Saturday, April 9, 2011

Looking for Nemo at the Great Barrier Reef

From Tasmania and Melbourne, we took a plane up to Cairns, the main base to go explore the barrier reef. As we boarded the plane we realized that we probably wouldn't need any sweater anymore until the end of the summer in France, since most of the places we are scheduled to go to have temperatures that wil be 30C degrees at the minimum.

Our favorite underwater animal

We were not in Cairns for long and the core of our adventure there was the 2 days we spent aboard the Encounter boat. We chose this option because we didn't want to fly in for just a single day of snorkeling or diving. The problem is that the reef is out to sea and you need a boat to take you to the different places to be able to admire the underwater sea life. Denise chose to do one dive and snorkel the rest of the trip, which means that she'd have the opportunity to snorkel 6 times over the 2 days. I chose the full scuba diving introduction, which means that I went diving a total of 5 times, always with an instructor, but without really taking any class. Since we had only two days we couldn't do a certification course which takes 3 days minimum.

We took off in the morning on the boat that carries all the tourists who do a one-day adventure and after a couple hours at sea  we reached the bigger boat that was going to be our home for the night. We switched over and went out for a first snorkeling exploration.

Our first shark

Parrot fish

Doesn't look like it, but this guy was huge
 After lunch Denise joined me for the first introductory scuba dive. It was a perfect way to figure out if we liked it and if we would be interested in taking our certification later (as a matter of fact we will get certified on the Gili Islands, off of Bali)

Like my new hair?

The divers among you already know this, but being able to breathe under water is really amazing. For some reason, maybe because of the sound it makes, I always thought that the process was a little laborious and you had to inhale and exhale strongly, but it really is just a walk in the park, and something worth trying if you're in a place where the marine life is worth exploring.

Life on the boat was driven by the dives which are spread during the day. We had our own cabin with ocean view (hard to get anything else really :).  I realized that it was the first time I was spending the night on a boat, out in the ocean. The movements of the boat where like a lullaby when it was time to go to bed, not so much when we were trying to eat. The funny part is: once we were back on shore we still had the impression that the ground was moving like the boat was; it was pretty strange!

Sunset on the ocean
And so the 2 days went, puncutated by our water outings. Denise didn't do any more dives but went snorkeling each time, while I didn't miss a single occasion to go diving, even at 6:30am while the sun was rising.

Sunrise the following day
The subsequent dives allowed me to learn a little more about the different controls and gauges. The most simple but helpful thing for me was how to use your lungs as a way to go up or down. In my first 2 dives I had a lot of trouble controling my depth and was always worried about touching the coral below me for example, while the instructor never used his arms and was gliding effortlessly in any direction. Once he explained that when you want to slightly go up you simply fill up your lungs with air (and empty them when you want to go down) everything suddenly became easy.

Towards the end of the first day, and for most of the second day, the weather was pretty windy, which means that there were enough waves in the surface to make the snorkeling a little more difficult and reduce the visibility a little. It changed a lot for the last snorkeling outing when the water was a lot more quiet.

Great visibility!

Murky day

Of course we saw plenty of fish (for which i'm sorry to say but we don't have the names), yellow, red, blue, green, pink, white, black, small, big, huge... but also some sharks and some big friendly turtles.

Sharks tend to leave as soon as they see you pay interest

This one surfaced right in front of Denise

Sea cucumber

Clown fish! (they're not that funny)

More clownfish


Everything is so quiet down there, I can see how you would want to go out for a few days and explore different parts of the reef. Basically, we had an awesome time and are now looking forward to our diving certification in Bali.

If you want to see even more cute underwater animals, go see our photos here.

View Australia - Cairns in a larger map

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