Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef: One of the Natural Wonders of the World
Whenever I hear the words ‘Great Barrier Reef’ my mind fills with incredible images of vast colour and incredible wildlife, on a backdrop of pure blue sea.
It’s easily one of the most famous locations in the whole of Australia, and the world. It is familiar with people from all corners of the globe. It is a purely natural creation and it is also known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Its size is simply incredible. It is hard to put it into perspective, and it can even be seen from space. It is made up of over 2,900 individual reefs, making it the largest reef system in the world. It covers over 2,300km on the coast of Queensland, in north east Australia. It covers areas such as Port Douglas, Cairns and even stretches all the way down to the famous Whitsunday Islands. You are spoilt for choice! These areas are consistently warm all year round and so often provide perfect weather for the experience!
I’d always wondered what it’d be like to do a scuba dive. During our travels in Australia and New Zealand, I’d met many fellow backpackers and travellers who had experienced it once or a few times, and others who were actually certified to dive. Many of them had emphasised what a magical experience it proves to be, it even feels surreal.
It was a warm and bright Autumn day in Cairns when we boarded the Down Under Cruise and Dive ship ready to embark to the Norman and Hastings Reefs respectively. The blue sea looked majestic as the sun shone down and glistened on its surface. The journey took one and a half hours to reach the first dive point which went very quick, I was admiring the view and chatting to other keen divers on board.
We were kitted out with our scuba diving equipment including a wet suit, flippers, mask, snorkel and breathing equipment. I’d never worn full scuba diving gear before and this was an experience in itself. There’s a lot of equipment to ensure the diver’s safety and comfort underwater. We were briefed with what to expect by the enthusiastic and expert staff, taught how to equalise our ears to adapt to the pressure, and shown certain hand signals to use underwater.
This was all very interesting and it was certainly a learning curve for me. Clearly, a lot goes into scuba diving, it is very technical and involves a lot of learning and skill. We were doing an introductory dive, meaning we would be linking arms with other first timers and a professional instructor. It really highlighted how much training goes into reaching certified status. Eventually, it is something I’d love to pursue. Companies such as Down Under Cruise and Dive offer overnight stays on their boats with training given over a few days.
Entering the sea and experiencing my first dive definitely proved to be as exhilarating and memorable as I was hoping. The instructor was very reassuring and dived down with us as we linked his arms. The first fish game into view, all swimming together in a group. The corals looked stunning and it’s hard to believe they are simply creations of nature. The colours of the sea life were just breathtaking.
It was fantastic to master the breathing techniques and equalising methods, and it almost felt like a bit of an achievement. The instructors emphasised the importance of getting this right, but it is quite simple once you get into the rhythm of doing it. It’s all part of the experience!
We then enjoyed a fantastic buffet lunch consisting of different meats, seafood, salad and bread. It was delicious and there was plenty for everyone on board. There must have been at least 50 divers, and this certainly created a lively and excitable atmosphere as we headed to the Hastings Reef.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the snorkelling experience compared to the scuba diving. What would the views be like? Would we get as close-up to the sea life? I was shocked and extremely pleasantly surprised at the views we did get of this stunning location. The reef is so close to the surface of the water that everything was incredibly clear and bright. The sun shone down and highlighted the breathtaking beauty of the fish and their home. Oranges, reds, yellows, blues all intertwined to create a vision of stunning beauty.
The fish don’t seem to be too phased by the company in the water. It is important to treat the reef with huge respect. Touching one coral can kill it. Swimming carefully throughout the reef is harmless to all the sea life. It is a natural creation we should admire and enjoy, whilst being fully aware of the importance of treating it carefully.
During my time in Australia, I visited several landmarks and cities, but the Great Barrier Reef certainly stands out for me. To say I have witnessed it with my own eyes is special, and I will always encourage others to do the same. In the future, I’d love to go back and become a certified diver. It isn’t a surprise so many people complete this qualification, so they can go back regularly. I’m sure every time, their breath is simply taken away.
It was like a scene from a film, or even a cartoon. It was so beautiful, it didn’t seem real. I will never forget how the experience made me feel.
Our day was made even better by the professionalism and caring nature of Down Under Cruise and Dive. The day went very smoothly and I felt we were looked after by experts with years of experience. The boat was large and comfortable, and we were given plenty of time to scuba dive and snorkel. The food provided was also impressive, as was the entertainment throughout (lots of singing)!
This goes down as a stand-out moment during my nine months in Australia.
I will remember it forever.