The next morning, we woke up bright and returned to the lovely town of Port Douglas to do our last of three dives (this time we would be leaving from Port Douglas as opposed to Cairns). I was really getting hooked on diving. I loved the thrill, the adventure and the insanely surreal scenery below the water. I could hardly contain my excitement!
Here is a view of the gorgeous coastline.
The pretty marina in Port Douglas where we would be meeting our dive boat.
A younger me (8 years ago!) in front of our ride, the Quicksilver.
En route, elated to be doing my third dive of the trip to 30 feet, in the Great Barrier Reef.
This time we went to the Agrinaut reef. The boat was a bit smaller than the Osprey that we took out of Cairns for our first two dives. It only held about 55 people which was great. It was also a nicer boat and offered a more relaxed atmosphere compared with the fun-loving, crowded party boat in Cairns.
It took an hour and a half to get out to the reef where we would do our dive. I stood outside, watching the beautiful coastline and enjoying the breath-taking surroundings. About a half an hour before reaching the reef, we had a very informative instructional meeting on our dive. I learned that the reason why my ears were hurting so bad and still plugged was due to not properly clearning my ears. I would have to be a bit more careful since we were going even deeper than before.
We arrived at the sight and my dad, me and a father and son pair were the first group to go. Our instructor was a guy from England who was extremely funny as well as very knowledgable about the reef. I felt safe in his hands despite the fact that I was a little nervous about the upcoming dive.
The reef was much deeper and darker than the last two I had been to. It was also not as clear which caused some concern (i.e. sharks!). For some reason, I was way more anxious this time. Perhaps it was fear or else my poor painful ears. We descended holding onto a rope through the deep, dark water. I had a hard time relaxing and breathing. I was scared. We went about 15 feet down and my ears began to feel an enormous, painful pressure. They were driving me mad but I tried to ignore it and concentrate on breathing.
We had three safety activities to do: Mask clear, take the regulator out of your mouth and clear, and do a regulator switch. I successfully did the first two but for some reason I freaked out on the last one. When I switched the regulator back, my mask filled up with water and I swallowed some ocean. I panicked and before I know it, I was up at the top gasping for air! My instructor was of course right there by my side, telling me not to worry and trying to calm me down. I know that what I did was a big mistake. You are not supposed to just take off like that. But I was afraid and I panicked.
I had to try to relax and pass the third test or I would not be able to dive. So I held back all my fear and went back down once again to give the “regulator switch” another try. I couldn’t believe how frightening it was to take be without oxygen 15 feet below the surface. But it was. I knew my dad was right there by my side so I held back my fear and knew what I had to do. Before I knew it, it was done. I didn’t drown. I made it through and it felt good to overcome my fears.
We descended slowly so my ears would adjust and met up with the others who were waiting. I was unexpectedly calmer perhaps because I was trying so hard to relax. After five minutes of going down, we were finally on the bottom of the reef and kneeled down to have another nature lesson on giant clams and sea cucumbers. I tried not to look up….it seemed so impossibly far and felt like being trapped inside a glass coffin. It was frightening to me despite my enthusiasm and euphoria from seeing all the fish and corals below.
We swam over to the corals to explore their incredibly brilliant colors. It was surrounded with life and vibrant colored fish. I forgot about my fear and embraced in the sensational beauty of the reef. The corals and fish at this site were by far the most brilliant and magical I’d seen. If I close my eyes even today, I still can picture the swirling tentacles swaying back and forth of the soft corals. They were so alive. It was phenomenal. I wish I had an underwater camera to capture it all but even so, there really is no way in my opinion to see it except for yourself.
After thirty minutes we surface and I couldn’t believe how pumped with energy and excitement I was. What an incredible high! Unfortunately my ears were very plugged and at this point, I could not really hear a thing. I had to pass on the next dive at site two because I couldn’t risk further damaging my ears. We were off to Melbourne the next day and the thought of flying made my ears hurt even more.
We arrived at the second site and were surprised to be greeted by a school of baby reef tip sharks swimming near the boat. Although they were only three feet long, the thought of jumping in the water and swimming side by side the sharks made my skin crawl. I have a deep-seated paranoia of sharks! Eventually I did get in the water to go snorkeling and see the “Barracuda Pass”, a pinnacle of coral that was surrounded by sharp-toothed scary looking barracuda. There were tons of different kinds of fish in all shapes and colors. Some were so huge it was mind-boggling.
We boarded back on the boat and went to site number three where I did a “snorkeling safari” with a group of thirty others and a guide. It was fun if you didn’t mind getting accidentally kicked by a fellow swimmer.
By the time we boarded the boat and headed back to Port Douglas, I was completely exhausted and famished. It was my last dive of the trip for we were leaving tomorrow to Melbourne. Yet I hope it is not my last dive ever! I dream of someday going back and showing my children this unbelievably magical, alive underwater playground. Let’s hope it is still around to show them.
Stay tuned…next post is on lively, playful Melbourne.