Who would not want to dive in the Great Barrier Reef? That’s probably on every scuba diver’s bucket list visiting Australia. Similarly, I had diving in Great Barrier Reef in my list from the time I stepped my foot into Australia. It was a dream for me.
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About Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the World’s largest living structure with about 3000 individual coral reefs and 900 islands. It stretches over 2300 kilometres and is on the North-Eastern side of Australia, off the coast of Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef is located off the coast of Queensland state in Australia. It is one of the most complex ecosystems in the World. It has a vast range of ecological communities, species and habitats. It is said that Great Barrier Reef is around 500,000 years old. And did you know that Great Barrier Reef is estimated as an asset value of AUD 56 billion?
Note: After diving in both Cairns and Port Douglas, I recommend diving in Port Douglas. The dive sites in Port Douglas are less crowded and are absolutely amazing. They are way better than the dive centres at Cairns.
A long weekend of Australia Day was coming up and I had to travel somewhere. But where? I decided to go with my long-pending bucket list item, a dive in the Great Barrier Reef. As I was traveling solo, I made sure my itinerary was very well planned with all the activities booked. After plenty of research on the scuba dive centers (reason for the ‘plenty’ of research was because of the bad dive experience in Gold Coast), I finalized with Visit Cairns. They in turn booked the CDC dive center as the tour operator. I must admit that the entire booking process was very smooth and easy.
Few days before the dive
As the day of the dive approached, I had mixed feelings of being excited, pumped, scared, and nervous. Suddenly out of nowhere, there were news every day about the shark sightings and attacks (well, a shark had attacked a dolphin) along the coast of New South Wales. As I was already nervous, the newspapers were not helping me either. So, I decided to research on the sharks that live in the Great Barrier Reef (Why not, isn’t it better to be mentally prepared?).
I learned that the most common ones in Great Barrier Reef are reef tip (I actually spotted one, during my submarine tour that I had taken the previous day) and Hammerhead sharks. The reef tip sharks are quite timid and harmless, and Hammerhead sharks are not overly aggressive, but then there are the tiger sharks which are said to be aggressive. I further did some statistical analysis and assured myself that I am safe based on the number of attacks that have happened in the past. There is a famous saying “You are most likely to be hit by a bus than be bitten by a shark“.
On the day of the dive
I had hardly slept the previous night and was super excited about my dive. It had finally arrived, after so many months of planning and here I was ticking off one of my bucket list items in just a few hours. I started my day at 6 AM, decided to have a morning stroll from YHA Cairns to the Jetty. The boat was picking me up from the Jetty and driving to the diving place, somewhere in the middle of Great Barrier Reef.
My experience with dive centre staff
The CDC dive center staff were very friendly. I was welcomed with a picture of mine in front of the boat.
After our medical declarations and a light refreshment of tea/coffee, we reached the place where we were diving (Yipppee). Initially, we were given instructions for snorkeling. As I am not a swimmer, one of the friendly staff was with me all time in the water. Due to the clarity of the water, the fishes, corals and its beautiful colors were visible even while snorkeling (you don’t need to dive in order see the corals and the fishes really). But I wanted to dive in one of the natural wonders of the World.
After an hour of snorkeling, I was called out for the dive. We were two of us doing the Intro dives (So good, I have company). We were asked to wear all the scuba diving gear, a wet suit, scuba tank, weights, mask, and fins and were briefed with the safety instructions. One instructor accompanied us, who was holding one of our hands throughout the dive. Initially, blaming the strands of hair stuck in between the mask, the water had seeped into the mask and my eyes were burning (visible in my pictures taken by the instructor – too bad). With the help from my instructor, I was all sorted and was ready to go down even deeper into the ocean. The descent of 10 metres was very gradual.
I started to look around and observe the spectacular busy life around me in that big blue World. There were so many different kinds of fishes, big, small, funny nosed, yellow, white, purple, green, blue colored and many more. And they seemed to be all around; around us, inside the corals, near by and far away, like everywhere.
Highlight of my dive was the Clown fish I spotted, popularly known as ‘Nemo’. The corals were so beautiful and colorful. Corals are basically classified as soft corals and hard corals. They were in all shapes and sizes. And I saw them all.
The entire experience of seeing the largest living structure on Earth was so mystical, special and extraordinary.
Safety for solo female divers
It is best to go diving with a dive centre as they take care of the safety aspects. If this is the first time you are diving, ensure to go with a reputed dive centre. Also, even the most experienced divers, go with a dive buddy or other experienced divers.
This is definitely a must-do and Australian travel is for sure incomplete without a dive or a snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef. I am so glad that I went ahead and did the dive, and ticked off the item on my bucket list. However, I suggest doing the dive in Port Douglas rather than Cairns.