Have you ever been scuba-diving? Either have a scuba license or did an introduction dive with an instructor in some random place at some random time?
Then you simply can’t visit Australia without diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
If you want to visit Great Barrier Reef, and plan to go diving somewhere else in the world afterwards, I’d suggest that you DON’T dive with Pro Dive Cairns, because after this experience, no other diving trip will ever be good enough!
When I booked my ticket to fly to Australia, scuba diving was my number one priority. Diving isn’t cheap and if you want to really discover the reef, one dive is not nearly enough. So I decided to first fly to Cairns to get the expensive stuff out of the way, before seeing the rest of Australia. This gave me the opportunity to go all-out on my diving trip, and afterwards I’d know exactly how much money I had left for the rest of my holiday. That was pretty much all the planning I was willing to do before boarding the plane.
What to choose?
So I went online and looked at different companies based in Cairns. You can visit the Great Barrier Reef from several other locations, but Cairns is by far the most popular, because the reef is so easily accessible from there.
It didn’t take me long to decide: a company called Pro Dive Cairns offered multi-day trips to the outer reef, where you can do up to 11 dives in 3 days (!) WOW, if you love diving, that just sounds like heaven. Holy crap, I have to take this trip!
I already had my PADI Open Water license, which is the basic scuba diving license. But for just a slightly higher rate, Pro Dive offered me the possibility to do an added course to get upgraded to PADI Advanced. Well, why not? You learn some cool tricks, are allowed to do more crazy things.. Sounds appealing I’d say!
So I booked my 3 day, 2 night, PADI Advanced Course Trip. It wasn’t cheap, but I can honestly say that was money absolutely well spent!
What a trip!
I think our boat housed around 30 people (as in paying customers, there were also 6 or so crew members) The vessel had comfortable accommodation. You’re not allowed to bring your big suitcase or backpack on board because it takes up too much space, but you can safely story your luggage at the Pro Dive Shop. A lot of people on board were doing some kind of diving course, so they made sure there was also plenty of space for everyone to sit, study, relax, eat etcetera.
I’m really horrible when it comes to boats. I get seasick… Really, I do… Terribly, violently, horribly, seasick.. Ughh.. Unfortunately for me, this trip was no different. But it only took me about 3 hours to get it all out of my system, which made me a lot happier. Imagine how horrible it would have been if I’d stayed sick for the full 3 days.. I wouldn’t have been a happy blogger then, now would I?
So the first few hours of my trip weren’t my favorite. I built a very tight relationship with the toilet on the lower deck and the first lunch that was served on board was completely wasted on me. Which was really a shame, because the food on board was OUTSTANDING! 3 meals a day plus an added tea time, all with plenty of choice and multiple courses. Excellent, really! And there was so much of everything, that you could easily go for seconds or thirds if you liked.. Honestly, diving is kinda exhausting, so I absolutely had to get seconds for dessert. Really, not my fault!
It was really great that the food was good and the beds were comfortable, but in the end, you go there to go diving. That’s what really matters. And luckily, the crew on the boat really knew what they were doing! Almost half of the guests on board were doing an Open Water Certification, which occupied most of the instructors’ time for the first 2 days. There were about 14 divers on board that were already certified and before our first dive, the 14 of us were all called onto the highest deck for an instruction from the dive master. We had this huge Kiwi bloke as dive master. Seriously, if he hadn’t known what the hell he was talking about, I still would’ve listened to him because he was just impressive.. But thankfully, he knew what he was talking about 🙂 He informed us that we would be diving on our own, as there were no instructors available to guide us. So he drew us a picture of the reef we were in, gave us some coordinates to follow and sent us on our merry ways.
Well, that was unexpected…
I got my license a couple of years before, and hadn’t been diving since.. So the prospect of having to do this without supervision didn’t really excite me.. AT ALL! But there was no way around it. I was teamed up with Louise as buddies and literally thrown in the deep. That first dive for me was absolute shit! Louise was such a dear in telling me that I did alright and that she wasn’t bothered by the fact that I had gotten us lost. She didn’t even mention that we drifted off about half a mile and had to be picked up by a dingy, or that I’d ran out of air in 20 minutes due to a total lack of knowing what I was doing. But I think she was maybe a little bit glad to hear that my second dive would be with an instructor and that she’d be temporarily teamed up with someone else 😉
That second dive was perfect for me. When you do the Advanced Certification, there are several subjects to be taught, such as buoyancy (being able to float) and preserving oxygen. Let’s just say I really needed to pay attention to our instructor!
The next couple of dives were alternated between course dives and free dives. So some of them I did with my buddy Louise, some with the little group of Advanced trainees. We saw some amazing things! Another benefit of my Advanced course was that we learnt about different species of fish. Before this course, every dive was almost similar to me. ‘Today I saw big fish, small fish, yellow and black fish‘. Now, I can actually distinguish a few species..(next to the usual distinction between shark, fish and turtle) All of a sudden it’s a lot more exciting to say: ‘I saw parrot fish, puffer fish and clown fish‘. It just adds an extra dimension. And after a few dives I’d gotten the hang of the basics of diving again, so I was actually able to enjoy it as well!
The Great Barrier Reef in and of itself is absolutely gorgeous, and there was lots to see. We saw amazing animals like sharks, sting rays, enormous schools of wrasse fish, 4 foot-wide turtles and tiny cardinal fish, and we even found Nemo! It didn’t bore me for even a second. And all the while the boat crew made sure we were well taken care of, with excellent equipment, good and accurate instructions and a wonderful atmosphere.
So from the moment I arrived at the Pro Dive shop, til the moment I left there 3 days later, I felt spoiled beyond belief.