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Published: November 17th 2015
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the world, the top of many people's bucket list, one of Australia's biggest tourist attractions and something we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to do. We were excited to go and see what all the fuss was about. We compared options and discovered they were different degrees of expensive for similar experiences. We chose one and booked online, paying $400 for both of us. We were very excited at the prospect of diving on the reef, even though it never featured on our must-do lists.
We arrived at the Cairns Reef Terminal just on time and were directed onto our boat, the Osprey V. The brochure made it sound like a huge, luxurious cruise ship. We were disappointed by how small it was and concerned by the huge crowds.
The ship set off and we were soon speeding beyond the harbour wall out into the open ocean and the reef. We were gathered for a diving briefing where we had to waive all right of recourse against the dive company in case of dismemberment or death. The briefing took place in a stiflingly hot room. This, combined
with the rocking of the boat, left me feeling extremely seasick - an affliction which was with me all day.
Lindsey and I were in the second dive group. The theory was that we would suit up, do a couple of simple exercises to ensure we could survive under water and then would link arms with our instructor and the other participants and go see the wonders of the reef.
We went to the back of the ship and I had a weighted belt strapped uncomfortably across my sternum. Then a heavy oxygen tank was strapped to my back. I added flippers and mask and was ready to go. We sat waiting nervously but trying to appear completely relaxed. Soon we were called. I watched Lindsey take the plunge and I followed quickly after her. I grabbed hold of the railing as I was supposed to and prepared myself to go under. I went down once and came back up immediately - I felt like I was suffocating. I tried again and this time got a face full of bubbles and the same suffocating feeling. I went back to the surface and spoke to the dive assistant. He
was not at all helpful. I tried again, and again and again. No one was offering me any help and the feeling of suffocating was getting worse each time. After five attempts I decided that this was not for me. I desperately wanted to give the expensive camera we'd hired to Lindsey so she could benefit from it but she had already gone under. Worried that she wouldn't know what had happened to me, and about the risk of her dismemberment or death, I waited on the ship. By this time I was feeling quite queasy and it felt like the rocking was getting worse.
Lindsey came back up and I desperately wanted to hear about the amazing experience she'd had. Sadly she was quite subdued and used hardly any adjectives to describe what she'd seen. I felt like I'd missed out and now couldn't even find out what I'd missed. Even worse, I was hoping the company would transfer my dive to Lindsey so she would get to do it again but they wouldn't do this.
After a while we went for a snorkel. This had the benefit of relieving my seasickness. I struggled for about twenty
minutes to get the hang of it but then I started to really enjoy it. I saw the coral, which looked quite washed out, and a few brightly coloured fish. Sadly, I was just getting the hang of it when we were called back to the boat so we could move to the next location.
Lunch was served but, as I felt like I was going to throw up, I contented myself with a slice of bread. Everyone else was tucking into steaks and sausages and I felt jealous. By the time we got to the next reef I was completely miserable. My spirits lifted though when we could go snorkelling again. Here the reef was shallower and the fish more abundant.
Soon we were called back for the semi-submersible tour we had booked on. This involved me going into a stifling underwater chamber which someone was driving along the edge of the reef. Someone gave the lamest commentary ever - on the level of "it's a blue fish". By the time the boat docked I was almost green with sickness. I'm sure there were many fascinating things to see on the tour but I couldn't concentrate on
any of them.
We went for another quick snorkel and then it was time to go back. I braced myself for another eighty minutes of rocking and we set off. I couldn't get off the boat soon enough and felt immediately better when I got onto dry land. I was just desperately hungry.
We went into Cairns, to the night market, and bought a big box of Chinese food which really hit the spot. Then we had a lovely night-time swim in the warm lagoon. At least the day had a happy ending.
When I got home I discovered that my shoulders were going very red. I had awful sunburn across my whole back, chest and upper arms. It took days of painful itchiness to heal.
Sadly, my memories of the Great Barrier Reef are mainly sickness, pain and suffocation. Still, the world has plenty more wonders which I may be more suited to exploring, especially those on terra firma.
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