When we got to Cairns CJ really wanted to go diving on the Great Barrier Reef whilst Bexta wanted to go and explore Cape Tribulation further north, so to go our separate ways for a few weeks seemed to be the natural thing to do.
CJ - I have wanted to dive the Great Barrier Reef ever since I first learnt to dive, as it's supposed to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World! But I had heard that the diving around Cairns on the day boats etc was not that good, as it was getting too 'over dived', and therefore to really experience some good diving you needed to go out on a liveaboard boat for a few days which is what I did. I splashed out a bit extra and opted for a 4 day trip onboard the 'Spirit of Freedom', to the famous Cod Hole on the Great Barrier Reef. The Spirit of Freedom is the largest liveaboard vessel in Australia, and is one of the more luxurious ones. I did opt for the cheaper option of living accommodation though, and went for a quad room with my fellow room mates, Sven, PC, and Catherine. As well as experiencing some great diving, I also wanted to get my Advanced PADI diving certificate so I wanted to make sure the company I went with were a professional set up, and was prepared to pay a bit more for this. But the whole trip was definitely great value for money!
Over the 4 days we did a total of 10 dives of which one was a night dive, which was great fun, not half as scary as I thought it would be. Although sitting on a boat for 4 days sounds quite easy and relaxed, it is but it is also very tiring! Our day would start at 6.45am when we would get woken up, then Breakfast no. 1 at 7am (cereal/fruit/yoghurt), then Dive no 1, followed by Breakfast no 2. (Bacon/sausages/egg), Dive no 3 followed by lunch! Then depending upon whether we were doing a night dive would depict the time of our next dive, and dinner and pudding would fit around this. So you can imagine by the end of the 4 days although I loved it and had a great time, I was a bit knackered, and still full from all the gorgeous food and nibbles we were fed over the course of the trip. Everytime we turned round there was more food or biscuits ready to eat!
As I mentioned before I wanted to do my Advanced training whilst on this trip. I was originally the only one signed up for it but within a couple of hours we had persuaded 2 others (Catherine + Sven) to join the group and the 3 of us then became known as 'Team Advanced' for the rest of the trip! There was a bit of studying and pre-dive work to do as part of the course so in the evenings and during the day we had to fit this in. You had to chose 2 specialist dives as part of the course, Underwater Photography being one of the ones I chose. I hired an underwater camera for the day and set off under the water to take some shots. Underwater photography is not easy at all, as well as trying to remain neutrally buoyant under the water so that you don't hit any of the coral etc, keep checking your air etc, you then have to try and look through a camera viewfinder with a mask on, and get the object of your picture to stay still whilst you take the picture. Not always easy with fish!! Then there are many other things to take into consideration when taking photos, so lets just say I did improve my photography skills throughout the dives but still have a way to go. Some of the underwater photos on this page are actually mine, but a lot of them are ones that the others divers took who have been taking photos for years! Underwater photography is definitely something I would like to learn more about though.
The main highlight of the trip has to be the dive at the famous Cod Hole. This is a part of the Great Barrier Reef that isn't dived that often as it's so far out to sea, and therefore has amazing colourful and untouched coral, and you have to have the right weather conditions to get out there which we did. It is home to the giant Potato Cod and the Maori Wrasse though, and it was these fish along with many shoals of Red Bass that we fed on a dive. Paul the dive master went down ahead of us with a large tub of pilchards to feed the fish. The divers all sat in a circle around him and then he went round the circle feeding the fish. And you could even have a go yourself if you wanted which of course I did. With the arm that I was using to feed the fish, I had to put on a long suede glove to protect my hand. I was then given a handful of pilchards by Paul and told to keep my hand closed and hold it to my chest. When he gave the command I could then open my hand up and feed the fish. All was going well until it came to the crunch and I panicked slightly, well wouldn't anyone with 2m Potato Cods and Maori Wrasse's, and lots of Red Bass swimming all around you, waiting eagerly for their food! I think as well as raising up my right hand which had the food in it, I must have moved my left hand as well, one of the evil teethed Red Bass then flew past my left hand whilst aiming for the food in the right hand, and took a chunk out of my bare left hand. It was only a very small cut (but it still hasn't healed after a week!) on my knuckle, but it did start to bleed, then you guess what, Paul the dive master then gave the signal that a shark was in the vicinity! Boy did I panick, a shark nearby and I'm bleeding!! After I had got the initial panic over, I calmed down a bit, and the shark never showed up! The sharks that we saw on all the dives were harmless though, they were just White and Black Tipped Reef sharks, and a couple of Grey Reef sharks.
In the photos you will see lots of the many fish and marine life that I saw on our dives. The underwater world is such a beautiful world and one I would recommend to anyone that hasn't had a look yet!!