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Journals from James Cook University, Australia

2011-05-31 The Great Barrier Reef

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Coral and fish at Hastings Reef

Prior to coming to Australia, Sam and I got certified in scuba diving. We waited four months before going to the Great Barrier Reef because the trips are so expensive and we wanted to go on a day with really great weather. We finally found a trip that was in our price range and included two certified dives. The company we got certified with never sent us our certification cards, so we were sent temporary dive cards for our trip. Once we got on the boat we were given our gear, complimentary coffee and tea, and were told the certified divers had a private cabin on the second story. There were only four certified divers and once the boat left the dock, the dive master took us through a tutorial of the two reefs we were going to be visiting. After we received the instructions, Sam and I learned that our temporary dive cards were invalid. Luckily, Sam’s name was in the PADI system, but for some reason mine was not. Sam was still able to go diving with the certified divers and fortunately they allowed me to dive with the introductory divers.

Our first stop was at Saxon Reef. It was actually very windy that day so the waves were fairly large, but you could still see the outline of the reef through the top of the water. Sam went with the certified divers as soon as the boat stopped and I went out snorkeling while I waited for the introductory group. The reef was unbelievable. It was so beautiful, colorful, and there were fish everywhere. When I went diving, there was a professional photographer with us and we each got a picture touching a giant clam, and holding a bright blue sea star and a sea cucumber. When Sam was diving, his group saw a White tip Reef Shark that was about 4 feet long.

On our way to the next location we had a buffet lunch of sausages, steak, seafood, and pasta salads. The next reef we went to was Hastings reef. The diving instructors still would not let me go with the certified divers so Sam decided to come with the introductory diving group so we could be together. This was such a great dive. Some of the coral walls were as tall as two-story buildings and were just massive. We were able to hold a spiny sea cucumber that was about two feet long and we got to swim with and touch a Hawksbill sea turtle. It was such an amazing experience. At this location, there is a Maori Wrasse called Wally and he is about 4 or 5 feet in length. He waits under the boat because he knows he is going to be fed, and I was lucky enough to be able to catch a glimpse of him. Even though we had several problems with our scuba certifications, I was so happy we were still able to dive on the reef. We also rented an underwater digital camera from the boat and it was the best decision. The camera took the best pictures, and at the end of the day, the crew put all the pictures on a disk with an additional 160 professional pictures of the reef. I had a really hard time deciding what picture to put with this journal because there were so many that showed the beauty of the reef. I hope to dive the reef again before returning home because it truly is an unforgettable experience.

 

Amanda Contreras

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