Founded in 1990, Calypso Star Charters was a side project for the Captain better known as the final world record holder for catching and releasing a 599kg Great White on a 15kg line before protections were implemented in the late 90s. Now it’s putting Port Lincoln, South Australia on the map.
The charter changed hands in 2006 to Rolf’s first deckhand Andrew Wright, and Andrew’s business partner Ron Forster. A year later they moved to introduce single day shark diving tours – something that had never been done before. This week, Ron Forster was given the ‘Outstanding Contribution by an Individual’ honour at the South Australian Tourism Awards, largely in part for his work on shark diving. The business also took out silver medals in the Major Tourism Attraction and Adventure Tourism categories.
Shark Cage diving which used to be a niche activity, originally taking anywhere from four to 21 days and costing thousands of dollars opened the floodgates for budget conscious and time poor tourists.
“It has seen our business achieve tremendous growth from then on. It allows travellers to come in over the weekend and do it. Given the time bracket, it attracts people from worldwide now too, so they can do this as part of a tour around Australia. It really opened up the marketplace.”
Their original boat, carrying 19 passengers, wouldn’t cut it anymore. In 2009 the Calypso Star 2 was purchased and refitted. Today it has a capacity of 42.
Calypso have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades based on customer feedback, including a massive gyroscopic stabilizer that just about eliminates the chance of seasickness, on-board Wi-Fi, and live-streaming underwater cameras for those who choose to remain on deck.
It doesn’t stop with the Great White Sharks!
“We’ve got the ability to upsell it now. We introduced our Sea Lions in 2011. It was looking at the diversification of products and enticing people to stay in Port Lincon for longer, or giving them more of a reason to visit in the first place,” Becker explains. A shark cage dive might not be enough on its own, but shorter tours allowing customers the chance to swim with the local wildlife and industries cover the demographics they might otherwise miss.
Swim with the Tuna is a satisfying mix of industry and tourism where visitors are shipped out to a pontoon seated above a tuna pen, where they can swim amongst the tuna or see them through a glass bottom observation deck.
“Port Lincoln is so synonymous with the aquaculture industry and tuna exports, so this is a great opportunity for people to see it up close in the flesh – without watching it come off a truck during harvest.
Story by: The Lead South Australia