We are so excited to share some photos and stories from our recent scuba diving trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. Diving the reef was the number 1 item on our Oz bucket list, and it most certainly did not disappoint.
First things first, we headed up to northern Queensland, more specifically, Cairns (pronounced Cans). Next, we knew we needed to get certified. I have a bit of experience with scuba, but hadn’t dove since the last time I was in Australia at age 11. My certification was no longer valid (as I was under 12 when I received it), and Mark was new to diving altogether. We did our research, and decided to book into the 5 day ‘Learn to Dive” course with ProDive Cairns, in order to become PADI “Open Water Certified” divers.
Day 1 & 2 were spent in the classroom and the deep pool learning the theory and practicing the skills that would make open water diving more enjoyable for us. Mark was not particularly fond of sitting at a desk and taking quizzes, but I didn’t mind it too much ;).
We had an awesome group of classmates, including another American, a father/son duo from Scotland, some lovely ladies from Canada, Germany, and The Netherlands, and even a few Australians! Our instructor James pointed out that it was rare to have Aussies actually get out and explore the reef, as just like the rest of us, they are often more keen to explore far away places then things that are so close to home.
I have never seen Mark get out of bed at 5am as happily as he did on day 3. This was the day we boarded the live aboard boat and headed to the outer Great Barrier Reef for a few days of diving! We embarked on our 3 hour boat ride to the outer edge of the reef, and were quite thankful for the seasickness pills available on board (those who passed them up had a rough ride).
Boat day 1 was all about completing 2 of our open water certification dives. We were thankful to have our instructor with us to help us adjust our buoyancy in the salt water, as we had only practiced in the fresh water pool.
Getting into the ocean for the first time was incredible! There is just so much to see, even the simple task of descending down to the ocean floor was a rush. On our very first dive, I got to see a White Tip Reef shark (but struggled to get Mark’s attention before it swam off)! This shark is considered “the puppy of the reef,” typically only growing up to 2 meters (6 feet).
Look close, you’ll spot a sea turtle // Safety stop photo op at Pittaj Bommie @ Milln Reef! // A coral “bommie” or formation
Each night on the boat was punctuated with an amazing sunset, and good times relaxing with our dive mates. The crew on board was incredible, we really couldn’t have asked for better people to spend time with!
Day 2 on the boat consisted of 4 dives, which was amazing, and exhilarating! We started out at The Whale Bommie @ Milln Reef, and then cruised on over to The Tennis Courts @ Flynn Reef. We saw a shocking amount of beautiful aquatic life. Sea turtles, barracudas (hanging around a coral bommie- very Finding Nemo), sting rays, and more colorful fish than I could ever hope to count.
On our second dive of the morning, Mark made an incredible wildlife sighting– he got to see a Minke Whale swimming underwater. Our instructor also saw it, and later said that in the over 1,000 dives he has completed, he had never seen a whale swimming underwater. No photos, but what a lucky duck!
Two dives into the second day on the boat, we were officially “PADI Open Water Certified Divers” with the ability to dive to 18 meters (60 feet). We. Were. Hooked. The underwater world is indescribable, and exploring it together has got to be one of my favorite things we’ve ever done as a couple (that’s saying a lot!)
Dive 3 of the day was on our very own- we attended the certified diver briefing, did our buddy check (BWRAF, woo!), and away we went! We navigated our way around the Mickey Mouse Bommie of the Gordon site, saw a puffer fish, and visited “the fish bowl.”
Before each dive, the dive master goes through the features of the site, and gives us navigation coordinates // Can you spot the family of clown anenomefish in the “fish bowl bommie”?(What’s up, Nemo?!) // Heyyyyyy!
Our 4th dive on this day was a night dive. Let me set the scene for you: we eat dinner with a beautiful sunset as the background. We’re feeling a bit nervous about diving into pitch dark water (with torches, but still!), but trying to stay calm. The crew is washing the dinner dishes, small food scraps are falling into the water, and its attracting fish. No worries. But you know what those fish attract? Sharks! Yep, from the top deck, under the bright boat spotlights, we can see sharks in the water.
Now guess what time it is? Night dive time!
This dive was a whole new level of exploration. It was SO dark. We were able to see a completely different side of the reef- just like on land, this is when the unique creatures come out! We saw lots of Red Sea Bass, and I got alarmingly close to a Humphead Parrotfish. During our safety stop, we had the thrill of seeing a Grey Reef Shark prowling around (just like we had seen from the boat)- what a rush! It was probably 1.5 meters long, and didn’t get close to us, but you can bet our hearts were racing!
We started the next day with a deep water dive at sunrise.
We were able to do a deep dive because we decided to continue our certifications to “Adventure Diver” status, meaning we are now able to dive to 30 meters (98 feet). It was so worth it. I was nervous to dive to such depths, but it turned out to be incredibly peaceful. Being in the water as the sun rose was surprisingly different than our other dives. There was almost an… electricity down there (not literally, don’t worry), as the aquatic world woke up and started their day.
You’ll note that some of the photos are very blue, that’s because at those deep depths, the light doesn’t reach far enough for our eyes (or cameras) to detect other colors. What a wild world!
Mark in his element // 30 meter underwater selfie // A school of Humphead Parrotfish dispersing as we approached (those fish were easily the size of my torso!)
We got to finish out the day, and our trip, with a couple exploratory dives at Tracy’s Bommie @ Flynn Reef. I’m quite fond of my diving buddy, and loved spending time underwater together with my husband.
I’m still working on my underwater photography skills // It’s hard to pose underwater! // Sea turtle! // We’re extremely happy- it’s just really tough to smile with a regulator in your mouth
To say that we were sad to get off of the boat would be an understatement. We really had the time of our lives learning to dive, and experiencing the Great Barrier Reef in all of its glory. Truly a once in a life time opportunity, and the perfect memory for our (extended) honeymoon.
Cheers! – Chels and Mark