As I mentioned in my previous post, we made it to Cairns Monday evening after 22.5 hours of traveling, since we had to go South to go North. Although I napped on the train and plane, I was excited, as was Brian, for a proper bed in an air conditioned room. It wasn’t long after check in that we both crashed on the bed.
Tuesday morning our alarms were set for 6:30am. We had to check in to our boat at 8am and wanted to stop for breakfast. Our hostel offers free breakfast but of course it doesn’t start until 8. We got moving and packed our bag and started walking to the marina. We noticed a pancake house and decided to stop there. I got 2 pancakes and bacon and Brian got the Mexican crepe. Great filling breakfasts, though I later wished I had had 1 pancake.
We made it to the line for our boat, Reef Quest, right at 8am and got settled. As soon as we started, they went over some safety things. The waters were really quite rough going out and I couldn’t stay inside the boat long. We had a brief talk about our diving, but I couldn’t stay as I was feeling so sick. I had taken pills before the ride, but I needed fresh air. I went up to the back of the second floor and just tucked into a corner, feeling the breeze and taking tiny sips of water here and there. The big breakfast I ate didn’t help, but I managed to just breathe through it all, while wondering why I put myself through these boat rides.
When we finally anchored, our scuba instructor worked with me to go over the last few details and I scored 100% on the quiz even though I missed most of the discussion. Now it was time to get our gear on and hop into the water. The gear was heavy but I am pretty used to carrying all my bags now so it wasn’t bad. Once you get in the water, you kinda forget since the tank is like a big float with the air in it. It took some getting used to with breathing, but since I am getting better at snorkeling, that helped.
We went around to the side of the boat to hold onto a bar underwater. My ears are super sensitive to any altitude change. While the guy said we hadn’t reached a meter where we needed to equalize our ears, I already needed to equalize mine. I couldn’t get the hold the nose and pop your ear thing, but just swallowing helped.
Honestly, at first I was kinda freaked out I was underwater so long. I was breathing, but it felt weird and I didn’t like the pressure on my ears. I almost wanted to back out of the dive, but I kept going. We slowly kept lowering and lowering the bar and then the 4 of us grabbed onto the instructor and went for a ride. The whole time, we were on the instructor and I was fine with that, knowing he was looking out.
We swam right to the bottom of the ocean floor and apparently I am the only one that managed to get sand up one leg of my suit. We then swam up close to coral and fish. We got our pictures taken with some clownfish and swam some more. It was neat.
Towards the end, my tank was nearly in the red zone as I was nervous and breathing a lot. I really focused on my breath to stay calm. When we reached the surface, I was excited to say I survived a scuba dive.
I think towards the end, I was finally calming down a bit. Brian loved the dive and signed up for a second dive, while I was fine with just snorkeling the second time.
We were at a pretty good reef spot and even the snorkeling was amazing in the open water. Some of the reef areas were just an arm’s length from the surface. I saw so many different fish. Brian saw a turtle during his second dive which would have been cool to see. Then Brian came snorkeling and we saw a white tip reef shark. I was surprised it was so small and just swam around the reef.
After our snorkeling, it was time to view our pictures and snack on some fruit. The pictures were pricey, but the packages were well worth it as we got bonus reef pictures. Plus I don’t know when I will get around to diving again. In fact, we only had the dive because the backpackers place had a deal for a free intro dive which would normally be $70, so at least we saved there.
The boat ride back to Cairns was so much smoother as we went with the waves instead of against. I was outside for a bit, but it was quite hot so I went inside and ended up napping on the seats for an hour and soon we were back.
My experience seeing the Great Barrier Reef this time around was much better than my first snorkel experience 6 years ago. I finally am used to breathing through the snorkel and that helped a lot with my first scuba experience. I am sure there will be more snorkeling and scuba at some point in the future while traveling, but for now, I am happy to just be on land.
Have you ever Scuba Dived?
*all photos thanks to Reef Quest that I purchased