A day with the outer Great Barrier Reef

N.B. This should've been posted a long time ago but never mind...

Phew! It seems like I've had a crazy week... From jumping out of a plane last week(!! See!! Told you it was an old post), to securing myself a job about 150km west of Darwin (yay!), to extending my stay in Cairns and as such booking a day on the Great Barrier Reef with Deep Sea Divers Den and their boat, Sea Quest, before jumping on the bus to Townsville the next day. Wow! Back to the trip! 

I had full intention of just snorkelling on the reef (with a potential to upgrade to one dive if the conditions were suitable). I went out the night before knowing that if I did get a little drunk then it wouldn't hinder my morning. Just one rule: stay away from goon. Well, my early night turned into a 4.30am sleep... Oops. 

So, 2.5hours later (I probably pushed it to 3) I rolled out of bed feeling horrendous, tired, and a little drunk still. Throwing on a bikini and grabbing my towel I left, got lost by walking to the wrong marina (doh!), and arrived a few minutes later than the earliest boarding time - perfect. Upon boarding I passed over my ticket, grabbed a health and safety disclaimer for snorkelling (AND one for diving just in case) and got myself fitted for some fins and a mask/snorkel. I decided at the last minute that I was doing my two dives and it was the best decision!**

(** I do not condone diving after a heavy night of drinking at all. I should've been more responsible but as they were both two very easy and relatively shallow dives I didn't think anything of it!)

A few of the diving instructors and DMs (dive masters) joined us upstairs for a little safety briefing for the certified divers. We were all at different experience levels, some with hundreds of dives, some newly qualified, some with 14-20 dives like me, it was nice. I'm grateful for the briefing too because it simply standardised everything as some people had learnt through SSI rather than PADI. We were placed in our buddy groups - I got on really well with mine - and our guide Zach was fantastic. It was an extra $15 per dive to have it guided and realistically you didn't NEED a guide but since I hadn't dived in a while and I was a tad nervous about the whole sticky ear situ I opted to have him for both of mine.

Anyway, we carried on hurtling towards our first dive site on Norman Reef and I just wanted to get myself outside and enjoy the sea air and the rockiness of the waves. Unfortunately most people on the boat did not appreciate the rough seas and a wave of sea sickness as contagious as a yawn spread through the deck. Wonderful. People to the left, right, and front of me were spewing and I couldn't take it much longer. Back inside I go! 

Soon it was time to get all kitted up. We didn't have to set up our own tank, BCD, and regs - this was already done which was nice - it was just a case of throwing on the wetsuit (typically mine didn't fit very well - I miss mine from home!), the weight belt, BCD(etc), and fins/mask. Wonderful. Time to take the side exit off the boat with a nice long stride... And here's where I freaked out. It was a lot higher than I was used to. A twinge in my coccyx reminded me of the last time I jumped from great height and a twinge in my ear reminded me of the time in Egypt where a quick descent in bad conditions led to a bruised (and subsequently very sore!!) ear drum. Ouch.

It was absolutely no problem of course. I was first in, surfaced and inflated my BCD, then signalled 'ok' to Zach (using the above water method). We waited for everyone to get in, checked everyone was okay, then descended down the mooring lines. Once we got comfortable at depth we went to check out the famous "Wally", a Napoleon Mauri wrasse. He supposedly comes to you with a click of the fingers. Anyway, photo opportunity with this beautiful fishy... 

What I really admired from Deep Sea Divers Den is that they say DO NOT touch Wally. I've seen a lot of these tourist photos with Wally where people are hugging the poor fish. No, no, no, that's so bad.

Following on from Wally we went to find Nemo, the world's most famous fish. I've already encountered many anenome/clown fish around Egypt in the Red Sea but it was quite nice to see a load in the Great Barrier Reef although I kept thinking about several Finding Nemo quotes whenever I saw them. I watched as one by one the divers in group 1 (my group) went to have their photo taken with Nemo. I cringed as I saw some divers kicking up sediment from the bottom before realising my buoyancy was definitely less than perfect. At least I wasn't kicking coral like some. My turn came anyway, there was a little bit of uncovered rock that you can sort of stable yourself with your hand if need be. We had a few photos and then the photographer asked me to take my regs out and give him a big cheesy smile.... 


Then came the typical "GBR" name plate...

Once all of the photos were done we could finally start our little guided tour of the reef. Within about 5 minutes Zach signalled back that he'd found a shark - oh my goodness, my very first shark encounter in the wild (asides from the cage diving with great whites in South Africa). My heart was pounding with excitement (can you tell I love sharkies?) and there he was, a beautiful white tip reef shark just chilling on the sand. Not moving. Hey, here's a fact of the day for you... Most sharks HAVE to keep moving in order to breathe, they have no mechanism to push water over the gills. Well, this one doesn't! He just happy sits there chilling on the bottom of the reef until a group of nosey divers comes to disturb him.

We swan around him as he swam off into the distance, and during that dive we saw a few more plus plenty of other fish, nudibranchs (my favourite!), flat worms (how beautiful when they swim), and beautiful coral. There was a lot of evidence of disease and breakage however so I suspect the reef itself has been subject to a fair few stressors... When you think how many people visit each day this comes to no surprise (however the inner reef will be worse off). 

We had a lovely tour around and ended up surfacing around the 40min mark. Dives were restricted to 40 since most people were doing 3 dives and as such we had to all get up together. It didn't bother me too much since I WAS cold, but it would've been nice to spend some more time down there I guess. 

After surfacing we had a decent break to get dry, get warm, and most importantly, grab some food. The boat put on a delicious spread of cold meats, salad, warm soup, bread, you name it. It was extremely welcoming and we could go up for seconds, much to the delight of me and some other backpackers. You know us, complete scavengers for food...

After tucking into my second plate of food (bad bad idea) we were summoned for the second briefing, this time around turtle bay where, appropriately named, you usually see turtles. Unfortunately I didn't, but it was a beautiful dive anyway. The same procedure as before, we threw on some (now damp) wetsuits, donned the diving gear, and jumped in. This time we didn't use the mooring lines however they were there if we wanted assistance. Then the dive began, a nice shallow dive at about 13-14m for approx. 50 minutes. This I was happy about - finally I got my longer dive in, though it didn't compare to the hour long dives in the Red Sea. 

I was becoming far more comfortable with my buoyancy by the second dive, and so I should be. I was rolling around, going upside down to look at the fish in rock crevices, keeping my eyes peeled for sharks and turtles, nudibranchs, and other beautiful little critters. I admired the beauty of the giant clams and all I wanted to do was stay down in that marine heaven forever.

Realising that most buddy pairs had surfaced I was left with Zach. We did a little swim at 5m for our safety stop but, having had lunch, I was a little more buoyant and I ended up essentially bobbing to the surface. Ah well! No harm done and we had a good laugh about it once we were back above water.

Back on the boat I got myself dry, heading up on top, and realised that an American girl I'd gone skydiving with was also on my boat! Insane. We had a good chat before I realised my lack of sleep had really caught up with me and I completely conked out inside, hoody on, head on table, flat out. 

Landing back into Cairns (and after waking up of course) I had one of those little exciting sparks... I KNEW I wanted to get myself on one of these dive boats, I wanted to help teach people about the importance of the coral ecosystem, and I wanted to teach people how to dive. I didn't want to do my whole DM and instructors course in Australia, it would take up too much of my time, but I wanted to do my DM course in Thailand. Koh Tao. Bring on this new adveture!! 


Post a Comment


Blogger news



Follow on Bloglovin