Scuba Diving in Australia (2007)
It had long been one of my dreams to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and this Spring I was lucky enough to be able to have this experience.
I flew into Cairns in northern Queensland and joined a five-day diving certificate course with a school called Pro-Dive, which was highly recommended by other divers. The course included two days in the pool and classroom, learning all the theory and basics of diving, followed by three days (and two nights) on board one of the Pro-Dive boats, making eleven dives on the Great Barrier Reef. At the end of this time I was awarded two certificates: PADI openwater diver and PADI adventure diver. [PADI = Professional Association of Diving Instructors]
[Note: The photo above is of my "dive buddy," Mike, with a beautiful turtle we found on our first dive without our instructor. It was such an incredible sight!]
Not only was taking a scuba diving course a chance for me to get my PADI certificate, it was also a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world. The boat accommodated 32 divers and they came from more than ten countries: America, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, England, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and maybe some other places I've forgotten. There was also quite a range of ages, from an 18-year-old British girl to a retired couple from the USA. Most of the people taking the dive course were in their twenties, so I was definitely in the minority at the age of 43, but nobody seemed to notice, and we all made friends in no time.
Once we had passed the diving certificate course, we were allowed to do a few dives without our instructors. It was a great chance to explore the reef and take photos of some of the fish. Everyone's favourites were the anemone fish ("Nemo") of course. However, I also really loved the butterfly fish.
Sharks! Yes, we saw a few sharks on our dives. They were harmless white-tipped reef sharks, but it was still a little intimidating to see them so close, especially in water with very poor visibility!
There were also quite a few weird looking creatures in the sea! I think the one on the right scared the sharks away!!
One of the most thrilling of the eleven dives we completed was a deep dive down to 28m. We were surprised at how dark it was down there and we certainly felt like we were far below the surface, surrounded by nothing but ocean. Our instructor, Hayley, tested the effects of nitrogen narcosis by giving us a mental agility test consisting of pointing to numbers on a plastic card, a test which we all passed thankfully. She had also brought a can of coke with her to show us that the water pressure was so great that it prevented the drink from coming out of the can. We drank it through a metal straw, which was exciting because we had to remove our regulators (breathing mouthpieces) in order to drink!
Scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef is an experience that I will never forget. The sheer size of the reef is staggering, stretching as it does for more than 2,500km and providing a home for thousands of species of fish and other organisms. The water visibilty was not too good when I was there, but I still managed to see and photograph quite a variety of sea-life. I'm looking forward to going there again in a few years when I'm a more experienced diver and at a time of year when the water is clearer.
Although the experience of diving was fantastic, I will also never forget the people I met on this dive trip. The intensity of the experience, both training to dive and actually diving in the ocean, made us feel closer and it was a wonderful chance to get to know each other very well in a short time.
Below: Hayley our instructor, 18-year-old Georgie from England, my buddy Mike from England, and me.
Below: At the back are Niamh (from Ireland), Georgie, and Mike. At the front next to me are Tang & Kathy (from China but studying in Melbourne).
Below: Me, Mike, Niamh and Georgie with our diving instructors Hayley (Australian) and Gonzo (Argentinian).
Copyright: Nigel Stott (2007)