A world class freshwater snorkelling site in a series of spring fed ponds with crystal clear water and lush leafy underwater vegetation. You will need a permit to snorkel at this site and
a full length wetsuit to protect against the cold (full details below).
Above: Snorkelling in Ewens Ponds, emerging from the channel into the third pond
(Order this image)
Ewens Ponds is both unique and extraordinary. Physically it is a chain of three ponds connected by two natural channels
along Eight Mile Creek. The creek is spring fed through the local limestone that filters the water to make it clear enough to see right through to the bottom of the ponds, which range in depth from 7 to 11 metres.
Heading into the first pond, as soon as you flip over onto your front and look through your snorkel mask, you are treated to the brilliant greens of different aquatic vegetation, offset against the
azure blue of the unvegetated deeper sections of the pool. You could swirl around in this pond for hours, but there is more to come.
Over in the corner of the pond there is a tiny gap in the reeds. From the maps on
the information boards on-site, you know where the channel to the second pond should be, but for first-timers it takes a small leap of faith to head down it, as it is not more than a metre across in parts. As you
head into the channel, vegetation rushes up to meet you, and the current quickens to gently push you along from behind. Different types of plants surround you on three sides, from vibrant green fancy lettuce leaves to
reeds that sway in the current. Little gudgeons dart around in small schools and I glided past two short-finned eels, camouflaged in the reeds, that are so close that you tell yourself they are just reeds.
Above: Snorkelling in the third pond at Ewens Ponds
(Order this image)
The second pond is similar to the first, but slightly shallower, so you have a closer view of the pond floor. Again, you could spend a long time exploring this pond alone, then it is time to move on to
the second channel. This channel is longer and seems to overwhelm the senses, with so much to take in visually as the underwater scenery rushes underneath you at close range. After what feels like an eternity,
the floor of the channel suddenly drops away and gives way to the brilliant blue, barren floor of the third pond that is like a snap to your brain to wake up from the hypnotic spell cast over you in the channel.
There are some important logistics for this swim. Firstly, you need a permit from the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service
You can book a one hour slot for your snorkel and you need to sign an indemnity waiver as part of the booking process. You must have a snorkelling buddy, with groups of 2-6 allowed to snorkel at any given time.
You are not allowed to snorkel on your own. Secondly, the water is very cold and much colder than other nearby sinkholes that I swam in. As part of the permit you must have a full length wetsuit, flippers, a face mask and snorkel,
and snorkellers are not allowed to wear a weight belt. I would also strongly recommend wetsuit gloves, shoes and a hood, which will allow you to fully enjoy the experience without being distracted by the cold.
I hired the extra gear at a very reasonable price from the Allendale General Store
, located in Allendale East about a 10 minute drive from the ponds.
You might think you can do it without the extra gear, but I saw several people really not enjoying the experience because they were visibly shivering and telling me they were uncomfortable with the cold. Finally, once your snorkelling is done, there is a
300 metre walk back to the car park along a well-mown grassy track. There are ladders and pontoons to get in to the first pond and out of the third pond.
Here is a video of swimming at this spot in late summer.
Other Information Before You Go:
Ewens Ponds Road, Ewens Ponds Conservation Park, Eight Mile Creek, 30 km south of Mount Gambier.
From Mount Gambier, if you are picking up gear at Allendale East, take the Riddoch Hwy (B66) south to just past Allendale East, then head east along Lower Nelson Road
for 9 km until you reach Ewens Ponds Road. The car park for the ponds is at the end of Ewens Ponds Road.
Car park, pontoons with step ladders, toilets, information board, a very small lawn area.
A small fee applies for the permit required to snorkel
Maximum water depth:
Greater than 2 metres
Minimum swimming proficiency required:
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
No dogs, no collecting firewood, no solid fuel fires, no snorkelling (or scuba diving) without a permit. Maximum of two permitted swims/dives per day. All swimmers
must enter at the first pond and exit at the third pond.
No shade in the water. Limited shade at the car park.
Open daily, however the ponds are closed to snorkelling and diving each year from 1 September to 30 November. The park is closed on days of catastrophic fire danger and may also
be closed on days of extreme fire danger.
Wheelchair accessible toilets (up a long ramp). The first pond pontoon is wheelchair accessible. The 300 metre track returning from the third pool is generally flat and grassy, but there was
not a formal wheelchair accessible path when I visited.
Camping is not permitted. If you are visiting the Limestone Coast, for accommodation
close to this swim, you can try the following options. All distances below are by road, not as the crow flies.
Booking your accommodation via these links may result in a commission (at no additional cost to the price of the linked item) to swimmingholeheaven.com
that helps maintain and enhance this website.
South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service
Nearby attractions: Little Blue Lake
Before you head out, make sure to read the
swimming safety information
and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions. Specific to this site for swimmers, various requirements and warnings are
specified during the permit application process for snorkellers and divers.
The marker indicates the approximate location of the car park at the first pond. If the map is not zoomed in locally, as can sometimes occur when loading, simply click or tap on "View Larger Map" below.
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