Tuesday 11th April 2017 – Port Douglas
It has to be one of the most iconic things you can do in Queensland – go diving on the Great Barrier Reef, so Wayne and I dusted off our PADI Certificates and booked a course with Blue Dive in Port Douglas for our first dive for over 10 years.
Seb, our dive instructor from Quebec, picked us up good and early and we joined the Poseidon in the port for the trip to the outer reef. We’d booked 3 dives with one on one tuition as we’d both forgotten more than we’d ever learnt about diving so Seb took us back through all of the basics as the boat went out across the sea.
Gearing up on the back of the boat, fortunately most of what I needed to do started to come back to me, and once we’d put on our stinger suits, and put on weights and the BCG, it was like I’d been diving the week before. Seb was keen to get off the boat before any of the other groups went down, so as the boat anchored at the first stop – the Castle – we were first off the back of the boat and adjusting our buoyancy before most of the rest of the boat had even put their masks on.
The Castle is an amazing dive point, with a large central tower that you can slowly circle down to a depth of 18 meters. It was like Finding Nemo down there, all brightly coloured coral and great big shoals of fish. We saw a white-tipped reef shark sleeping on the bottom about 10 meters away, and at one point a huge Grouper came trundling along for a nose and quietly posed while Seb snapped away with his under water camera.
45 minutes felt like about 5 minutes, there was so much to see – our sleeping shark swam past, clown fish zipped in and out of their anemone homes and giant clam opened and closed sucking in huge amounts of water and splitting it out of his tube. I didn’t want to get out, but we had to go back up onto the boat to refill the tanks and head to the next spot,
A quick zip across the sea to the next dive point and we were at the 3 Sisters – a large coral reef with 3 central towers which at low tide came out of the water. Seb’s plan this time was to dive around the 3 sisters, and then swim the narrow channels between each tower to get a really close view of the reef.
This time we took the plunge off the side of the ship which is a 2m drop which you just have to step into.. not my favourite route in as it’s a bit disorientating when you hit the water but good fun. Down to the diving site we passed a shoal of silver trevally and a single barracuda before hitting the lowest point of the dive and circling the 3 sisters. A highlight of this dive was swimming through the gap between 2 of the towers, being really careful not to touch anything but getting a really close look at the little blue polyps that shot back into the coral skeleton if you disturbed the water too close to them.
Back on the boat we sorted our gear then tucked into the great lunch provided by the crew and lots of water to combat the dehydration. Once lunch was cleared away the captain took us on a 10 minute journey to the next dive spot called the point. Again the brilliant Seb made sure we were the first off the boat and into the water and look us along this coral reef which ends in a sharp drop with strong currents. It’s a much flatter reef and the coral was amazing, blue is really the stand out colour under water and sadly there was some evidence of the bleaching we’d been hearing about showing as white areas of coral where the polyps have died away leaving only the outer calcium skeleton. There was also some stressed coral and stress anemones where they turn an unusual colour – for example an anenome that is normally red was showing as a brilliant white with blue tips. We were told that one good side effect of the cyclone is that it brings up colder water from the south and cools the water temperature that is causing this stress.
Three brilliant dives in really good conditions completely restored our love of diving having had a few bad trips with low visibility 10 years go – so huge thanks to Seb for his patience and to the Great Barrier Reef for still being there and for putting on such an amazing show!