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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Swimming with reef sharks

The final leg of my Australian trip began as I landed in Cairns at 7:30pm after a 12 hour trip from Surfer’s Paradise. I was here for one thing and one thing only; the Great Barrier Reef and to get some diving done.

Cairns City Centre
Having checked in at my hostel and slept off the journey, I awoke to explore Cairns, which is pretty much the Queenstown of Australia. You can do anything here; Bungee Jump with AJ Hackett (the purveyors of my Auckland Bridge Jump), skydive the beach, head in to the rainforest, white water raft or head out to the reef. All this means that Cairns itself is pretty devoid of anything to keep you entertained during the day, save the fantastic outdoor pool by the seafront. Cairns lacks a proper beach to speak of, so this is your substitute.

My own BCD for the trip
However this was no matter as I was able to fill my time by reading, sunbathing, watching Junior Dos Santos KO Cain Velasquez and generally bumming around until my 6am pick up on Monday to head out to the reef. Booked through Pro Dive Cairns we departed for 2 nights and 11 dives at 3 different reefs around the whole of the Great Barrier. Sufficed to say that diving that many times in such a short period comes with a lot of accompanied exhaustion. All you do on a Pro Dive trip is eat, sleep and dive. But this is what I came to do and it seemed pointless having my freshly minted PADI qualification and coming all the way to North East Australia if I didn’t get as much diving in as I could. After an initial nervous first couple of dives (still coming to terms with the idea of actually being under 18m of water) I hit my stride and was soon neck deep in sharks, stingrays (not this kind) and sea turtles.

There's sharks in there somewhere
One of the many highlights of the trip was taking my first two night dives. The second night dive involved the crew of the ScubaPro II throwing a load of fish food in to excite the fish around the boat. This had the effect of attracting half a dozen fairly large (1.5 – 2m) reef sharks and the dive, as much as it was, consisted of hanging 5m under the boat and watching as they circled around you, eyeing the fish up for a snack. The best times to see the reef it seems is very early in the morning, when there’s a lot of cleaning going on and schools of fish are everywhere, and late at night when the waters are dark and some creepy critters come out. At one of the dive sites we picked up an interested Green Humphead Parrotfish, which hung around the underside of the boat occasionally giving divers a shock whenever it appeared over their shoulder. I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to the Aquahibian Terror Fish (5 minutes Googling well spent).

After 3 days of intensive diving we returned to land for our final dive – into beer. Our final swansong as a dive group was as chaotic and disgraceful as you’d expect from a group who have spent the last 3 days on a boat or at depths. Sufficed to say my last clear memory is of dancing on a table in the Woolshed.




So onward I travel tomorrow; with a 10am flight to Singapore and the next leg of my journey into the unknown world (to me) of South East Asia. 

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