Not Quite 30,000 leagues under the sea - but far enough for us

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Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Cairns
May 21st 2008
Published: May 21st 2008
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As you are probably aware if you have been following the blogs along with our journey, you will note that Grae and I have been super lazy recently and haven't writtena blog for ages, so now we have a little time in a clean air conditioned internet cafe, Grae will write about the week we had on the Sunshine Coast with J & Helen, and I'll write about the week we had in Cairns, the Barrier Reef and Clifton Beach.

Starting with the worst flight Grae and I have had so far, it was only 1.5 hours from Brisbane to Cairns but as soon as we took off the pilot told us we had to drop 2 thousand feet to avoid a storm overhead. As he did this we hit really bad turbulence and as I had a window seat at the very back of the plane I could quite clearly see the wing bending to extermes every time we dropped out of the sky. As Grae had his eyes closed and was pretending everything was ok I had to make eye contact with the Chinese man sitting next to him to reassure myself I wasn't about to die - he wasn't very encouraging, but it passed eventually, and we lived to tell the tale.

We stayed at the lakes resort in Cairns, which was a stroke of genius on my part I have to say, as it was pure luxury. We had three sleeps there while we were doing our Padi open water qualification in the pool. then on the thrid day it was off to the Great Barrier Reef. We had been pretty much scared to death by the dive staff and local marine biologist that the trip out onto the reef normally enduced severe sea sickness in at leat half the passengers. So Grae and I had taken our sea sickness pills and were good to go. If not very aprehensive. I know it sounds fantastic - Diving on the Great Barrier Reef, but as we are getting on a bit now, new challenges are very scary and Grae has a real fear of sharks, of which there are many on the reef. Anyway, the trip out was very bumpy, the boat was listing pretty badly so we stayed up top in the freash air and we were fine, there was only one person on our boat who got sea sick. - All the better for baiting the fish with (Apparantly they love puke)

So as soon as we arrived it was out onto the back deck, set up our own dive gear and get into the snugest fitting wetsuit you could imagine and thats it, jump off the boat and go to the sea floor where I have to then have my oxygen supply taken away friom me and I have to be able to find it again all without panicking. Needless to say - I was panicking. I really didn't enjoy the "skills" we had to do in a small warm shallow pool, but now we have to do it on the bottom of the ocean !!!!!! now this is scary stuff, and Grae and I are buddy's so we really have to trust each other and look after each other too.

So we manage the dive ok, and the skills too, in the end it wasn't nearly as scary as I had built up in my head and it was pretty cool to be floating weightless under the water. So we had another dive and practice of different skills after lunch, then a snorkel - which was absolutly beautiful, we could actually go check out the reef rather than sit on the sand at the bottom, pouring salt water into my mask. The snorkel really bolstered us, and showed us that we were doing something worthwhile. When we were qualified divers we were allowed to go and swim right next to the reef !

After the snorkel we had dinner and the divers that were already qualified on our boat were allowed to go on an unaccompanied night dive. So they baited the back of the bot with the scraps off everyones plates and then about 6 divers jumped into the pitch black water, wow they were brave.... but hold on were doing that tomorrow ! They didn't see any sharks unfortunatly but there were some big fish, and they said they could really see the Coral feeding wich is beautiful.

Next day, to count we have done two ocean dives and I have put on and off that wet suit twice - it was soo tight I actually rubbed the skin off my finger tips trying to pull it up. That was the only bad thing for me of the whole trip. We have another training dive at like 7 am where we do more skills. Then the boat moved to a new dive site and we did that last dive before becoming a qualified diver. It was a navigation dive, we had to find our way back to our instructor using a compass under water. Which we managed fine - quite easy really as we went in a straight line ! We also saw octopus on this dive which is apparantly very rare to spot, when I was looking at it I didn't even know what it was ! So Grae and I passed and are qualified to dive by ourselves to 18 meters. From here it gets just amazing, the training dives were about using and knowing different skills so that should something happen we would know what to do. So they were no fun really just stressful.

Our first dive by ourselves and we got lost, we were given a brief on land, and told what compass direction to head out on, what markers to look for and how to come back, but we got too low on air to reach the first marker and had to head back, it was find we came up not far from the boat, but we didn't manage to see much really, just lots of fish and clams etc. (Other people had seen Sharks and turtles) It was a little dissapointing but an amazing experience. Most other groups came up alot father away from the boat than us but that is because they didn't come back when they had started to run low on air.

