The pinnacle of my scuba diving experience in Australia was our trip to the Great Barrier Reef. My family and I lived on a dive boat for 3 days, completing a total of 11 dives including two night dives. The sheer number of dives gave me confidence with my equipment and made me especially grateful for the experience I’d gained in Sydney. I was surprised to learn that over half the people on our boat were new divers, either just certified or becoming certified on the trip. My Advanced Diver Certification was especially handy since the dive leaders trusted me to dive on my own, plus I was also able to help out my family since they had not been diving in several decades!
While living on the boat we ate meals that were truly exceptional for being prepared on a boat. We got to know people from all over the world, continuing the multicultural experience that I’d had in Sydney. There were quite a few young travelers from Europe including people from Denmark, Germany, and Norway. We also met a few other token Americans and some native Australians. Our accommodations were also surprisingly comfortable and spacious; my mom and I shared a room on the top floor of the boat so, while it was a bit rocky when the swells were high, we had good ventilation and nice views. Between dives I spent my time sunning on the deck and drying out my wetsuit. It was never quite completely dry before the next dive, but I only had to suffer a few minutes of cold before jumping in the water. Over the three days we dove on several site on the Outer Great Barrier Reef: Petja on Millen Reef, Cucumber Alley on Pellowe Reef, Coral Gardens Gordon’s Mooring, Little Tracy, and Tracy on Flynn Reef.
Stuff I learned:
- A GoPro is an essential scuba accessory for diving the GBR.
- Bringing your own scuba gear is worth it! I definitely was happier with my own mask, fins, and snorkel that I would have been with the provided rental gear.
- I’m a slow breather thanks to years of competitive swimming; I always had 30-40 bar more than my dive buddy at the end of the dive. Wahoo!
- Staying shallow definitely helps conserve air. Staying around 8-12 meters is completely fine and the fish and coral are better there anyways. No need to go to 20+ meters unless you are looking for sharks or rays.
- Wear dive booties unless you want to get terrible blisters. Really.
- Warm water diving is the BEST. It almost makes me discouraged to go back to freezing California temperatures compared to the tropical waters of The Reef.
- I love living on boats. I could do some more of that.
- Compasses as pretty nifty tools, but they do take some practice.
- Getting lost underwater is pretty fun. I didn’t know where I was going at all on most of my favorite dives.
- Sharks: Grey Nurse Sharks, White tip, Black tip, Wobbegongs, but no Great Whites.
- Clown Fish AKA Nemo 😀
- A massive Manta Ray that swam by. This creatures must have been 7 or 8 feet long with “wings” just as wide.
- Moray Eels
- Coral of every shape, size, and color. Absolutely incredible and worth every centimeter travelled to arrive at this world-famous destination.
- Fish, also of every shape, size, and color. I hear that the fish are better in Indonesia or the Solomon Islands, but I am completely satisfied with the array of fish living at the reefs we saw.
Upon reflection I am utterly amazed by all that I saw on my scuba diving adventures. In less than a year I became a certified Advanced Diver and was blessed to see some of the best underwater sights that the world has to offer. It is impossible to see the underwater world and not be moved to care for our oceans and environment at large. It would be an unmitigated tragedy to watch our world become even more poisoned and polluted, letting natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef disappear. My experience gaining the skills and knowledge necessary for scuba gave me confidence as a life-long learner, and inspired me to continue pursuing new interests even into my adult life. In truth, we never really grow up unless we choose to. Our age may increase with time, but it is our souls that give us life – life that is inspiring, passionate, complex, and rich. I think we can always choose into that life. I can choose it intentionally at age 21 the same way I unknowingly chose it at age 6. I can choose it again and again at any age, even until my dying day. If I haven’t traveled for years and my life looks mundane from the outside, I can still choose that kind of life because Every Day Is An Adventure and adventure happens to those who seek it.