Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef was a dream come true and a fear conquered all in one unbelievably amazing experience!
If you’re planning on visiting the Great Barrier Reef while in Australia, Cairns is the best city to do that as it’s the closest to the reef! Backpackers World Travel agency helped me find a great deal with one of the best companies called Passions of Paradise who roam the reef in a brand new catamaran.
Our first stop was Flynn reef where we were put into groups of 4 and paired with an instructor. Safety briefs were given on the boat and we had about 10 minutes of practice in the water before going under.
It was a nerve racking experience to begin with, specially with my fear of drowning. It felt very unnatural not to be able to breathe out of my nose and the fact that I could hear every breath so clearly made it more intense. It seemed that I was the only one in my group who had a hard time adjusting to breathing through the oxygen tank as they all went under water on their first try. I would go under, panic, and have to come up for air. I am so thankful for the group’s patience with me as I was getting frustrated myself! Diving in the Great Barrier Reef had been a dream of mine for so long, and I was right there in the water and couldn’t bring myself to do it! I owe the success of conquering my fear to my amazing instructor who was so incredibly patient with me and gave me the best tips on how to calm myself down (shared at the end of this post).
Once we were under water, all my worries and panic was replaced with awe. It was a good thing I was holding on the the mouthpiece for my dear life or it would’ve came out as my jaw dropped to all the underwater serenity. The vibrant colours of the reef are indescribable and no pictures or videos can do it justice. The best way I can put it into words is a flowing fluorescent party with a beautifully deep blue backdrop.
It was surprising to find the wildlife so unfazed by the divers – we were literally swimming with the fish! They were incredibly playful and it was such a delight to watch them swim around us.
We were under water for about 20 minutes and as soon as we came up I knew I wanted to go again. Luckily, the tour offered a second dive at Milln reef which was even more beautiful than the first one! We had about 40 minutes to soak up all the beauty under water and the day was completed with a smooth 2 hour sail back to Cairns.
To say this was one of the most surreal experiences of my life is an understatement. Diving in the Great Barrier Reef opened up a whole new world of wonder that I look forward to experiencing all around the world. Who knows, maybe I’ll become certified while I’m in Australia!
TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
- Don’t spend too much time researching. All companies have very similar itineraries: at least two reef stops and lunch on the boat. Pick a boat that you like, take the Google reviews with a pinch of salt and book it. You are going to have an amazing time no matter what.
- Take a GoPro or rent a camera from the boat if you’re interested in underwater photos. They’re not the best quality but photos taken by the professional underwater photographer are very touristy and look exactly the same for all divers!
- Make sure you haven’t had any alcohol for at least 8 hours before you dive.
- You will not be allowed to dive if you have a flight within 12 hours of a single dive. If you’re planning on doing multiple dives, you will need to wait at least 24 hours before flying .
- No stress if you can’t dive, snorkelers saw just as much as divers did (some even saw more!)
- Make sure to take cash and/or credit cards with you. You will need to pay for levy (mandatory), wetsuits and/or stingray suit, drinks and snacks, photos, camera rental, etc.
- Buy motion sickness pills – you may or may not get seasick but take the pill anyway – it’s better to be safe than sorry 🙂 Most boats will sell them for $3-$5. You can buy them at a pharmacy for cheaper.
- Last but not least, you will be nervous for your first dive and that’s okay. It’s completely normal to feel uneasy at first, take your time and practice before even going under. It’s going to take some time and a few tries to get used to breathing under water. Try to relax and train your mind to focus on the present and the incredible experience you’re about to have. Once you get down there and see the beautiful underwater world you will thank yourself.
GREAT BARRIER REEF TOUR COMPANIES
Most tours will leave Cairns around 8AM and return by 5PM. They make at least two reef stops, sometimes one is on a sand clay. Lunch is served on the boat and is buffet style. You are given flippers and a snorkelling mask but will have to pay extra for wetsuits and/or stingray suites. All prices include one intro dive (about 20-30 minutes under water), you can add second dive at an extra cost.
Island Diver was my initial choice because of the reasonable pricing. A few people from my hostel went on their tour and really enjoyed themselves. Price: AUD$230
Passions of Paradise – what sold me initially was their brand new awesome catamaran (since April 2017) but I would highly recommend them due to the amazing overall experience and their lovely staff! Price: AUD$244
Evolution has very good reviews and affordable pricing. Price: AUD$245
Silverswift is the fastest boat and the smoothest ride. They are the only boat that does 3 reef stops instead of 2. Price: AUD$297.50
Ocean Freedom offers 2:1 student to instructor ratio which can be extremely helpful if you’re a little nervous about your first diving experience. Price: AUD$310
If you’re looking to become certified, Pro Dive Cairns is one of the best companies for diving lessons. Check their website for pricing.