Cairns: Diving the Great Barrier Reef

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View of the reef from our plane

When we planned our trip to Australia, the number one, top thing we all wanted to do was go diving in the Great Barrier Reef, a living structure so massive it can be seen from outer space. The Great Barrier Reef stretches for more than 2,000 km off along the Queensland coastline in north-eastern Australia.  This rich and diverse ecosystem is made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands where the world’s largest collection of corals, colorful fish, and countless other species thrive.

The original plan was to go diving during our stay on Hamilton Island.  That morning, we got up bright and early, excited to see the iconic reef. However, when we got to the marina, we found out that due to unforeseen mechanical issues our excursion was cancelled.  Disappointed, we returned to our apartment feeling sorry for ourselves that we came all the way to Australia and were not able to dive in the Great Barrier Reef.  We scrambled to figure out a plan B. Since the reef stretches all the way north to Cairns, where we’re headed the next day, our only other option was to see if we could book a last minute trip with one of the companies there.  After a few phone calls, we finally got in touch with Blue Dive, a reputable diving company based in Port Douglas.

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Nice calm sea, perfect day to go diving

For those of you who have gone scuba diving before, you know it doesn’t come cheap.  It cost us $415 AUD per person for 3 dives.  This included transportation, scuba gear and a private instructor who accompanied us on the dives.  Since we were all beginners, it was very helpful to be in a smaller group while we learned.  The reef was about 1.5 hours away, during which time we had to learn the pertinent hand signals, prepare for the vigorous under water trainings and sign all the waivers.  Before we could dive, we had to pass a test where each of us had to demonstrate that we can breathe underwater using our equipment, clear water out of our mask and equalize as the pressure increases. 

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Putting on our wet suits, ready for the first dive

The open water training is intense and took most of the first dive.  Underwater, it’s very quiet and all I can hear is the loud sound of my rhythmic breathing through the scuba regulator.  As I relaxed, my senses heightened, and I started to notice the click-click sound of the parrot fish, the beautiful corals and the school of fish swimming nearby. Striding through the water, it’s hard not to be amazed at the colorful world before my eyes. 

On the second dive I had more difficulty equalizing and pressure built up in my ears as I went down.  After several tries, I decided to take a break and go snorkeling instead.  At this site, the reef was very shallow, and I could almost reach out and touch it.  We ended up at Wedge Reef for our last dive of the day, my sister Jenn and I decided to go snorkeling and the boys went scuba diving with our instructor.  The current is stronger in this area and we didn’t notice that we got washed out to sea, further and further from the boat.  We didn’t start panicking until we noticed that no matter how hard we kicked, it was impossible to get back. We ended up having to be rescued and unceremoniously dumped onto a boat with a few other people who couldn’t swim as well. For some reason, Jenn and I always end up in this situation where we are caught by the current and had to swim/paddle against the tide.

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Posing with our dive instructor Dave

It was a long, exhausting day but I am so happy that we finally got to see the Great Barrier Reef. We devoured our lunch and chilled on the deck of the Calypso as it sped back to shore.

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3 thoughts on “Cairns: Diving the Great Barrier Reef

  1. Pingback: Cairns: Port Douglas | life after 9to5

  2. Pingback: Trip Report: Australia | life after 9to5

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