A relaxing night spent in Mission Beach was followed by an early morning sky dive for my brother. I opted out of this one as it wasn’t as high as the one I did in New Zealand, and I decided against the extra expense this time around. he had an absolute blast though. Proud of this kid for taking the leap and loving every second of it!
As Jared cooled down from his adrenaline high we continued our journey to Cairns. We made a couple stops along the way to check out the endangered cassowary that was making his way along the road side. We were all hesitant to get out of the car as these strange birds are capable of taking out humans with their large talons. Watching this strangely beautiful bird was an experience though and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see one in the wild.
Our next stop on the travel was Paronella Park. José Paronella of Spain arrived in Australia and chose and purchased the land in 1929. He began building and did not stop until his project was completed and opened for public enjoyment in 1935. It would have been truly magnificent upon completion, but unfortunately, the beautiful structure is crumbling and now many areas are closed to public. It was still definitely worth a visit though.
When we finally reached Cairns we checked in to Asylum hostel, where I had stayed on my previous visits to Cairns. It does not have the best ratings for cleanliness or quietness, but I have never heard a complaint from someone who has stayed there. Asylum is one of those hostels where the backpackers love to mix and mingle. We were greeted by every person we passed on our way to the front desk and the mingling continued for the length of our stay. The first night though, was an early night for Jared and I. We had the reef to dive in the morning.
The drive to Port Douglas took roughly one hour from Cairns. It was another beautiful morning and I knew it would be a great day. I hadn’t been diving in Australia yet, but I knew I would not be disappointed with the Great Barrier Reef.
Matt, who we had met up with a couple days prior, had suggested the Silver Sonic dive trip. He had a friend who has been working years on the reef and claims this to be one of the best one day dive trips in the area. We decided to take his advice and I was not disappointed.
When Jared and I boarded we were handed our paperwork to fill out and a ticket showing we had paid to do three dives that day. Once we finished with our forms we sat back and enjoyed the hour and a half ride out to the first dive spot.
All of our dives were on Agincourt reef but the first dive, at Gary’s Gut, was definitely my favourite. Jared had said the dive trip he had done a couple months earlier had a fair bit of areas with dead coral. Gary’s Gut was all healthy and teeming with aquatic life. I was all over the place, following every school of fish, stopping mid-swim to just stare at a certain bit of coral or just stare into the blue abyss that surrounded me.
We saw two sharks on the first dive, luckily nothing looking to kill though, not kill us anyway. There was also a giant clam which I just couldn’t stop myself from swimming down to. I gave in to temptation and reached my hand down, touching it, having to know the textures. The clam closed, sending a rush of water out. I sat and watched a little while longer as it opened back up, before I was ushered along by our dive guide.
The second dive at Just Magic, and the third at Helms Deep, were both drift dives. With these two dives we were dropped off at a starting point and the boat continued down the ocean to their stop point. We settled into a current and were sent drifting through the ocean, passing along the reef without effort.
Just Magic was my first drift dive, and was a neat experience. I enjoyed being softly swept along, watching the reef slowly pass by. Helms Deep however, wasn’t exactly my idea of a good dive. Again, it was a drift dive, but in a much stronger current. We were pushed along too quickly for my liking, as I was unable to stop and examine things, appreciate the details. I barely had a look before I was swept to the next part of the reef. It felt much like being in a car on the highway, a glimpse of everything, but no way to slow down enough to take a second look. I’m sure my dive guide didn’t mind though, as she didn’t have to remind me to keep up.
Between dives we had the chance to strip off our tanks and go for a snorkel. Jared and I were impossible to get out of the water. As soon as one dive was done we were back in the water to check out the shallow patches. Colour is absorbed the deeper into the waters you venture, but at the surface everything is still so bright and colourful, it was like a whole different experience. I swam around in water only a foot deep in places, watching even the tiniest fish go about their lives. The colours of the coral and the creatures swimming about was stunning. People often say that snorkelling the reef is better than diving it, I can’t fully agree with that, but I don’t disagree either. I loved the dives and seeing many things you cannot from the surface, however, there is still so much life to see at the surface if you are not a diver or choose the cheaper snorkelling option, you’re still in for an incredible time!
If I were to go on another dive trip of the reef I would be more likely to choose one without the dive guides. Not going in a group allows you to stop and look at all the little things, poke around more, and not worry about eight other divers scaring everything away before you get to see it. Jared and I also ended each dive with half a tank of air left. If we had been on a dive trip without groups then we would have been able to extend our dives by a fair bit, instead of having to resurface due to others in the group exhausting their air supply.
Overall the day was fantastic, and by the end of it I was exhausted. I loved the day and enjoyed being able to spend the time with my brother after being away for so long. We relaxed for the ride back to shore where Darcy was waiting to drive two tired Canadians back to Cairns.