I last left you with my super regular meanderings around Sydney, Australia. Next stop: Cairns (pronounced Cans, nasally, like you’re from Boston) in Queensland.
This stop was supposed to be the pinnacle of my birthday trip. As a certified diver, of COURSE, I should dive the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) on my birthday, right? So that’s what I arranged. To be fins on, tank strapped on my day of birth.
Selecting a dive company was a bit of a process. I’m a heavy Trip Advisor review reader and overall researcher. Short story: I picked Silverswift Dive & Snorkel because they would allegedly have wifi on the boat (spoiler alert: it didn’t work). I was still happy with my experience though. For my full review of Silverswift, click here.
In Cairns, I stayed in a real hotel, with plushy beds and an ocean view (shout out to the Holiday Inn – Harbourside) so on dive morning, I was well rested despite having not landed in Cairns until 9pm the previous night. For those arriving in Cairns that late, there’s pretty much one shuttle option to get into town so book it right there in the airport (about $16 AUD). Or take a taxi ($22 AUD, maybe per person, I was alone so I don’t know).
On dive morning, walked the half mile down to the ferry terminal where EVERYONE and their mother AND grandmother was checking in, grabbing breakfast and waiting around for the boats to load up and hit the water for various activities. Snorkeling, reef tours, that type of thing. It is a production, bustling with hundred of people, the busiest time of day in Cairns. Has to be. Especially on a Saturday morning when I went.
Skip to: We’re an hour away from Cairns, geared up on the boat and ready to plunge in at the Reef. I don’t know what I was expecting really. I mean, it’s the Great Barrier Reef. I suppose I was expecting great. Meh. It was ok. Not disappointing because hey, it was still a phenomenal thing to have done ON my birthday. More so because I had exactly three days to fit it in somewhere in my crazy itinerary and I made it happen. But still a bit underwhelming, especially compared to my Turks & Caicos experience earlier this year. The coolest part about the Reef was that the coral is so huge, you can swim through it like rock caves. And the clams, too. The giant clams where mesmerizing, some the size of my body!
Pardon the shakiness of this first video. We were about 65 feet down and my mask kept filling with water, no matter how often I cleared it. Also, hadn’t completely cleared my BCD (the vest thingy that divers wear) so the extra air was throwing my weight off and had trouble staying down for a bit. So in layman’s terms: I was a bit disoriented and trying to get some video, not freak out and remember my training on how to rectify the issues I was having, all at once.
At one point, I just could not get my air and weights right so I slowly floated to the surface, watching the rest of the group drift away, dozens of feet below me. It was a defeated feeling, as I just bobbed on the ocean surface like a buoy, looking down at them. Finally, I mustered up the strength to make one more power swim down to my guide (imagine trying to swim straight down while dragging an industrial flotation device wrapped around to your core). I finally got down, exhausted, and my guide helped me fix my BCD. Had no issues with it the rest of the dive BUT I lost my camera in the struggle. It floated off somewhere in the sea.
I ended up doing two dives, max depth about 70 feet. Visibility was ok (39 feet) and sea life was average. A moray eel, small reef shark, ray, giant clam (the most impressive to me) and a buttload of fish. But, of course, I have no pictures since my camera decided to GoPrexit from my wrist strap. Wonderful surprise of the day though, as we were gearing up to leave the last dive site, a crew member came striding through the boat proudly brandishing my camera. It had FLOATED BACK to the boat! Whaaaaaa??!! *praise break*
I was paired with Arien to be my dive buddy. So the next day, since you can’t fly within 24 hours of scuba diving, we both had nothing to do. We rented a car to check out some of the rest of Queensland. Had a great time trekking around Mossman Gorge, marveling at the Curtain Fig tree (don’t know why I made that a proper noun, seems like it should be) in the super cute town of Yungaburra and participating in just overall shenanigans like tracking emu (well, emu signs at least) and swerving into a ditch so we could jump out and take photos of kangaroos lounging in the shade (there’s video of that in the very last link on this post). I mean really. What kind of fairy tale country has kangaroos just chillin’ in the shade in a random field?!
Highlights of Cairns and beyond…
If you like my posts, don’t forget to like or comment! Also feel free to contact me with your specific questions about scuba or anything else….