We arrived in Cairns three days before our three day boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We spent the first day exploring the town and enjoyed a nice breakfast. We found the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon (pool) on the shore and enjoyed the afternoon swimming.
The next day we started our classroom training for scuba diving. We spent the morning in the classroom reviewing the book. In the afternoon we started with the pool training where we first learned how to put all of the gear together properly. Before putting the equipment on we had to complete a few different swimming tests to make sure we could swim. We treaded water for ten minutes and then had to swim two hundred meters in the pool (20 back and forth lengths of the pool). Once we passed those two tests, it was time to put the equipment on and start with some skills. By the end of the day we were both exhausted and had a quick dinner and a shower before getting to bed early.
We started the next morning early and eager to finish up our pool training and complete the written test. Our morning started in the pool to complete the last few exercises in the pool. After our time in the pool we were ready for lunch. We enjoyed a great burger at a local restaurant and then went to their sales shop to get our gear ready for the trip. After our time at the shop we went back to finish our tests to end the day. After another long day we had another quick dinner and then a shower before getting to bed early.
The next morning was a very early start at five. We had to be at the shop just after six to drop our luggage off and get to the boat. We arrived at the boat shortly before seven. Once on board we had a light breakfast of fruit and toast. We had a three hour ride out to the reef. The first hour was nice and calm as we went along the shore but the next two hours were a little rougher. We started the trip in the dining area where we reviewed all diving and safety procedures. We then had some time to get our stuff in our rooms and relax for a little bit. We enjoyed some time up on the top deck while enjoying a nice breeze and some sunshine. About thirty minutes before we arrived at our first dive location our instructor gathered us and had all of us prepare our equipment and run through our buddy checks.
Once we put all our equipment on we were ready to jump in the water by ten thirty. The first dive started out slowly as one person in our group wasn’t comfortable with going down and ended up going back up to the boat. Also, we were all learning to properly equalize so we descended slowly. On our first dive we went to eleven meters and spent about thirty minutes down there. We completed a few skills tests in the open water then enjoyed a short dive with our instructor leading us around a little bit. We enjoyed seeing the coral and even got to see Nemo and Dory. In addition to them we also saw countless other fish.
When we got out of the water lunch was ready for us. We enjoyed a cheese soup with a baked potato and numerous delicious salads. After lunch we filled out our log books and got ready for our next dive. We were back in the water around two thirty. On this dive we did a few more skills tests before we enjoyed a short dive around the reef where we saw lots of sea cucumbers. We went down to eleven meters again for about thirty minutes. This time it was short because we had to complete some skills on the surface and needed air in our tanks for those skills. This was the end of our diving for the day.
Once out of the water we enjoyed a nice snack that was waiting for us. Since we were not yet certified we were finished diving for the day but we would have an opportunity to snorkel during the next dive time. Before we went snorkeling we joined the dive briefing (we hadn’t previously joined because we were always first in the water with our instructor). This was where they reviewed the location and how to navigate around the reef. We decided to snorkel and enjoyed it for a little bit before going back to the boat to shower and clean up for the day before dinner. Our dinner this night was curry chicken with rice and another big spread of salads. We weren’t going hungry on this trip. After dinner all certified divers have the opportunity to participate in a night dive. We watched the dive from above looking for sharks that we were told would circle the lights from the boat. We did get to see a few small reef sharks.
Our next morning was an early wake up at six thirty so we would be ready to jump in the water at seven twenty. This was the first dive where we went down without using the rope. On this dive we had to go no further than 16.2 meters or the dive wouldn’t count so we had to watch our own depths through the entire dive. In addition to working on watching our depth we also worked on improving our buoyancy while swimming around coral. We saw reef sharks on this dive in addition to all of the fish and stingrays. This dive went to a depth of sixteen meters for thirty five minutes. As soon as we exited the water and dried off breakfast was ready. We had bacon and eggs with assorted cereal and yogurt. After breakfast they were moving the boat so we took a short nap.
