Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Let me start by saying that I like diving. A lot. Once I got over the shear panic induced by the thought of swimming under 60 feet of water with a perfect stranger and no clue of where I was going or how to avoid getting lost, then running out of air and drowning, I even realized I like diving without an instructor! It's so peaceful and easy. Unless you're fairly shallow and don't have enough weight, in which case you get sucked up to the surface and can't get back down no matter how hard you swim. So you have to float there like an idiot and watch your buddy seeing all sorts of cool things from up close while you barely catch a glimpse, until finally he clues in that you're missing and comes up to tow you back down. Then it's a pain.
The rest of the time, the feeling of weightlessness is wonderful. So wonderful that on my last dive I spent an extra five minutes hanging out at the decompression stage, turning somersaults and photographing the surface. This was only a problem because my buddy, at that point the newly fully-certified Benedetta, had motioned that she was ready to go up, and then surfaced. She thought I had agreed to be right behind her, and I thought I had agreed she should go up, and I would hang out. Suffice it to say she had started to grow concerned. Communication is definitely harder under water.
Let me back up: Last Tuesday, Benedetta, Sara and I flew to Cairns, in Queensland. We hung out at the hostel and crashed early. It was too damn hot and humid to do anything else. The next morning, armed with B's Italian Lonely Planet we found an amazing breakfast spot. Very good eggs, salads and juices, and an even better vibe. If you're even in Cairns, I highly recommend a visit. Not that there's so much else to do there. The best thing about our day in Cairns was getting to hang out with Dan and Goldie, who were passing through on their way to Port Douglas. Cairns has taken an innovative approach to a central plaza. Appropriately for a city that's got an average annual temperature of 90, with 62% humidity, they've built a wonderful pool right on the ocean. Called the lagoon, it's irregularly shaped, shallow, and the perfect place to sit in the shade and talk. I was very impressed and the civic planning that went into it.
The next day, Sara, Benedetta and I woke up early and got a ride to the harbor, where we met up with the rest of the group that had signed up for this dive trip through Pro Dive. All told, there were about 30 of us, plus 6 crew: Ben (skipper), Arek (Divemaster), Lucy (awesome cook), Aaron (taught the English speaking dive course), Chris (taught the advanced dive course), and Sue (taught the German speaking dive course). We were quite the mixed group - a bunch of Germans, a nearly-equal number of Danes, a couple from Poland, a Frenchman, an Austrian, a couple Canadians... The interesting thing was that it helped to uncover how many unexpected languages people speak.
After a fairly smooth three hour boat ride to the Outer Great Barrier Reef, we anchored on Milln Reef. And quickly started diving! The first day we did four dives on two parts of that reef, one at night! Chris borrowed our rented underwater camera to get a great shot of a little shrimpy thing - you can see its antennas pointing down at the right edge of the photo.
The following day we did another four dives on two more dive spots, although I skipped the last one, since my ears were hurting following some exaggerated descents while I was having trouble with my buoyancy control. By that point we had moved over to another reef nearby, and the diving just kept getting better! Definitely, a once in a lifetime experience.
Turtle eating jellyfish: