A long weekend diving in the Great Barrier Reef
The plan was a couple of nights on the outer reef taking in 7 dives including one night dive and a night sleeping on board the dive boat.
We arrived in the sticky tropical heat on Thursday night, dumped our bags at the hostel (somethings don't change) and headed to town. Cairns is a pleasant small town which is a polite way of saying not too exciting. Still there is a man made lagoon for swimming (in an area full of crocs and sharks you need somewhere safe to take a dip) and we managed to find a nice bar to enjoy a cold drink and watch the sunset over the harbour. I'm sure there are worse places to be!
Early the next morning we boarded our boat for the 2 hour trip to the Great Barrier Reef, having had prior experience of dive boats we took appropriate doses of sea sickness meds, an idea which proved well worth it as the bottom deck slowly filled with people clasping sick bags and looking green round the gills.
Our first two dives were off the smaller transfer boat, the water was warm as a bath and the underwater sites just spectacular, fish aplenty with the occasional reef shark and giant sea slugs all against a background of colourful coral. After our dive we also took part in some of the snorkeling with the rest of the boat passengers not diving.
After lunch we moved to the overnight boat where we had two more dives that day including a night dive. The first dive we'd forgotten all navigation skills and ended up swimming a fair way back to the boat above water - not an easy task in the choppy waters. The night dive was made a little more hair raising when just prior to jumping in we looked over the back of the boat to see four or five 6ft reef sharks off swimming where we would shortly be jumping in. After being convinced that they were harmless (terrified of us apparently, the feeling is mutual!) we had a great dive by torchlight.
Our first dive the next day was at 6.30am, briefing at 6am! We had three dives on our second day, each with new surprises and odd looking fish and coral, but there was one thing which alluded us and it was the thing Rosa most wanted to see, a sea turtle. At this point everyone else seemed to had seen one but with our last dive fast approaching we hadn't even had a glimpse.
Lunchtime bought our final dive and our last chance to see our prize, we decided to stick to the shallows, turtle territory. Halfway through the dive we did an about turn and to my surprise (I had given up) there he/she was! Rosa did an underwater squeal, nearly lost her regulator (the bit you need to breathe) and we spent the rest of the dive with an underwater guide, as we followed the turtle where ever it went!
Back on shore that evening we met up with some friends from the boat for some dinner, drinks and a glance at some very strange Cairns locals prowling the bars on a Saturday night.
Sunday our flight left late afternoon so we rented a car for the day and aimed to check out the nearby tablelands, a lush green area peppered with waterfalls, lakes and dairy farms as well as plenty of jungle. After completing the circuit we headed to the airport, earlier than Rosa would have liked but later than I would have, and said Goodbye to Cairns as we headed back to Sydney.