Great Barrier Reef: First Scuba-Diving Experience
In the morning, we drove to the port and sailed out to the sea with our tour operator Poseidon Outer Reef Cruise. During our Australian trip, we actually went on two Great Barrier Reef cruise ships, each departed from two different cities. We sailed out twice because we wanted to explore different parts of the Reef. Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef in the world spanning over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (according to the Department of Environment and Heritage). Therefore, we believed that sailing out twice would allow us to see different kinds of fish. Also, since we were in Australia, why not dive twice in one of the seven natural wonders of the world?
Poseidon Outer Reef Cruise is an amazing company and the staffs were all professional. From Port Douglas, the cruise sailed for approximately 2 hours to arrive at Agincourt Reef. The tour had three separate stops at three different sites of Agincourt Reef. The basic tour package provides visitors unlimited time of snorkelling on all sites of Agincourt Reef. If you want to scuba dive, you will have to pay $60 extra for the first dive, and then $40 for the second dive. If you have never dived before, you do not have to worry as they will give you a one-hour crash course on scuba diving. Afterwards, you are required to past a written test to demonstrate your understanding of the basics, such as pressure equalization, breathing, hand gestures etc. On this ship, there were only 7 introductory scuba-divers, which meant that all 7 divers were able to get enough attention and service from the staff – it was very nice and divers did not feel pressured.
Afterwards, they would hand you half wet suits, flippers and eye goggles. This is how you would look like.
I must stress the importance between wearing a half wet suit and a full body wet suit. These wet suits (at least in Great Barrier Reef) are not for thermal protection but rather for UV protection. Since I was wearing a half wet suit (as shown above), I got a really bad sun burn on my legs and it was not fun for the next 7 days. Word of warning: If you plan on going to Great Barrier Reef, please wear a full body wet suit.
If you want to see how green the sea was, see for yourself.
Unfortunately, I did not scuba dive and I only snorkeled in the Agincourt Reef. Though, I was still able to see an astonishing amount of fish while snorkeling in Agincourt Reef. This included clown fish (Nemo!), yellow tank, blue tank, sea cucumber and a shark! (Note: I did my scuba diving on my second Great Barrier Reef trip departing from Cairns.)
Here is some footage that I took from Yale’s Go Pro during my snorkel.
If you wonder what a sea cucumber is, here is one.
I must say that the temperature of the water was not too cold. It was not warm either but if you swam around the sea, you would be able to generate enough body heat to keep you warm. On the ship deck, the staff educated us about the formation of the reef and the ecosystem. They even provided us with a guided snorkeling tour for free! Overall, I was impressed with the service and professionalism of the staff.
After completing our first Great Barrier Reef tour, we drove down south for about an hour to Cairns. On our beautiful ride, we were able to see this kind of view.
At night, we ate at a restaurant with a 40% discount coupon. The restaurant was doing a promotion and gave all local hostels discount coupons to attract new customers. Capitalizing on this opportunity, I ordered a large lamb shack for only $15! Keep in mind that Australian food in general is more expensive than in Canada. I had to pay on average $30 for dinner and $17 for lunch in Australia. Tere is a picture of my lamb shack.
The same night while eating at the restaurant, they were playing Australian Football (short form “Footy”) on TV and I was able to learn the sport. According to Yale, Footy is treated like a religion in Australia. That night, they were playing the preliminary final game of the Australian Football League (“AFL”). It was a game between Hawthorn Hawks and Port Adelaide FC. This sport is very different from soccer, rugby or American football. First of all, the venue is in an oval shape. Second, the field has 18 players from each side at all times (that’s about 36 players on the field!). Third, players are allowed to kick, handball and run with the ball, with very specific rules. The rules to explain this game is rather long. If you really want to learn about Footy, please read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_rules_football
To simplify the rules: The main way to score points is to kick the ball between two tall posts. Possession of the ball is in dispute at all times. A player can transfer the ball to his teammate via a kick. If his teammate is able to catch the ball from his teammate’s kick, he is awarded undisputed possession. An alternative way to transfer the ball is a process called handpass. It is not a throw, but a process where the player holds the ball with one hand and punches the ball with the other hand. The pace of this sport is extremely fast. The rules of the game allow for frequent physical contacts.
Thankfully, after Yale’s explanation on the sport, I was able to get the gist of the game.