Hold on tight lads, it’s gonna be a long one!
Saturday 24th August
Day One – Great Barrier Reef
Our plans were constantly changing due to lots of variables, but one thing we were set on was scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. And today was the day! We’d booked with ProDive Cairns earlier in the week for a 3 day, 2 night liveaboard.
After doing a taster lesson in a swimming pool back home, I learnt that I really enjoyed scuba diving, so what better way to get qualified than on the Great Barrier Reef! Tom had already achieved his Open Water in Thailand a few years ago, so now it’s my turn.
We were up at the crack of 5am (before the sun!), creeping around the campsite to get ready and pack the van up. We parked up down the road, and met the rest of our crew at the ProDive shop at 6:30. Here, we checked in and got into a couple of minibuses, heading to the docks. There were 20 divers and about 5 crew members, the perfect amount!
On board the boat we had a welcome breakfast and were introduced to the crew, whilst being informed of how the few days would go, any rules we needed to know, and general health and safety. Sea-sickness tablets and breakfast consumed, we set off for about 3 hours of sailing to reach the reef!
I started off the journey okay, the tablets were doing their job, we were warming up to each other and getting used to the boat. Then it began. Now, I’ve suffered from travel sickness for as long as I can remember. This hasn’t stopped me from travelling; in cars, boats, and planes. In recent years, I thought I was getting better and not suffering as much. Turns out I was very VERY wrong… The choppy seas are still my enemy, and it wasn’t long before I was throwing up into paper bags and tossing them over the side of the boat. I would say this was for about 2&½ hours out of the 3 we were sailing – poor Tom, he did well in looking after me, especially as we’d never been ill in front of each other before!
We eventually made it to our destination, and the swell had settled to be slight movement, just like my stomach. It was time – our first dive of the trip!! I was super nervous, super excited, and also still feeling slightly queasy… My buddy was an awesome Canadian called Taz who was brilliant at helping me into my wet suit and kit and keeping me calm!
James, our instructor, gave us a briefing before we got into the water; we had some skills to complete.
Our first dive was at a reef called Flynn Reef – Tracies. We’d recapped how to get into the water, however that didn’t stop me from losing my goggles and having to be rescued by James so that I could see properly! Skills we had to achieve were cramp release, tired diver tow, regulator exchange and weight system replace. All were successfully completed!
A yummy lunch was provided, however I wasn’t able to eat much due to the queasiness. Afterwards we had our second dive at the same dive site, where we continued with our skills by removing our masks underwater, clearing our masks, and performing a 5 point ascent. The rest of the dive was an exploration dive, getting our buoyancy’s under control, looking around, seeing what fish and creatures we could find!
After a snack and chill back on board the boat, the already qualified divers headed off for their third dive, whilst us trainees had a snorkel around the reef. It was fun to have a nosey around however I didn’t last long – the surface felt very choppy and brought my sea sickness back so I had to get back onto solid, if still slightly moving, land.
I’m gonna be honest, I would love to tell you what all the meals were but I was so overcome by sea-sickness that I blocked most of them out. I do remember a yummy meat pie, and I think at one point there were jacket potatoes, salad, and maybe some mac and cheese! It genuinely was all very tasty; we had a very good French chef!
Dinner was consumed, log books were completed, and preparations were made – the qualified divers were off on their first night dive! We were at the same dive site as the afternoon so they had begun to familiarise themselves with it, however it was still to be guided by an instructor as the dark can be disorientating. They were given little torches, and we watched from the safety of the boat as their lights grew fainter and fainter!
To try and feel better, I positioned myself out on the dive deck and had a good chat with Jess whilst the others were diving. It was great to meet other travellers and socialise with people, even if I was looking a little green!
