Friday, November 14, 2014

Under the Sea

Another beautiful day out on the Great Barrier Reef yesterday!  All the companies take their customers to different part of the reef, and I’d say this part of the reef was much better than my last trip.  This company (Reef Magic Cruises) has a “pontoon” (named Marine World) anchored out there, so the boat docks alongside Marine World and gives everyone more space to move around while we’re out all day.  So instead of scuba diving and snorkeling off the side of the boat everyone goes out from Marine World.  Another cool thing about this trip was that there is a glass bottom boat and a semi-sub and you can take trips on them throughout the day.  I attempted an introductory dive again and the dive instructor Jim was fantastic, such a nice guy.  There were only about 10 of us doing the dive and I was in the first group of 4, so as soon as we docked at Marine World I put on my stinger suit (it’s jelly fish season here in Cairns right now and since the suit covers you from head to toe it also protected me from sunburn which I appreciated) and headed to the dive platform.  Jim asked me while we were getting all our scuba gear on what had happened last time I’d tried diving.  I told him about my ears and he said we’d give it a shot.  I made it a lot deeper this time, but I was a bit gun-shy I guess about saying my ears had equalized.  As you make your way down (holding on to a rope) you equalize your ears as you go.  He kept giving me the “ok” sign to see how I was doing.  I wasn’t really feeling my ears pop like they usually do on an airplane, so I kept giving him the “sorta ok” sign.  In hindsight, since they weren’t killing me like they had been the time before I should have just kept saying “ok” as I worked my way down and once I got to a point where they actually hurt and I couldn’t get them to stop then tell him it wasn’t working.  Since I still hadn’t given him the “ok” and there was apparently quite a ways left to go he took me back up, telling me it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else to get further down and then have to bring me back up (you only get so much time in the water and I was slowing them down), which I totally understood.  He told me I might have thin eustachian tubes and that I should try the helmet diving instead and see how that goes.  I don’t know if that’s standard procedure or if that was just because I was there on a famil request (you wear a wristband so all the crew basically knows) and they wanted to make a good impression.   Kelly, the girl up top who helps you in and out of your scuba gear, told me she had trouble as well at first and it took her a week in the pool just trying and trying to finally be able to do it – so on the bright side, there might still be hope.  Anyway, I got out of the water and heard the announcement that the semi-sub was leaving soon so I decided I might as well hop on that before heading out to snorkel.  It was pretty cool, I was of course the only person on the boat that wasn’t dry.  Quite a few people come out on the reef and never actually get in the water, so the boat trips are a great way to still see the reef.  When we got back it was nearly time for lunch and the lunch they provided was amazing.   I couldn’t believe the variety of foods they had: vegetarian lasagna, pasta salad, potato salad, Caesar salad, two kinds of curry, a variety of fruits, a meat tray, bread and rolls, plus sushi and shrimp!!

I tried the “helmet diving” right after lunch.  I couldn’t believe how heavy the helmets were, thankfully they were a bit lighter once fully submerged, but I’ve got bony shoulders and they’re a bit sore to the touch today from where the helmet was sitting.  Since I didn’t have to worry about getting my ears to pop and trying not to hold my breath (that’s a huge no-no in scuba diving) with the helmet on I was able to get them to pop and had a good time.
 With the helmet diving you basically walk (maybe 15 feet) along this submerged walkway about 3 or 4 feet underwater, and stand there while Jim feeds the fish.  I even got to pet the huge Maori Wrasse that hangs out at Marine World as well.  The helmet dive is a great option for those with ear problems (you’re not as deep as when scuba diving), glasses, or those that just don’t want to get their hair wet.  After all that I got to do lots of snorkeling and since I’d figured out my camera settings, I got much better photos this time around.  I just love being in the water and snorkeling is so incredibly relaxing.  You can’t hear anything and there weren’t actually that many other snorkelers so you weren’t running into people all the time either, it was great.
 God is truly a master artist, because the colors and patterns on the fish I saw were astounding, the most beautiful shades and that’s only their looks; not to mention the complexity of the coral and how they reproduce and the fact that fish breathe underwater, I mean, let’s be honest – that’s pretty cool….

On the cruise back to the port I ended up sitting inside and chatted with this lovely, older Aussie couple, Allan and Pat.  They were so incredibly sweet and I just loved how they joked and teased one another.  For some reason he reminded me a bit of a since-departed friend of mine, Mr. Baker.  I had wanted to go up top and watch the scenery once the boat was under way, but I decided to just run up and take a few photos and then come back and chat with them.  They were on their own and had told me earlier, when I’d asked if I could sit at the booth with them for the head count, that no one had sat there all day so I was free to sit down.  All in all it was an extremely enjoyable trip, made all the sweeter by the fact that it only cost me $25.  And that my friends is the perk of selling tours.

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