Said to be the world’s largest living structure and a place recognizable from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef is an amazing wonder worth exploring (before it’s gone). Not too far off the East coast of Australia’s Queensland, the divers paradise can boast an astonishing 2900 reefs being a home to more than 1500 species of colourful fish and 600 different corals!
In my previous post I covered a bit the city of Cairns. It is a great base for your excursion to the Coral Sea. Although there are many other places on the coast where you can hop on a boat and dive / snorkel within an hour or so. GBR spreads an unbelievable 2100 kilometers along the coast in Queensland so definitely plenty of reefs to choose from.
If you have never dived before (like myself before this trip) I suggest you do the diving certificate (i.e. PADI) at home. You do have plenty of option to do the necessary courses while in Australia, but to be honest you do not want to be closed in the classroom or swimming pool while you could spend all that time diving or snorkeling and looking for Nemo!
You could probably notice the above picture is not as colourful as you would expect. I am really sorry to disappoint you but this is exactly how the reefs look like underwater! There is no fooling here. It’s the laws of physics – the deeper you get the more colourless it becomes. The first colour to go is red as it’s absorbed by water. This is why most of the photos you will see below are kind of blueish, sometimes greenish and yellowish. One of the way to avoid this is to buy a special red filter for underwater photography / video. Unfortunately I had non of such things and all my photos are how you would see the reefs when diving. A bit disappointing I know, but hey ho it’s still beautiful and VERY LIVABLE!
The deeper you get the darker and blueish it becomes. But the life is also somehow different. It is slightly colder but you do not really feel it when you have your wet suit on. As an Open Water PADI diver you are recommended not to go any deeper than 18 meters (60 ft). It is absolutely enough in GBR. You need to have some experience when diving deeper as the pressure is higher and you might struggle to breath. My computer broke once while diving and I lost control of the depth I was at with my team. Apparently we dived to 28 meters (that’s almost the height of a 10 story building!). The surrounding water was very dark, we could no longer see the surface and breathing was difficult without Nitrox. Good experience but it’s not safe. We were told off for doing so! But it was our life we were risking after all.
One of the best way to experience the reefs and almost get enough of it is to spend a few days out in the Coral Sea on a ship. There are numerous excursions allowing you to sleep for a few nights on a small vessel and do up to 4 dives a day. The number of dives is limited for your own safety. The nitrogen absorbed by your body while diving must be released in a safely manner (meaning slow!). Saying that 4 dives is essentially enough and will make you more than satisfied. The best part about living on a ship is that you will have an opportunity to dive in the early hours when the life is the most active and fish are literally everywhere and also you can do a night dive which is scary but exciting!
The night diving is a very fun way to see the predators of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the times when big fish and reef sharks (like White Tip Shark) come out hunting and it’s fascinating and scary at the same time. It is not considered unsafe for people to dive during the night and the fish while quite big, are luckily not treating divers as their prey. During the night dive you cannot descend to lower than 10 meters and you have to be cautious. You cannot see much, but when you actually see something – it’s very rewarding! Sharkie! ❤
There are many vessels that you can pre-book for 3 or 4 days out in the Coral Sea. Some are bigger, some are smaller but there is a price difference (smaller the vessel, bigger the price). Of course food is included as you are out in the sea without any access to shops for a few days. Due to limited space in the rooms it is suggested you don’t take huge luggage, although if no option I am sure the operators will be fine. Apart from diving, you can snorkel almost at any time you’d like but also you can just relax and chillout at the top deck admiring the reefs from above. If your wallet is fat you can even book a helicopter tour above the reefs which must be an amazing experience!
A view from the other side? Our boat (Reef Encounter) was bigger! 🙂
The liveaboard excursion is really a highlight of a trip to Australia. While it might not be the cheapest of chips (3 days / 2 nights trip costs around £450) it is definitely an investment in a superb experience and great memories. You do get to see animals you would not have a chance on a day excursion when the time is very limited. And of course morning and night dives are the best! So save some pennies and make sure while Down Under to invest in one of the most magnificent excursions. It’s a must!
I hope you have enjoyed it. Please find bellow a gallery with a few more photos. The Great Barrier Reef is said to be in danger of global warming. Apparently the temperatures of the seas are too high and corals bleach (loose colour) and die. It is a sad view but fortunately we have not seen any dying reefs on this trip. I am not sure whether that’s because there were no dying reefs around or the tour operator took us to the healthy ones. You do need to visit the place to fully appreciate it and see what we are losing!
And a bonus – one of if not the most beautiful beaches in Australia if not the world. Whitsunday seen from the plane. Unfortunate I never managed to get there on the ground but i really wish I had. It’s spectacular! Unfortunately partly covered by clouds. Google Whitsunday and you shall see what I mean 🙂