Eco tours explore wonders of a marine haven

Tourists flock to the south coast each summer for the sun, surf and sand.

But below the turquoise waves lies a side of the coast most tourists don't get to see.

The picturesque coastline has always been a Mecca for holidaymakers.

But increasingly environmentally conscious sightseers want a taste of the aquatic world away from the throngs of tourists.

The underwater playground is part of the 85,000-hectare Batemans Marine Park.

The park covers a diverse range of habitats, including sponge gardens, kelp beds, rocky reefs, islands, sea grass and mangroves.

A variety of marine life calls the park home, including dolphins, turtles, fish and protected species such as the grey nurse shark.

While the marine park has been controversial since its inception in 2006, a growing number of businesses are cashing in on the natural beauty of the region.

Total Eco Adventures, in Broulee, is a local outfit offering holidaymakers an environmental jaunt.

The business offers snorkelling tours, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, yoga and surf lessons.

The snorkelling adventures take tourists for an undersea tour of Broulee Island - a 43-hectare nature reserve connected to the mainland by a sand spit.

The sand bridge provides protection to the idyllic bays situated on either side of the island. It's this protection that has allowed the lush underwater sea grasses and weed to grow uninhibited.

The aquatic jungle is teeming with sea life.

The grasses are home to a number of endangered species, including the weedy sea dragon and blue devil fish.

Wobbegong sharks, squid, shellfish, coral and a variety of fish species also call the area home.

But the abundant sea life has also brought fisherman, using rod and spears, to the islands.

The waters around Broulee Island are a marine sanctuary, meaning fishing is banned.

Many ignore the bans, either intentionally or through ignorance.

Snorkel guide Emma Renkema carries a dive knife to clear fishing line discarded by careless anglers.

Company director Belinda Wehner has been running the surf school for 11-years and started Total Eco Adventures five years ago.

She said many tourists were looking to do something different during their south coast holiday.

Ms Wehner said the surf school was still popular, teaching about 50 people a day over summer, but the eco tours were increasingly in demand.

"People want to be entertained and we've got activities so people can enjoy their visit," Ms Wehner said.

"We're lucky in Broulee, you can snorkel, kayak, surf or paddle board here. It's a tiny little place but there's a lot to do."