This is going to be a long one I warn you! I'm currently in Coffs Harbour but want to tell you about my adventures in Cairns first.
I can safely say that this past week is one that I won't forget quickly. I've had an amazing time but am now absolutely shattered! Monday started at 8:30 in the classroom, which felt suspiciously like being back at school again. We went round the class to do the obligatory introductions, finding out that there was a pretty big mix of nationalities, ages and diving abilities (some people were just doing it as a refresher course). It also turned out that our instructoer, Dave, was orginally from Engalnd, but is now the most certified instructor in Australia, which was pretty reassuring to say the least!
The rest of the morning was spent watching some dvds and learning lots of theory, mainly about all the lovely scary things that could happen to you such as decompression sickness, lung over expansion, nitrogen narcosis.... We were also told the two most important rules of scuba diving - 1) Never stop breathing and 2) Look Good! I would like to point out however that no.2 is clearly not fortunate for most in figgure hugging lycra!
After lunch we had to prove that we could swim 200m and tread water for 10 minutes. I was a little sceptical as I hadn't actually been swimming for years, but due to some miracle I managed fine! We then got into the full set of gear, including wet suit, weight belt, air tank, regulators, pressure gage, BCD (bouyancy control device), mask, snorkel and fins. With all of that on you cannot wait to get into the water!
I'll admit to finding the first few minutes underwater completely terrifying as all of the equipment seemed so foreign, but as soon as we got started on practicing some of the skills I started to calm down and felt a lot more comfortable. The skills included lots of slighty scary but very useful things like how to clear a mask full of water, throwing away and recovering your regulator (air source) and how to ask your buddy to share their air! I ended the first day feeling much more confident about it all than I had been - and very excited about the next few days!
The next morning we did a few more skills in the pool and then tried out some posh equipment. It was a slightly cheeky move by Pro-Dive, as the day before we'd only been using the bog standard rental equipment, but now we were trying the much more comfortable and practical gear! After lunch they conveniently took us to their shop and tried to sell us as much as possible. They were offering big discounts, so I was tempted by the full kit but as I didn't know if I'd be any good just opted to get a mask and snorkel that fitted properly, as I'd had trouble with the one from before. The only thing left to do then was pass the exam, which wasn't too hard at all really!
Wednesday morning I was picked up bright and early by the coach and taken to the boat. We were on the way having breakfast aboard by 6:45. We were shown to our cabins - literally a bunk bed and enough room to stand next to it! I was sharing the room with a Canadian called Breanna, who was also my dive buddy for the week. The 3 hour journey out to the reed was slightly horrific. The weather was pretty bad, heavy rain and strong wind, so the waves were massive! Now I've never had sea sickness before but ended up spending most of the time feeling very sorry for myself out on the back deck, along with around a third of the passengers! Even once we'd stopped at the reef, just looking at how choppy the water was made me think I was crazy to be about to jump in. Still, the instructors soon made sure that we were getting into our gear. Being on the surface was a bit rough but as soon as you sunk down just a metre or so it was such a relief! Also the first view of the GREAT BARRIER REEF soon made you forget about how miserable you were feeling just a few minutes previous!
I'm not sure that the reed was exactly as I'd imagined, although I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting really! The colours were a bit muted due to the bad weather, but there was just so much to see! Some of the highlights included 2 types of turtle, 2 types of shark, sting rays, THOUSANDS of fish, including one of my personal favourites like this one: (http://www.cairns.com.au/images/uploadedfiles/editorial/pictures/2008/07/08/Steph-Rowe-Maori-Wrasse.jpg)
I haven't had had a chance to look through my underwater photos yet but I'm almost definite that they are rubbish! It was really hard to be in the right place at the right time and keep up with the rest of the group, but I think at least they give you some proffesional photos to keep on the disc as well.
Whilst I was on the boat I decided to do the Adventure Diver certification as well, as they were offering it for a very good price compared to what you'd normally pay. It just means I'm qualified to dive to 30m instead of 18m as I would have been, and that I got to do a few more exciting dives whilst there! My favourite dive was possibly the night dive that we did on the second day. We each had a glowstick attatched to our tank and a torch to guide the way, but that was it. It felt so surreal, like floating through space but I loved it!
I could talk about it for ages but I've just noticed how long this is getting so I'll stop there! Feel free to ask any questions if you have them though!
See you all soon xxx