First things first, if you are going to Australia, you absolutely must take time to dive the Great Barrier Reef! If you’re wondering how to visit the Great Barrier Reef, here’s what you need to know.
Cairns (pronounced Cans) is where you go to see the Great Barrier Reef. Pretty much anywhere you go in the downtown area sells different diving options.
I booked a budget option through my hostel for $250 (and that’s considered cheap!). But most tours sold downtown had similar prices and itineraries.
The tour I booked was a day long and also my first time diving. Part of me isn’t sure why I waited to dive until the Great Barrier Reef, it’s kind of like waiting to fly until you can get on a private jet.
Still, I hadn’t had a lot of expectations about what I would see when diving but I was completely blown away by what a lively circus it was.
It was absolutely one of the most beautiful and amazing things I had ever seen.
There are two things I’d do differently if I go back.
Now that you know what NOT to do, here’s what the tour/dive/experience was like…
Coming to Australia, I figured The Great Barrier Reef was a must see. So this morning I got on the boat with a few friends from my hostel and about 70 other people.
There was also the flirtiest crew of dive instructors known to man. The first thing they did was to lead everyone in an orientation on the way out to the reef. The orientation was peppered with adoring comments to women onboard, expressions of appreciation for the invention of bikinis, and jokes towards Asians, Irish, Americans and Germans.
It was hilarious and incredibly inappropriate at times.
Being politically correct is a little different in Australia.
I was doing two dives and snorkeling for the day. When we arrived at the reef I got my snorkel and flippers. I was properly accessorized and filled with dignity, flip-flopping around the ship.
Diving, I realized, is a strange thing because it requires you to work against all your instincts and allow yourself to sink to what my body thought was certain death.
It is also, one of the only times it is beneficial to be mouth-breather.
At first when I went to the ocean floor, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t getting enough air, I was surrounded and trapped by water. It was horrible and I didn’t want to continue. But I kept at it because the Italian instructor kept insisting, “darling, it will get better.”
I mean really, would you stop?
It did get better. I got a little more comfortable and descended again. I told myself not to panic and to breath. I had to consciously do this over and over. Then I saw the reef and it was so magnificent my curiosity overcame my fear and I was fine.
After today, I will never be able to see any color labeled “coral” without thinking how wrong it is.
Coral is not just pink. It is every color and looks like a million different beautiful pastels in all textures from soft and fuzzy to sharp and deadly. There were fish swimming all over and they were as diverse as the coral.
There were electric blue fish, silver fish, black and white fish, anemones, 3 foot clams and polka dot eels. It’s stunning to see. I hadn’t had a lot of expectations about what I would see when diving but I was completely blown away by what a lively circus it was. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful and amazing things I had ever seen.
After two dives I went back to meet up with my friends for snorkeling. I had to laugh at how different cultures on the boat approached the ocean and the sun. The Caucasians were all tanning on the deck in the relentless sun and swimming in the water.
The Asians were marinating in sunscreen. They also had no shame about wearing water wings, even as adults. I saw a grown man wearing water rings and his intertube around his waist while lounging around the boat with his children. Another woman had dived and immediately changed into a glittery, lace sleeved black cocktail dress with a large straw hat. She spent the rest of the day avoiding the sun.
The Asians have completely different standards of normal and are awesome because they rarely seem bashful or embarrassed. It was awesome to watch.
The rest of the day I spent snorkeling, which was surprisingly cool as well. Cool, as long as you don’t mind flopping around the boat in giant flippers and Steve-Erkle style glasses.
I don’t care about this stuff.
However, I did notice the rest of the young females my age preferred to lounge around, working on their tans.
I don’t tan by natural means, so I reasoned that I had better just focus on the reef.
Snorkeling, I could see a lot in the reef which was near the surface. It was sort of mesmerizing. Once you started looking there were so many amazing things I had never seen before that I couldn’t look away. There’s just so much life!
There were schools of fish and lone fish everywhere you looked. The reef itself is alive. It’s funny because sometimes when I’d think a strange type of coral was solid it would move suddenly as I approached.
I was disappointed when we had to come in for the day. I would have gladly spent the next few days there if I’d had the time. It had been one of the most incredible days of the last 8 months of travel.
Here’s the thing, save extra money and spend two days at The Great Barrier Reef!
Spend more if you can!
Don’t worry about being all sexy and getting a tan. Flop around in your fins and own it! Snorkel the hell out of those days.
Also, bring a water-proof camera or rent one. Don’t be as cheap as me!
I mean really, we are there for the oceanic wildlife!
So, that’s it. Now you know how to visit the Great Barrier Reef; where to go, how to book and what prices to expect.
Also, please learn from my mistakes and let me know what you think!