My last trip was in Australia. I backpacked the East coast alone for a month (August 2016) and it was amazing, mainly because it was filled with new experiences. One of them was scuba diving for the first time. To be honest, Scuba diving wasn’t on my bucket list. But there I was in Cairns, near the Great Barrier Reef, one of the 7 natural wonders, and I decided I just couldn’t not go dive to see it. So I did.
Now, people, Australia isn’t the place you learn how to scuba dive. Unless you’re a millionaire. So, with my short budget, I could only afford a introductory dive, which would allow me to dive and see the reef, without needing a scuba dive license. If you want to get a license, I would recommend doing it outside of Australia: South-East Asia is probably one of the cheapest places to take diving lessons.
I booked the dive with Reef Free, who were taking me on a boat to Green Island National Park for the day. When I got there, I first had to listen to a man explaining safety stuff. We learned the scuba diving language hand signals, which was kind of cool. But then it sounded a bit terrifying since he was enumerating everything that could go wrong and how to survive to it. You know, the kind of talk that makes you feel safe…
After putting on my heavy attire, I proceeded to the practice pool. The water was like 20oF (ok, more like 65oF). I put the regulator (aka the things that goes in your mouth) in its place, went down and took a breath. Now, people, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. It felt much weirder and harder to breathe than I thought it would. But I’m not a quitter. So I replied the instructors “ok?” signal with a “ok!”. Then, we practiced the safety procedure. We practiced equalizing so my brain wouldn’t explode and what to do if water gets in your mask (annoying) and if you lose your regulator (more than annoying).
Next thing I knew, I was on a small boat, on the way to the diving spot. When we got there, an instructor helped us down. My turn came. Honestly, my first few minutes in the water were kind of scary. I knew my ears were not supposed to hurt. They were hurting. So I pinched my nose and blew. And blew. And blew again. No POP! The instructor did the “ok?” sign and I replied with the: “not really” sign. He didn’t seem to care, which, I’m still not sure was comforting or not. Anyway, I kept going down, trying to equalize (probably a lot more than necessary – but it never seems too much when it’s about preventing your brain from exploding). And finally… POP! Equalization succeeded!
At that point, I was deep enough to start diving. The instructors were diving next to us, making sure we were not making multiple backflips (which I heard happens often to first time divers). At first, I kept telling myself: if something goes wrong, if I run out of air or if I swallow water, I will die since you can’t go up fast (unless you’re ok with your lungs exploding). After a while, though, I got more used to the weird breathing and started to feel safer. That’s when I started to really enjoy the view.
There I was, diving at the Great Barrier Reef. The colors of the reef were amazing and the fish were gorgeous! I saw lots of Nemos and Doris. And other fish I don’t know by name. Some really big ones. They were swimming right next to us. At one point, we kneeled down next to a reef to observe from closer. My thinking changed from: “I will surely die” to “This is amazing, I’m so glad I’m doing this!”. We dove for around 30 minutes, admiring this water wonderland.
When we came back up, my lungs didn’t explode (thank God!) and I was filled with happiness and… a bit of relief, to be honest. I spent the rest of the day chilling on the Island beach, both tired from the dive and the emotions that came with it and really excited about the experience I just had the chance to live. Happily, one of the divers gave me a few pictures she took during our dive (though the picture doesn’t do it justice), which you can see at the end of this article.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to dive again. I hope I will, and I feel like I would enjoy it more with a bit more experience… maybe I need to practice more in a (hopefully warmer) pool before I’ll be more confident about diving again in deep waters. My conclusion is simple: Guys, if you ever get the chance to scuba dive, do it! If at first it seams creepy, keep going. Don’t give up! And last advice: add scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef on your bucket list!