Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef – Australia

One of the main reasons I wanted to get to Australia sooner rather than later was so I could get to the Great Barrier Reef and go scuba diving before any additional damage was done to it. We keep hearing in the news that the reef is bleached and dying. I didn’t want to miss it.

Port Douglas was my “home” during my time near the reef. I stayed at the Shantara Resort. It was clean and within walking distance of the main road with restaurants and shops. It also had a couple of nice pools, which I liked to go to after long days of diving. I would stay at the Shantara Resort again and recommend it to others staying in Port Douglas.

Here is the room – all hard surfaces which worked great with wet diving equipment.

The view from my balcony of one of the pools. It was kind of like a lazy river.

Because I booked this trip through a travel agent, I didn’t get to pick out the dive company. This was the first time I’d ever used a travel agent and the first time I didn’t choose my dive company. It made me a bit apprehensive at first. Given the risks of diving, I do a lot of research before deciding which company to dive with and I am very picky. They chose Quicksilver. When I first looked at the company’s website, I was nervous because the boats are very large. Large boats means a lot of people on the boat. “What is the ratio of dive master to diver then?” is what I wanted to know. In this case, I found out that most of the passengers on the boats were snorkelers, which worked out fine so my worries were for naught. The divers would get their gear on and get into the water and take off and then the snorkelers would jump in after that. There were usually 8-10 people per dive group, which is perfect!

So much diving gear!

The reefs we dove were over two hours from the shore both days so the large boat was appreciated. The boats had good food and the staffs were really friendly. The first day, I was on a boat called Silversonic, the second day Poseidon.

Before Australia, my last dive was four years ago in Maui. I was nervous that I wouldn’t remember how to do it so before I left, I took a refresher course in Chicago at Underwater Safaris. Underwater Safaris is where I did my pool training before getting my certification so I was very familiar with the place. The refresher course went fine. The instructor told me I was all set.

In Australia, my first dive attempt did not go well. My weight belt wasn’t adjusted correctly and when the dive master went to fix it in the water, it ended up being too tight and then I panicked and decided to go back to the boat, very deflated and angry with myself. Diving is probably easy for some people but it is not for me. There is so much equipment involved and rules to remember. I get overwhelmed. This is one activity that I probably would do better with if I was traveling with someone but that doesn’t happen often so I had to move past it. I decided to grab some snorkel gear and snorkel for the first set instead. In hindsight, I should have done that from the beginning. It was a great way for me to get reacclimated with the ocean and breathing through a device. The snorkeling was actually really good too! We saw a shark, lots of fish and pretty coral.

I appreciated the way this company did the snorkel. In the past when I have gone snorkeling, I would spend most of the time trying to avoid getting kicked in the head by other snorkelers because everyone is trying to stay together with a leader. Here, everyone just jumped off the boat and did their own thing. It wasn’t coordinated with a leader. I appreciated the freedom to swim off in any direction and go at my own pace. Of course after each session, they would count everyone on board to make sure everyone (divers and snorkelers) made it back on board.

For the second dive, I was determined that I could do it. They dropped me back with the less experience divers so I could continue to acclimate to being underwater and it went really well. I was happy.

The third dive on the first day was my favorite dive of either day. The less experienced divers sat the third one out so it was just the dive master and me. We were at a reef called The Nursery. There were easily thousands of fish swimming around this reef of so many different shapes, sizes and colors. I have never seen anything like it. There was also really bright, pretty coral all around. At one point, I was swimming along, looking at the coral. I looked up at my dive master and he pointed to my right. I turned that way and unbeknownst to me, I was swimming among a large school of fish. They were right next to me, swimming along as if I was a member of their school. It was one of those moments where I wanted to pinch myself and ask if it was real life. It was awesome! It made my day and made me forget the struggles from earlier. It was worth going all that way for that moment.

The water was so pretty and clear. Perfect for diving!

The second day, I did another three dives. All of them were successful. I was comfortable being back in the water again and I had a great diving partner, which is always nice. There was a lot to see but none of the dives the second day compared to the dive at the Nursery from Day 1.

Yes, the little fish are real.

Reflecting back on my two days of diving, I am so glad I did it. It truly was the experience of a lifetime. I won’t soon forget it. If you go, I highly recommend Quicksilver and their boats, Silversonic and Poseidon. Don’t let the size scare you away. Everyone is treated very, very well on both boats.

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