The next dive we stayed close to another couple Sarah and Rich (Just friends) who were from England and alot of fun. We dived along the edge of a coral cliff, this was beautiful, so much to see and such little time. We get about 30 mins max before mine or Graes air runs out and we have to surface, when you get experienced you are able to breathe better to conserve your air, Grae is also quite big - so big lungs and therefore he uses more air than most people on our dive. But we saw a giant clam and a large shoal of black fish swam right past us.

Final dive of the day was the night dive,
View from GondolaView from GondolaView from Gondola

This is the view from the gondola looking back toward the coast, you can see Clifton Beach and Green Island in the distance.
and we had moved to a site that was specifically for seeing sharks and turtles, so Grae and I and the rest of the newly qualified divers were really quite scared, but I was first to jump in the water (Having been last every single time before Grae and I figured out later this was because everyone else was stalling !) There were no sharks swimming around, but it was so pitch black I could barley see in my flash light beam anyway, so there could have been but we just couldn't see them ! There were however some massive fish that were sitting just under the boat, having just fed on our scraps.
So we decend on the pitch black down to about 12 meters and everyone stays so bunched up together that we kept on bumping into one another. It was over so fast that I dont really remeber much, but we were down there for about 30 mins. We did see a crayfish, which if you saw how and how fast it can swim you would think was disgusting !! Backwards with it's tentacles all behind it, it really bummed me out !

The other group
Cairns Birdwing ButterflyCairns Birdwing ButterflyCairns Birdwing Butterfly

This is the biggest butterfly they had at the sanctuary
saw shark again, but we didn't. It was about the 5th time they had seen shark though so they wern't too fased. What an amazing experience, it was fabulous, and very difficult to put into words.

The next day we had to squeeze in 3 more dives before 11:30 am, so we were up at 10 to 5 am, had our briefing and were in the water by 5:45 am, we swam out to a reef on the surface and free decended to the reef, and lone and behold we finally spotted the elusive White tip reef shark, the poor thing was having a snooze at the bottom of the ocean and then about 15 divers all headed it's way. I got a couple of good shots before it was scared and swam off. Then as I was just trying to equalise and head in the oposite direction it came back minus about 10 divers and swam right towards Grae and I, and as I'm taking pics I realise it is actually getting a bit too close for comfort now, it swam right for us and then veered off and settled down on the bottom again. Then all the
Macaw on Grae's shoulderMacaw on Grae's shoulderMacaw on Grae's shoulder

Grae got his nuts out when we got in there and all of a sudden there were birds all over him !
divers spotted it had come back and headed over again and scared it off again. After that we were pretty pleased with ourselves and after a quick look around the reef nearby for the Clownfish we headed to the surface to do our 5 m safety stop and then get out. But right below us followed by about 10 divers was a turtle. It was so majestic swimming along and so powerful too. We couldn't go back down though as we were mid safety stop so we just watched it from above. - Wow what a dive, a shark and a turtle !

Two more dives after this which were beautiful - giant clams and star fish and shoals of fish and Grae saw another shark in the distance. Our confidence has grown so much, and we are looking forward to Palau to dive there.

We then headed back to Cairns on the boat, which was almost as bumpy going back as it was coming out, and we were fine even though we hadn't taken our sea sickness pills. So we must have good sea faring tums. We then got a lift to our next stop which was Clifton Beach, just a half hours walk from Palm Cove. That evening however we headed back into Cairns to meet up with everyone on the dive course and a fun night was had by all.

Much of our time in Clifton Beach was relaxing, we couldn't go swimming as the beach has most of the most dangerous jellyfish in the world and sharks oh and salt water crocodiles too, so needles to say we didn't fancy a dip in the sea much. But the area was really beautiful and well worth a visit. We also took a ride in a gondola over the rainforest to a place called Kuranda, where we went to a butterfly sanctuary, koala sanctuary and bird sanctuary. All good fun stuff to do, but boring to read about so I'll skip it.

That was pretty much it for the last part of our stay in Australia and then we were headed to the Phillipines and their capital Manila.


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