I have always been a very adventurous individual, so naturally scuba diving The Great Barrier Reef has been on my bucket list since its creation. When I decided to study abroad for a semester in Australia, I knew this was one of the activities I must do.
On Tuesday, November 29, my mom, Connie, and dad, Gary, ventured out for the short walk down to the Reef Fleet Terminal in Cairns to get checked in for our full day Great Barrier Reef Dive and Snorkeling Tour. We were warmly welcomed by Adam, a member of the Sales and Marketing Department at Passions of Paradise. He walked us down to the magnificent Passions catamaran, with its towering sails and bold red color pinpointing the company’s brand aura – fun and adventurous!
Once all of the other guests were boarded, we set off for our relaxing two and a half hour ride to the Outer Reef. There were delicious complimentary refreshments for everyone to enjoy and the boat was very spacious, with a comfortable water net at the bow of the boat. During our journey out to the reef, there was plenty of time to relax as well as get some of the logistical tasks out of the way, so there would be no time wasted once we arrived at the magnificent reef. We filled out a liability waiver, got our sting suits and snorkeling equipment, and then participated in a snorkeling and scuba diving briefing. Jarryd and Brianna, two of the nine friendly staff members on the boat, made the briefings interactive, informative, and interesting, never afraid to use their humor to keep us engaged. We had a bit more time before our arrival at the reef, so my parents and I had the opportunity to meet Tony the skipper, and I even got to the steer the catamaran for a short while – I am proud to say I am a great skipper as I did not hit any rocks, icebergs or other boats!
Before I knew it, we had arrived at our first reef of the day, Michaelmas Cay. There were no other boats in sight, with only a quaint sandy island nearby occupying the water. As we waited for the first group of introductory divers to board back onto the boat, my parents and I put all of our scuba diving equipment on with the help of Milly and Craig. Milly, often referred to as Mumu was from Sweden and Craig was from Colorado, not too far from our home state of Minnesota.
When it was our turn to scuba dive, we jumped in the water and completed a ten minute free trial session. I thought this was such an amazing offering because it allowed everyone to try scuba diving without feeling like they were forced to go if they decide they did not like it. So my parents and I completed some mandatory safety activities during our trial session that we had learned earlier in our safety briefing, such as equalizing our ears and clearing out our regulators. My mom decided that she did not want to scuba dive after finishing the ten minute trial session, but I was proud of her for even trying, because she originally said she didn’t want to try at all. So my dad and I, along with one other individual, began our dive with Jarryd our scuba dive instructor.
At first, we linked arms and all swam together, but once we got down to the reef Jerryd let us go and led us on an amazing adventure around the reef. Almost right away, I signaled to Jerryd and pointed to a stingray that was camouflaged under the sand – what a magnificent sight! Jerryd motioned around the stingray, and out it swam from beneath the sand. We continued to swim, astonished by the array of fish, coral, and other marine life. My dad was snapping pictures left and right with the underwater digital camera we rented from Wet Rez in Cairns. All of a sudden, Jarryd motioned to us and out swam a Green Sea Turtle! It had a beautiful shell and it swam right up next to us, not afraid at all. Brianna, the other scuba dive instructor, came over and fed it some seaweed, but the turtle mistook her finger as some food and it bit her. We decided from then on he was a grumpy turtle.
After our adventure-filled introductory scuba dive, my dad and I got back onto the boat. We took off all of our scuba diving gear, and began to look for my mom. We could not find her anywhere, thinking she must have gone snorkeling. But we asked Russ if he had seen her, and he pointed out to ocean and told us that she was out scuba diving with Craig, one of the other diving instructors. My dad and I looked at each other stunned, because she seemed extremely scared and apprehensive when she tried the ten minute trial session; but we were so proud of her and she was so happy and proud of herself when she got back on the boat.
As the day went on, we kept meeting new staff members and I was amazed at how friendly and helpful they all were, and it was obvious how much they loved their jobs. After scuba diving we were famished, and we were in luck because the buffet lunch was all prepared and ready to be devoured. There was salad, beef, meat and crackers, prawns, bread rolls, vegetables, and more! After my second plate and fourth bread roll, I was stuffed. Good thing I would be able to digest on our short trip to our next reef.
Our second destination for the day was Paradise Reef. My parents and I got our snorkel gear on, and off we went to snorkel another magnificent but unique reef. Let me tell you, it is not called Paradise Reef for nothing! The coral was beautiful and the fish were every shade and color from the rainbow. We snorkeled and snorkeled, taking hundreds of more pictures. Before we knew it, we were being whistled at from the boat. My dad and I took our faces out of the water and looked around; we were the only two left snorkeling, and Brianna was calling us in to the boat. We began swimming towards the catamaran smiling at each other, proud to hold the title of Most Enthusiastic Snorkelers.
We began our relaxing journey home, this time opening the sails and letting the wind guide us back. On our trip home, Milly and Craig held a fish and reef session where I was able to learn all about the coral and fish I had just seen. Once we docked the boat, I was able to take a few photos with the staff to help me remember this remarkable day. I can happily say that scuba diving The Great Barrier Reef is now officially crossed off my bucket list; however, I can also say that this was not my last time visiting The Great Barrier Reef!
Click here to book your Great Barrier Reef snorkelling or scuba diving adventure.
By GoDo intern, Sammy