Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Nov 12, 2011

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Where I stayed
Coral Beach Lodge Port Douglas
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Monday, February 14, 2011

I had the most amazing day today! I got to fulfill a life dream and SCUBA dive in the Great Barrier Reef!  I was picked up by Aristocat diving company at 8:30am, boarded the ship and we were off by 9am.  There were about 45 passengers on board, when their full capacity is 90, so we had plenty of space to move around on the boat and in the water. 

It took about an hour to get out to our first dive site which is called Halloween in the Light reef.  It was a good refresher for me because this is the first time I've been diving in about 6 years.   I wasn’t too confident that I would remember everything I was taught in diving school, but after the first dive I felt much better.  Our dive master Lucy was excellent and went over a few skill tests with us in the water just to make sure we all knew what we were doing.  The first dive brought us down to about 17 meters (about 50 feet) and we saw a blue spotted stingray, a giant clam and some clownfish.  I was under water for 31 minutes before making my way back on to the boat. 

I was partnered with Anna, Lisa’s rommmate, for the first dive, which was also good because she is a dive instructor, so was able to give me a quick refresher before we went under.  She decided to sit out the second dive though to snorkel instead, so I was partnered with a guy named Rick from Seattle.  I’m so glad I didn’t skip the second dive! 

We reached our second dive site, Advanced in Agincourt 1 reef, about 20 minutes after leaving Halloween and we got straight in the water.  We were in for only about 10 minutes before I looked back and saw a hammerhead shark only about 5 meters (15 feet) away from me, and coming straight at me!  I was lucky enough to get a quick picture off before turning around and getting the heck out of there.  As soon as I turned away to head off, the shark did the same, so luckily for me that’s as exciting as this story gets.  We continued on under water for another 20 minutes to see some sea squirts, feather sea stars, thousands of bait fish, a barracuda and some clamfish.  Of course, when we surfaced the only thing anyone was talking about was the hammerhead.  It turns out that none of the dive masters on the boat had EVER seen one in the wild, and some of them had been doing this for years!  I hadn’t realized just how lucky we were until I heard that.  Also, it turned out that I was the only one in the group to get a picture of it that was good enough to tell it was a hammerhead.  Everyone on the dive team and some of the crew took copies of my picture, and I was quite happy to oblige.

I had a good lunch on the boat, and then waited about a half hour until we reached our next dive site within the same reef.  The third was called Whaler.  This was by far the most colorful dive we had of the day.  There was a tremendous number of colorful fish and some interesting looking coral.  We ran into a Malabar Cod that the Aristocat have named "Axel" which was about the size of me!  It was very friendly and curious so he kept swimming around us and coming close enough for us to pet him.  We also saw three lion fish which are absolutely stunning, but are deadly poisonous if you touch them.  I got in for a few close pictures, but made sure to keep enough distance not to die.  We encountered another shark on this dive but it was just a whitetip reef shark, which are mainly harmless to humans.  The dive finished off with seeing some trevally and sweetlips before coming to the surface after 42 minutes at the bottom.  About 10 minutes after getting back on the boat, a small whale shark came to pay a visit.  I say it was small, but I should really say it was young, it was about 20 feet long.  It was right up next to the boat and a few of the dive masters got in the water to play with it.  It made a few loops around next to the boat and then headed downward.  It was another very rare sighting for a diving trip, so we were very very lucky today!

The whole trip was spectacular!  It definitely beats the heck out of diving in Johnston, Rhode Island when the water was 42*F (5*C).  The company Aristocat were phenomenal.  Everyone in the crew was helpful.  The guide (Lucy) was excellent making sure to point out things in the water and writing them down on a marker board so we knew what we were looking for.  I sat on the boat for the hour ride back just thinking about how amazing that experience had been and hoping I get the chance to do it again before I leave Oz.

I got back to the hostel at about 5pm, got a shower and dressed before heading out for dinner.  Anna is leaving tomorrow to head up to Daintree and Lisa and I will be sticking around Port Douglas for an extra night because Mission Beach is such a mess from the cyclone.  We had a good dinner to celebrate my return to the underwater world and said our goodbye’s to Anna.  After that day of excitement I am exhausted and need a good night’s rest!
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Dad on

Wow what a fantastic experience. Good for you Eric, glad the hammerhead stayed his distance! Great pictures. I can see why you'd want to do it again. Great blog , I really look forward to reading it . Talk soon!

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