On our last certification dive we were in the water around eleven thirty. We completed the final skills tests then enjoyed the last bit of the dive around some coral and looking at all the fish. We then made our way to the surface away from the boat and had complete a surface swim to the boat using our compass. We were now certified to dive to eighteen meters. As soon as we got out of the water we had lunch waiting for us. This time we had some chicken with potatoes and more salads. After such we had to complete all of our paperwork to complete the certification.
Our next dive was our first dive without an instructor as certified divers. We joined the dive briefing with everyone else for the first time and made mental notes of our navigation so we would surface back near the boat. This was a great dive because we didn’t have to do any skills tests and we just enjoyed the dive. We took in all the views of fish and coral. We were able to go at our own pace and enjoy the dive on our own. We saw another shark on this dive and many more fish. We even resurfaced right behind the boat so we didn’t have to swim back to the boat.
After this dive we had an opportunity to start the adventure course. This would certify us to thirty meters and would cover three out of five specialty dives to complete the advanced open water certification. Amanda was having issues equalizing her ears and was starting to get a sore throat so she followed along but wasn’t sure if she was going to do the course.
The first dive for the adventure course was the night dive. We both suited up and were the first to jump into the water. Amanda wasn’t sure about the night dive but she was brave and jumped into the water and started to go under. Once she saw the first shark in the distance she decided it wasn’t for her and quickly made an exit. The crew took great care to make sure she was okay once back on the boat and many of the divers gave her credit for trying the dive. Not many people went on the night dives. I continued on the dive and saw many sharks in the distance. If a shark starts to get too close to you, all you have to do is point your light at its’ eyes and it will swim away (it worked for me). This dive is very eery but was also the coolest dive. Your visibility is limited to where you point your light so there is little to distract you from what you are looking at in your light. I saw one turtle swimming in the open water, then saw another turtle named Brian. Brian is a famous turtle on the reef because of how big he is and his age. He is estimated to be 150 years old and is a massive turtle that is probably four feet wide. He sleeps in his own little cave at night and we were able to swim just a few feet from him while he slept. The only thing to remember was to not shine your light in his eyes and wake him up. Another highlight was seeing all of the crustaceans at night. When you shine your light on the coral you see lots of little red dots. These are the eyes of all the little creatures. On our way back up we made our safety stop under the boat and spent quite a bit of time enjoying watching all the sharks on the perimeter of the lights swimming around the boat. Everywhere you looked you could see a shark in the distance, if there wasn’t one there you could wait a few seconds and one would appear. Once back on the boat I found Amanda back in our room warming up and calming down after seeing the shark. She was okay after that and decided night diving wasn’t for her. Oh and then we enjoyed a delicious piece of cake before getting ready for bed.
The next morning was another really early morning. A five thirty alarm woke us up and Amanda really wasn’t feeling good. She was coming down with quite a cold and wasn’t going to be diving any more. The first dive of the day was our deep dive where we would be going down to about twenty five meters. This dive was a great dive because you get to see the reef waking up and lots of fish. As soon as we jumped in and started going down there was a big barracuda under the boat just floating there. As we swam, there were more Nemo fish and sharks. We then saw a nudibranch as we swam. Before long we were at twenty five meters. At this depth we saw more barracuda. We spent a short amount of time at this depth and started our swim back toward the boat. We were able to take our time and spend some time looking at different coral formations and looking closely to see the little fish in them.
The boat was moved before our last dives before returning to Cairns. The last dive would be a navigation dive where we would have to show our ability to navigate with our compass under water. The exercise was pretty quick which meant we had plenty of time to enjoy the dive. We spent most of our time in one area checking out the coral and looking at all the different fish around it.
There was one last dive of the day and all of the diving and classroom time was catching up with both of us. We were thinking of doing some snorkeling since Amanda couldn’t dive but ended up taking our time to pack up our stuff before we would be heading back to port. Once all of the diving was completed and we had our last lunch we were on our way back to port. The boat ride seemed like it took forever since the water was really choppy. Once back in Cairns we were brought back to the shop to grab our stuff. We then walked to our Airbnb where we spent the next few days relaxing while Amanda recovered from her cold. Next stop, Auckland.