The night divers all reappeared, thoroughly pleased with their experience under the sea, and began to relax for the evening, grabbing some drinks and getting ready for bed. I was still trying to calm my stomach outside, in my warmest clothes of joggers and jumper. Tom came to see how I was doing, and provided me with another sea sickness tablet to keep me topped up, although they weren’t being much use yet! As a child I was never very good at swallowing tablets, and for some reason, I completely failed taking this one too…
Warning for the faint-hearted, you may want to skip the next paragraph…
The tablet hit the back of my throat and without warning I proceeded to projectile vomit, all over my hands, my clothes, the deck, before being able to leg it to the side of the boat and get the rest out. I promptly burst into tears before Tom ushered me into the toilets on deck to get out of my sicky clothes and clean off. He was a superstar! He grabbed one of the crew who helped clean it up (she assured me I wasn’t the first!) then provided me with some of his clean clothes and a bag for my dirty ones. We got ready for bed and Tom had the brilliant idea of dissolving the tablet in warm water, adding squash and making me drink it! With a tablet safely inside my tummy, and the gentle rock of the boat, I eventually managed to fall asleep.
Sunday 25th August
Day Two – Great Barrier Reef
What better way to wake up than with a cool morning dive! At 6:45 we were awakened by the crew, a quick briefing and we were in the water – Milln Reef, Swimming Pools! The skill to complete for our third dive was Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent which all went smoothly.
Breakfast was nibbled, and the final training dive was at 11, at the same reef (Milln) but a different area, an area called Whale. The last few skills included swimming with a compass, emergency weight drop and helping an unconscious diver out of the water. The good news is we all passed with flying colours!
I still wasn’t able to eat much at lunch however I wasn’t feeling quite as sick. We moved to a new dive site where we had a full divers briefing before being let loose!
Tom and I paired up with his old buddy and we stepped into the water. It was awesome to just swim around and explore; we saw a white tip reef shark, a few turtles, a whipray, went through a pass, and saw lots of fish, including Nemo! We also got disorientated and had to retrace our steps, and I had firsthand experiences with currents and how fast they can move you.
After dinner, with a lovely sunset, we were all able to go and explore on a night dive; previously qualified divers were able to venture out on their own, whilst those who qualified during the day followed an instructor so that we didn’t get lost. We all had a torch which we put on our oxygen tanks so the person behind us could see us. As we descended down the mooring line, we were greeted at the bottom by a Tawny Nurse shark, just having a rest! Throughout the dive, we found Brian the massive turtle, a pufferfish and a crab! It was a bit disorientating but great fun!
Monday 26th August
Day Three – Great Barrier Reef
After a better night’s sleep, we were up at 5:45 for our sunrise dive. This was by far my favourite dive; all the little fishies were waking up for breakfast, and the light was gorgeous. We saw a couple of turtles, swam through a pass and saw another white-tip! A sight which fascinated me was a school of parrotfish. These parrotfish were absolutely massive, with front teeth sticking out. They were all floating above a rock, as if guarding it, the only time they moved was to watch us divers swim past. It was incredible!
Our second dive of the day was at the “Tennis Courts” on Flynn Reef. This time it was just me and Tom together, our third buddy needed a break to recover before the last dive! I found this reef to be very “Finding Nemo”-esque – it was beautiful! We ended up having to cut our wave short; unfortunately we both got cold and were suffering with our ears. This meant we decided not to do the last dive of the trip as it would’ve made our ears worse, so we chilled on the boat with a few others and warmed up!
Once everyone had returned from their final dive, we grabbed some lunch, packed, and set sail back to Cairns. Drew, a fellow newly qualified diver, had bought some travel sickness tablets with him and gave me a couple – they were magic! I survived the whole journey back without being sick, being able to look around, and even managing to spot a whale and some dolphins!
Once we’d docked we unloaded the boat and said our brief goodbyes; we’d made plans to meet for a drink later once we’d all recovered! Tom and I crashed at the hostel; one night on dry land before we begin our journey to Brisbane. After a shower, Tom wasn’t feeling very well so I left him to recover and headed to meet the others! A drink, a pretzel, and some chit chat later, we said our final goodbyes and headed our separate ways.
Being on the boat may have made me sick, but I was still swaying and was deaf in my right ear, so it was the turn of landsickness. Time for bed before our next adventure begins!
For more of our underwater adventures, check out our scuba video!
Next week… Week 10