Ever since I started diving when I was 14, I have always hoped that one day I would get to go diving on the Great Barrier Reef. This trip was a dream come true, and it totally lived up to my expectations! We set off on a smaller boat which took us to the main boat moored out in the reef, the Kangaroo Explorer. The Kangaroo was a really nice place to stay - we had a cabin to ourselves, and there were lots of nice places to hang out (sundeck, saloon, library full of fish books). The food was great too! We stayed for three days two nights, and the diving was really full on - we did 3 dives on the first day after we arrived, 4 on the second, and 3 on the third before heading back to land! The diving schedule had us up at 5.30 with the wake up call for a 6am dive to start the day, then we'd have breakfast, go diving again at 8am, then have a few hours off before diving again in the afternoon and then a night dive at about 7pm in the dark. We both really liked that the whole trip was all about diving, and we got loads of great diving and not too much waiting around.
Stu decided to use this opportunity to get his Advanced qualification, which means he's now able to do deeper dives (up to 30m) and night dives, and he also did specialties in underwater navigation, underwater photography and naturalist. We buddied up together and for most of the dives we went off just the two of us, which was really fun. Sometimes we dived with another buddy pair, Clemens and Helene, and on a few dives we had an instructor (e.g. for Stu's course dives). It was fun to mix and match, and to dive independently sometimes.
As for the reef itself: it was beautiful, of course. Lots of gorgeous corals and masses of colourful fish - it's like swimming in an aquarium. We've just watched Finding Nemo back at our hostel and it really did look like that! We saw Nemo himself (a particular kind of clownfish), green turtles, white-tipped reef sharks (don't worry - these are quite small and definitely not maneaters), big pufferfish, mean-looking trevalli, cuttlefish, enormous 260-year-old giant clams neally 2 metres wide...I could go on!
We hired an underwater camera for Stu's photography specialty, so we had a lot of fun taking pictures of each other and some of the cool stuff we saw:
Me diving by some lovely corals:
Stu meditating (with excellent buoyancy control):
One of the sharks we saw:
We found Nemo!:
Some pretty feather stars:
We wore Santa hats on one of the dives, for that Xmas feeling:
I haven't got pics from the night dives because of the whole 'it's really dark down here' thing, but that was also really fun. I always find night dives really exciting and a bit eerie - it feels like you're in space, weightless in a black abyss. Different animals come out at night too, like the cuttlefish we saw and lot of crustaceans. We also saw sparkly phosphorescence in the water, and lots of tiny shrimp were attracted to our torchlight (a couple got into my wetsuit and hitched a ride back to the boat with me). Stu claims not to have been spooked at all, and took it in his stride!
We got on really well with the instructors on board, and several of them were also going back to shore for a few days yesterday, so after we got back on land we met up with them for drinks in Cairns. We're feeling perhaps a little worse for wear today as a result...
And finally... Congratulations to Stu on being an Advanced Diver!