GUEST POST: Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Back in October/November 2012 we traveled up the East Coast of Australia with one of the highlights being a boat trip on the Whitsundays as I talk about in my blog post about the trip I am scared of fish and open water and panicked just snorkelling so I knew there was no point trying to dive, however my boyfriend did take the chance to dive and here he talks about his experience.

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It had been my dream to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef but having never dived before I needed guidance as to the best spots. Should I dive on the beautiful Whitsundays on the fringing reef and enjoy more unspoilt reef, or wait until the tourist trodden Cairns in the hope of better flora, fauna and reef? I was persuaded to dive on the Whitsundays for my first dive – if I liked it I could always explore the outer barrier reef with sharks and the like another time, but on my budget it was always going to be an inner reef first dive whether off the Whitsundays or Cairns, so it might as well be the former for a reasonable $60.

Storm, the dive instructor (real name!), was an awesome guy who gave us a briefing that left me nervous but confident. There are two basic skills to scuba diving: breathing out through the nose and pushing your mask against your forehead to clear it of water, and equalising by pinching your nose and blowing as if to blow through your nose, to adjust your ear pressure. We were also advised to watch out for the super big and super friendly George, a Mauri Bass meaning he, like the Finding Nemo rainbow fish, was born female and is a transgender fish (presumably he used to be Georgina) – when he dies, the most aggressive female in the group will have a sex change and become the new George.

I was pretty nervous about diving, especially when Storm and the four of us diving got to the beach in all our dive gear – mask, flippers, regulator and oxygen tank. Going underwater and knowing that you will not be coming up to breathe for twenty minutes was a very hard concept to get my head around for the first time. Underwater breathing is so freaky and initially very hard but as soon as we got down I calmed and my breathing improved by itself. Panicking is the worst thing you can do diving and most things can be resolved without having to go back to the surface. Almost straightway, George swam by and everything felt awesome! He was so big and I stroked him as he followed us for the entire 20 minutes – I later found that the crew in the boat circling above us were chucking down food to encourage the fish to swim with us, a trick which certainly worked! Diving was everything I had imagined and more, especially somewhere that beautiful. There was a whole new world down there to discover and it’s such a buzz to float, glide and explore in three dimensions rather than traverse flat ground in two as normal. Our trip took us in a large circle and we saw so many gorgeous fish and Great Barrier Reef coral.

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By the time we re-emerged at the surface I was so pumped by the experience and high on life. Storm persuaded me to go diving again the next morning – quite frankly, I didn’t need much persuading.

Again, in the morning we were all a bit fragile after being on the beers the night before but I discovered that diving is the best hangover cure bar none. The last stop on the trip was where I did my second dive, right after breakfast. This time, just two of us went with Storm and it was so much better as I was much more confident. We even did the proper backwards roll off the boat and pressed the button on our regulators to sink – so sick compared to the wading in from the beach the previous day. The reef was much more colourful in this spot, especially in the shallows where the light shone through and illuminated it spectacularly. There were less fish but some very pretty ones nonetheless as well as balloon fish, a massive sea cucumber which we picked up and of course plenty of lush coral. There were also plenty of jellyfish in the area to dodge, but they were harmless mostly as it’s only the fingernail sized transparent ones you can’t see that get you.

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Once the sensational 28 minute dive was over, we headed back to Airlie Beach and no one on the boat wanted the trip to end.

This is a guest post by JP who writes at Places And Races or you can find him on twitter.

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