NOTE: This will be the first of many "throwback posts", as I like to call them, to slowly, but gradually, transfer the good parts of my old blog over to this one. Happy reading :)
Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef.
Always a given on most people’s Bucket Lists (thank you Little Mermaid & Finding Nemo) & part of the reason I moved here last year. Who wouldn’t want to move to a country next to the Great Barrier Reef to ultimately live a life of daily swim seshes with sea turtles and friendly sharks named Bruce? Yes, I’ve watched this movie far too many times.
I’ve always been infatuated with Australia but this grew into a more obsessive manner after 2003 (AKA the year Finding Nemo came out). I knew that moving to Melbourne would not consist of these frequent encounters with marine animals but I also knew that I would be close enough to finally cross this item off my bucket list.
The 500,000-year-old Great Barrier Reef is a ginormous 1600-mile-long reef that stretches up the east side of Australia off the coast of Queensland. Cairns and Port Douglas are the most common cities to take boats from that take you to the reef. After doing extensive amounts of research (trying to decide which one of the dozens of companies to use) we decided on Poseidon, which was one of the most expensive at almost $300 for 2 dives (+ 1 snorkeling session). There are many that are a fraction as much, but you absolutely get what you pay for – & scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is no time to be stingy with your money.
Poseidon takes you to the outer Agincourt Ribbon Reefs (shown at the top), which are the furthest out, least scuba-dived (AKA more preserved) and is along the continental shelf – which is where our friend Nemo got fish-napped (The Dropoff. “I’m gonna touch the buuuutt…”) They have 16 different areas they choose from each day, depending on wind & visibility, to give each tour the best possible experience. Basically, this company is awesome. Great intro class that was informative and calmed our nerves, limited space so it wasn’t crowded & amazing dive/snorkel sites. Despite the terrible bout of sea-sickness that fell upon me, I felt pretty confident about breathing under water.
After 5 puking sessions, we had arrived at our first diving spot. We practiced the tricks they taught us at the surface (clearing our mask, clearing our regulators- the thing you breathe from, and equalizing- popping your ears to equalize pressure) and then dove down. Our instructor was in charge of 4 of us for each session but both times, the other 2 had to go back up to the surface (they couldn’t hang). So we were free to explore where we wanted while our instructor pointed out crazy coral, fish and plants.
Under water life is AMAZING. I got my first taste of it while snorkeling in Fiji and fell in LOVE. It is a completely different world down there. We saw ginormous colorful fish, a few Nemo’s, huge sea cucumbers that we got to pick up, colorful soft & hard coral and even got really close to a white tipped shark, which was definitely the highlight.
Scuba diving was definitely not as scary as I thought it would be. As long as you don’t panic you’re fine – the main thing you need to remember is to KEEP BREATHING. The worst thing you can do is to hold your breath and rise to the surface (your lungs will literally explode. And I mean literally as in literally. Not figuratively, like how most people use this word these days) You have a huge tank of air that you can breathe from and you can even press a button to give you more air if you feel you aren’t getting enough. The equipment feels weightless underwater and the water was pretty warm (around 28 degrees celcius). We ended up going down about 10 meters, or 30 feet.
Overall, one of the best days of my life – minus all the seasickness, of course – but it was absolutely worth it. As much as I love snorkeling, there’s nothing like being able to really explore the depths of the ocean and see the reefs three-dimensional, as opposed to just seeing it from above. It’s the difference between smelling & tasting.
- There are TONS of different companies that do different tours out to the reefs so research carefully. We chose Poseidon because they’re known to go to the best reef spots, take good care of everybody (especially those of us that are prone to sea-sickness) & give less crowded, more intimate tours.
- The outer reefs have the best spots. Go to the areas that don’t allow any kind of fishing because the underwater life is more preserved.
- Take sea sickness tablets WELL before you leave so they can kick in. (I took mine a half hour before we set off and I was still puking 20 minutes into the cruise.)
- I’ve been advised not to go to Green Island, which is a really touristy island but they don’t have a lot of good reef to see.
- Use some kind of underwater camera! The boyfriend used his GoPro while scuba diving & I used my Sony Cybershot while snorkeling. Some tours offer rentals – Poseidon had them for $65.
- SCUBA DIVING > snorkeling, hands down! Pay the extra $40-$100 to do it because it’s well worth it!
- Practice using the regulator while you’re above water so you can get the hang of it before getting thrown into the ocean.
- JUST BREATHE. It’s that simple.