The weather had been drizzly and cool every single day that we’d been in Australia. When we woke up on the morning of our reef trip, Stephen threw open the curtains and shouted with glee. It was sunny and clear. A perfect day! Little did we know it doesn’t really matter if it’s sunny or not; what matters is the wind speed. We walked to the marina to check in for our reef excursion and we were told the wind speed that day was 30 knots. AKA fast. AKA it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. We bought some ginger seasickness tablets and headed to our boat.
We used Reef Magic Cruises. Everyone (like all the other Australians we encountered) on the crew was extremely friendly. We had signed up for scuba diving, helmet diving, and planned to snorkel. I asked one of the crew members about our plans (I was scarrrred.) He assured me that they go over all the information repeatedly and that the dive instructor stays with you the entire time. Nothing to fear.
Once all the passengers had loaded up the boat, we took off for the reef. The location we headed for was 90 minutes away. Almost immediately, the crew members started rounding people up for briefings. Stephen and I joined the scuba briefing. I made sure to listen very carefully to every little thing the instructor said. I wanted to go in prepared.
After about 5 minutes of scuba info (which isn’t very much), I started to feel the rocking of the boat. We must have just gotten outside the marina and the sheltered bay area that Cairns sits on. I felt hot. I felt shaky. I wanted to listen to what was being said, but all I could think was that I was going to get sea sick in my lap.
In an effort to avoid that outcome, I quickly grabbed a barf bag and headed to the back of the boat. There is an outside area that the crew said is the best place to be if you feel sick. (Fresh air plus views of the horizon.) I spent the remainder of the 90 minute trip doubled over with my eyes shut tight. I tossed my cookies twice. No fun.
We arrived at the reef platform (the boat docks there for 5 hours of reef fun) and Stephen and I got into wetsuits. I was worried that I wouldn’t be allowed to scuba (which we’d already paid for) because I missed the briefing. He assured me it was no big deal and filled me in on all that I had missed. The platform, while still rocky, was significantly more stable than the boat. It felt better to be there. I could actually form sentences. (A big improvement over the boat ride!)
I still felt anxious about scuba diving when it was finally our turn. We made our way to the dive end of the platform. The scuba experts put weight belts and oxygen tanks on us. We sat there practicing our breathing until they were ready for us. From there, you walk down a set of stairs directly into the ocean. The scuba instructor was waiting there to review everything we’d practiced. Once he’d decided that we all knew what we were doing, he took us down farther. There were 4 of us (Me, Stephen, and two other people) plus the dive instructor. We all linked arms with the instructor in the middle. He’d point where he wanted us to go, and with arms still linked, we’d swim there together. He pointed out different critters and passed creatures to us to touch.
The reef is so amazing looking. It really looks just like on tv, and I had to remind myself, “This is real!” There were fish darting this way and that. The colors were so bright. The reef has a high diversity of life, and it’s easy to see that in just the little glimpse we got. Thankfully, I felt great during the entire time we were swimming. I just focused on the fishes and the coral and had no troubles.
The only issue I had was that I had no idea how to get water out of my goggles. You are supposed to have a little water in them, but I felt like I had a lot. I tried smooshing the goggles tighter on my face, but that didn’t help at all. (Turns out, that lets more water in. Whoops. I missed this part of the briefing and apparently I was confused when Stephen tried to explain it to me before we went in the water.) Oh well!
After 20 minutes of water time, we surfaced and joined everyone back on the platform. A buffet lunch was served, but I skipped it. Instead, I found a lounger to lay on and put my towel over my face. In what seemed like no time, it was our turn to helmet dive!
I had been really excited about this. It is described as the easiest way to experience the reef. No swimming, no instructional briefing, just stick on this helmet and walk around. When we made our way into the water, I realized that the wind speed had picked up and we were getting majorly sloshed around. No me gusta. I tried to be a trooper and put my helmet on and made my way underwater. There was a walkway for us to follow and hold onto. Meanwhile, the scuba instructor had his scuba gear on and led us around.
Even underwater, you can feel the waves. We were getting tossed this way and that. After so many hours of already getting thrashed around, I couldn’t handle much more. I looked at Stephen with terror on my face. You can’t really talk with the helmets on, but he knew what I meant. He signaled to the scuba instructor that my stomach hurt, and we started to make our way back to the platform. Before I could get to the stairs, I threw up in my helmet. Most of it was dry heaves as this was actually my 4th time to get sick that day. I gotta tell you, throwing up underwater is a unique experience.
I was bummed that we had to cut our helmet dive short, but I really had no choice. I felt like crap. We returned to the platform where I reclaimed my spot on the lounger. Stephen took a few snorkel trips out on the reef without me. When it was time to reboard our boat, I was happy to know that all that stood between me and dry land was a 90 minute boat ride.
We spent the entire ride home sitting on the back seasick area of the boat. I kept my head down and it went by fast. I cannot say enough how nice the crew was. They would bring out barf bags, dispose of the nasty ones, they had trays of water and cups with ice. I even saw them rubbing people’s backs and walking them from place to place. Seriously the nicest people ever.
Stephen did a great job of babying me. I was pretty pitiful, but he didn’t even make me feel bad about it. Despite how sick I felt for 95% of our time on this trip, it was all worth it for our time scuba diving. The Great Barrier Reef is one of those once in a life time things, and I had to see it for myself. Now that my stomach is no longer illing, it’s easy to look back and laugh.
If you want to see a video of our view during the scuba dive, click here. Stephen took his GoPro camera and filmed the whole thing.
Next up, our trip to Green Island and we say goodbye to Australia.*