underwater photographs for advertising and promotions but then I felt like a new challenge so I tried my hand at underwater dive magazine articles," he said.

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"They were well received but I found the writing hard going, producing only five articles in four years. Fortunately for me, one of the magazines decided to act as matchmaker and introduced me to Jamie Watts, a talented writer but not such an enthusiastic underwater photographer.

"We hit it off straight away and ever since have together produced a constant stream of marine life articles."

Malcolm Nobbs taking an up close and photo of a Tiger Shark. Picture: Charles Hood

Malcolm Nobbs taking an up close and photo of a Tiger Shark. Picture: Charles Hood

One of Nobbs' passions is to focus on little known species.

"I constantly scour the internet for reports of unusual marine species which I might be able to photograph and which would be suitable for an article. If I can get decent shots I will then interview an expert on that species, write the first draft of the article and then hand over to Jamie to apply his magic touch."

Of the many countries he has explored, Nobbs said his favourite dive spots are Cocos Island, off Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands.

He got one last dive trip in before international flights were grounded in March 2020 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nobbs had spent 48 hours in a lake in Tennessee, US, to see an American Paddlefish - a prehistoric fish that can grow over 5 feet long.

Malcolm Nobbs getting up close with an Oceanic Whitetip. Picture: Charles Hood

Malcolm Nobbs getting up close with an Oceanic Whitetip. Picture: Charles Hood

But there is perhaps no place Nobbs is more familiar with than the waters of Port Stephens which he has been exploring since 2009 and even more so since 2013 when he and wife Mary moved to Nelson Bay.

"When the underwater visibility is good I will just hover high above the Fly Point seabed taking in all the fantastic sights," he said.

"We are blessed with numerous interesting species [in Port Stephens]. It's impossible to single out just a few as the variety of local sea life here is staggering and is constantly topped up by seasonal visitors. Even after living here for 8 years I still occasionally spot something I have not seen here before.

"I'm presently trying to get a shot of a juvenile Great White to complete an article. You might be pleased to know that finding one is easier said than done."

Port Stephens is a diver's paradise. To showcase the Port's incredible water wonderland the Examiner is collaborating with divers such as Malcolm Nobbs, marine scientist Meryl Larkin and members of the Combined Hunter Underwater Group to launch a new series that explores life Beneath the Surface.