The first thing I noticed straight away is that when you're diving in Australia you're definitely much more spoilt than in other places I've been to. There's a constant supply of warm drinks; you don't have to struggle to change your own oxygen tanks over at the end of each dive and someone even puts on and takes off your fins for you. Diving at its most luxurious.
Before my first dive I'd wondered whether the Great Barrier Reef would live up to the hype or if we'd secretly be disappointed. Like when you fall in love with a dress you see in a magazine and you go to every single Topshop to find it, before discovering it doesn't suit you anyway. But fortunately for me - and my pessimistic nature - it totally lived up to all my expectations.
The thing I love about diving is that it's like entering a secret world, which no one looking from the surface can see. And when it comes to the Great Barrier Reef, it's a pretty big secret world. As soon as we started to descend we were greeted by a huge fish, nicknamed Walter by the crew, who was about a metre long and half a metre high. He's used to the boats now and instantly dispelled my belief that fish only have a three-second memory. As he swam up to investigate us, with his one bottom tooth stuck out over his top lip, I have never seen a fish with so much personality.
Our dive guide, Jack, had grown up on the reef and was spoilt for choice for things to show us. Camouflaged rays lurking on the seabed; shy clown fish hiding in anemones and tiny eggs which were barely visible to the eye. But the trophy spot, which everyone was hoping to see, was the sea turtle and we were so lucky on our first dive that we came across one. I'm sure nothing must look as funny as five people under water who can't actually speak to one another doing crazy hand cheers in the air - the universal language for 'this is so cool!' The turtle had all the mannerisms of an old man - albeit a very chilled old man. He moved slowly, eyed us with disinterest and munched away on the seaweed around him. We, however, were absolutely spell-bound. We couldn't take out eyes off him and we watched as he swam up to the surface to take his next breath before returning to eat near us. Jack gave us each some seaweed and we stayed totally still, trying not to hold our breath. Mr Turtle, clearly unimpressed by the excitement he was causing, then swam up to me and snapped the food from my hand, nipping my thumb with his little beak as he did so. Best first dive ever.
|Under water excitement.|
When we got back to the boat everyone was buzzing. It was such a great way to start the day and dive two definitely had a lot to live up to. But as soon as we descended again we were instantly lost in landscapes of coloured coral, which sparkled in the sun and surrounded by schools of thousands of fish, ranging from huge trigger fish to tiny ones which were no bigger than the nail on my baby finger (and we all know how pathetically small that is.) We also saw one of the reef's most venomous creatures, the beautiful red and white lion fish.
Then came the highlight of dive two, as a white-tipped reef shark glided past us. Although he was oblivious to us it still felt pretty spooky as all other fish quickly disappeared from sight, so it was just him and us. I could hear the Jaws music playing in my head (you've got to love the melodrama).
Our third and final dive of the day involved lots of swimming through arches and under bridges of coral. Ironically, on his very last dive in the Great Barrier Reef, before moving to teach in Thailand, Jack's hose which linked to his oxygen tank burst and he has to use the emergency hose on someone else's tank. Although it's something we've all trained for I think we were very grateful that it didn't happen to us. Jack was very chilled about it though, after a life-time of diving I got the feeling it would take a lot to send him into a panic.
|The most chilled out guide ever.|
|#15 was a brilliant end to Oz.|