When James and I flew into the state of Queensland in Australia (on August 23rd) we were SO EXCITED! Not only were we about to scuba dive in one of the most beautiful and world-renowned reefs in the world, but we were also meeting up with our good friends from back home, Marty and Ann! The four of us shacked up together in a hotel in Port Douglas and prepared to take on THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!
The Great Barrier Reef is THE largest coral reef system in the world, composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 1,600 miles! Look at the map I included, so you can get an idea of just how far the reef stretches… it’s quite massive. In fact, the Great Barrier Reef is so large (and the water so clear) that it can actually be seen from outer space! For its unique and beautiful coral reefs and thousands of species of marine life, it is no wonder that The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most sought after World Heritage sights in the world!
It also is one of the more expensive sights in the world as well. Since we had just come from Thailand, where we paid about $270 USD each for FIVE dives over two days, it was a shocker that we would now have to fork out the same amount in the Great Barrier Reef for only ONE day which included three dives. However, we knew that this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime type experiences, so we decided to budget for two full days of diving. I had actually visited the Great Barrier Reef in 2010 with my friend Julie, but neither of us were scuba certified at that time, so I knew that my experience this time with James, Marty, and Ann would be the most exciting scuba experience ever!
The morning of our first dive, our excitement quickly grew as we walked down the marina pier towards the dive boat. The aqua water surrounded by rolling mountains in the distance was a perfect setting for a dive of a lifetime. James was especially excited, as diving the Great Barrier Reef is one of the TOP things on his RTW trip “to do” list… and he was finally going to check that one off! We jumped aboard the dive boat (with maybe 30 other people), began signing papers and talking with the dive master, and the boat jetted off into the depths of never-ending gorgeous blue ocean.
We specifically chose to dive out of the city of Port Douglas instead of Cairns (which are the two main cities in Australia that people go to for diving) because we would have access to the most northern and outer coral reefs. The specific reefs we visited are called the Agincourt reefs, and they are right on the edge of the continental shelf. It’s quite an interesting and strange sight to see when you are close to the continental shelf, as there are huge rolling waves (like surfer’s waves) in the middle of the ocean! The way that the waves roll into a specific outlined area makes it appear as if there is a beach or something nearby… but it’s literally large waves rolling into the dead middle of the ocean.
The first day of diving, I began to get a bit discouraged after a couple dives, as we really weren’t seeing anything too spectacular. First, it was a somewhat rainy and windy day, so I think the boat captain was taking us to some of the less interesting dive sights. In addition, our dive master seemed a bit inexperienced as far as seeking out marine life, so we weren’t seeing really much of anything out of the ordinary. Plus, the water was FREEZING, even with a wetsuit, so the whole experience for me was a bit disappointing… especially for the money we paid. I WAS happy, however, on the third dive to FINALLY see a sting ray for the first time, and Ann was thrilled she got to see a sea turtle (although quite far away). We also did a swim-through in an underwater cave which was pretty cool. [Click here to see a summary video of our first day of diving.]
On our second day of diving, the weather was a bit better and we had a really great dive master that Marty and Ann dove with a few days prior. In addition, we were able to actually talk with the boat captain and specifically request better dive sites. And IT ALL PAID OFF! Our first dive that day was SO spectacular! As soon as we dropped down into the water, we were surrounded by amazing marine life and beautiful coral reefs. I looked over and saw a weird creature scuttling through the water… something I had never seen before. I wasn’t sure: was it an octopus? Or some kind of jellyfish? Later, we found out it was a cuttlefish, and I have to tell you: it was pretty incredible and fascinating to watch such an odd looking creature glide along through the water, changing colors, uncertain
of what it would do next. As I turned around, I saw a HUGE maori wrasse fish completely out in the open, so we paused for awhile to admire this giant. As we continued along, we saw a few HUGE moray eels hiding within the coral, and then several baby reef sharks hiding down under a rock ledge. Brilliant! The next two dives were also great… we saw several string rays coasting along the ocean floor, a cleaner shrimp, a huge puffer fish, huge schools of yellow five line snappers, beautiful and fascinating lion fish, and some barracudas. We also had fun with “Colin the codfish,” who is a fish that always hangs out under the boat when it pulls in at a certain reef. He was a friendly fish that let us pet and swim with him, and we were even able to pose for photos with him! We ended the day feeling very fulfilled and I was SO happy that day two was SO spectacular and we could end on such a great note. [Click here to see a summary video of our second day of diving.]
It was truly a lovely experience for James and I to dive the Great Barrier Reef, and the fact we got to share the experience with two of our closest friends made it just that much more special.
To see photos from Port Douglas and diving the Great Barrier Reef, click here.