We had spent the night just off the motorway. We had been free-camping. It was a nice quiet place where only about 10 others were staying in the same place. It was very basic – they had a toilet and also a little hut that served free coffee to drivers. It was here that we discovered the 2nd battery in the van is crap and we ran out of power halfway through the night. Luckily we didn’t have much in the fridge it could ruin. It was a long journey and we only stayed here to break up the drive. It served its purpose. Seeing as we had parked right next to a forest, Stef and I were a bit concerned about spiders. But so far, we haven’t found any extra passengers in the van.
We made it to the Flametree Tourist Park in Airlie Beach. It’s a part of the trip I’d been looking forward to for a while. The Whitsunday Islands are a boat ride away and the Great Barrier Reef is at your fingertips (But you can’t touch it or you’ll kill it!).
We’d booked a tour with Mantaray Charters and they picked us up at 6:55am. Another early call, but it was definitely worth it.
The journey on the boat was about an hour and half. The sea was calm and the sun was out.
We eventually made it to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. But before we headed to the beach, we took the opportunity to go to the lookout. From here, we had views of the beach and the crystal blue sea. After a few photos, we couldn’t get to the beach quick enough!
The sand was really soft and white. The sea was clean and clear. It was a perfect beach. We mucked about for a bit then headed back to the boat where we were presented with a lovely platter of meat and salad.
After lunch, I was informed that out of the whole boat (about 30 people), I was the only one scuba diving. There were a few blokes completing their diving course, but as a professional diver, I didn’t have to be slowed down by them. I was about to scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef!
I donned my gear and took a seat on a small boat. We headed to the dive point and exited by rolling off it backwards into the Coral Sea below. I dived to a depth of about 18 metres. I’m not going to lie. I was quite disappointed with the reef. I imagined it bursting with colour. But it was dull. Sure the fish were colourful, but as the Reef is slowly dying, it loses it hue. They say in about 10 years, the Reef won’t be there due to pollution. It’s sad to think about it.
But as it was just the guide Kyle, and I, he took me a few places that were different from the norm. We swam to a small tunnel in between the rocks of the reef. He signalled for me to go through. It didn’t look big enough for my tank and me and I thought he was kidding. But he signalled again. It was quite nerve racking but as I’ve never done that sort of thing before I was intrigued. As I went through, I got a little wedged. My stomach was on the seabed and my tank was stuck on the roof. I gave a little wiggle and came loose. There wasn’t enough time for panic to set in. Thank God! It was an adrenaline rush though – maybe in the future, I’ll go on dives where you have to take your tank off and pass it through the tunnel as you swim on!
I saw loads of different fish. Before the dive, he showed me what would be down there. I’d forgotten the names within minutes. But they were colourful and not shy. Some would swim right up to your mask. I was really hoping I would see a turtle, but unfortunately they were a no show.
The visibility was quite poor down there. A few weeks ago, Queensland had been hit with a cyclone. Loads of places were flooded. Because of the currents then, the sediments still had not settled. There were a few moments when I lost sight of Kyle but I’d see a hint of a flipper and swim to him like I was being chased by a shark!
After about 40 minutes, we surfaced. The same small boat came to pick us up. When it arrived, the captain told me to just hold on and he’ll drag us to the boat. It felt like I was part of an S.A.S team on their way to complete a mission. When we got to the main boat, we changed our tanks, ready for the next dive. The boat was empty. All the other passengers, including Stef, had gone snorkelling. Obviously, it wasn’t as good as the scuba, but I was just proud of her for putting her face under the water!
For the second dive, the small boat was nowhere to be seen. Because of this, I took a long leap off the rear of the main boat. This dive was pretty much the same as before. I just love diving and enjoyed every minute of it.
For the next few days, we took it easy and did as little as possible. I drunk a whole bottle of Blackcurrant Port that we bought at a winery and Stef cleaned the fridge.
Living the dream.
EDIT: I have since dived in Cairns and had a MUCH better experience of the Barrier Reef, which included turtles and fish as big as me! See the page at Cairns Diving.