Australia - Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

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Cairns & Townsville- Diving on the Barrier reef and the Yongala.

29th Septmeber -11th October

After leaving Hydeaway bay we managed to cover around 400km’s in the end and got as far as Lucinda and stayed there the night. When we stopped at one of the last sets of traffic lights in town I couldn’t believe how sore my under-thighs were where they touched the seat-I could hardly stand up….and we were talking of 800-1000km days in the future!!

Amusingly enough Lucinda was at the end of a fishing competition which had been a main event there all week-end, so we put up the tent as soon as we could and got involved as far as we could. The town was having a very good spirited event and whilst we disappointedly had missed the fish weigh-in, were able to see a number of daft games played and people generally having a good time. Most of the festivities finished at around 10pm, however the camp ground was packed out and there was very little space to camp. This combined with an entertainment group which insisted on playing despite the diminished crowd down to about 10 people, and that followed by an equally unattended disco, did a lot to keep us awake for a few hours. I can see somebody “on the committee” saying that we organised it therefore it should happen !

We got up the following morning a little haggered and both took a hopeful shower. The shower got the eyes open but I think our brains were still attached to the idea of a pillow. We ate breakfast and loaded up, setting off again for Cairns.

When we arrived in Cairns and the BIG4 caravan park looked the best option as it had wireless Internet access and seemed well positioned for the surrounding area . It was more expensive than the other local sites but was located outside of town and the Internet was free. Added to that, if we became a member of BIG4(costing $AU40) any further stays at BIG4 sites would entitle us to a 10 percent reduction. With Internet access costing around $AU10/hr it was a bit of a no-brainer(or so we thought at the time.) The site was nice, quiet and very local to a reasonable shopping arcade and not so far from the City centre(about 15-20 mins by bike), and as a real bonus provided an area for washing your vehicle in (Bingo !) so we settled in quite quickly.

Whilst Sylvia did many of our domestic duties I set about looking into a number of possibilities connected with diving and getting a more comfortable seat option for the bike. Whilst I seem to be having the main problems Sylvia wasn’t faring that much better so I knew I needed to find a resolution before we set about any further ventures a-field. Air Hawk seat cushions seemed the logical choice, would be quick to obtain, install and reasonably priced. I phoned the “Air Hawk Guy” in Australia and had a brief chat. The net result of which led to the purchase of two seats despite Sylvia’s protests that she didn’t think it would help her. They came within a few days and I fitted them after washing the bike in the “vehicle bay” of the campsite. My first impression was of not much difference even whilst fiddling around with the amount of air in the seat. I finally found what I thought would be the best inflation level, left it alone and set about evaluating if it was helpful or not. Sylvia was pretty confident soon after an initial trial that hers wasn’t helping and I wasn‘t that convinced about mine either, however after a 250km round trek to Port Douglas we both began to think that maybe they were working after-all. (At the time of writing - 26th November, we have covered around 21,000km’s, most of which were done in 7 weeks with 2 peak days of in excessive of 1100km’s being ridden with plenty of 400km plus days too. We are both now full supporters of them. When we finished our 1100km plus days nothing on our bodies hurt more than anywhere else and added to that, the troublesome back ache I’d suffered for a month or so also disappeared after 1 visit to a Chiropractor and using the seat.)

Sylvia hadn’t dived since completing her PADI open water course in Australia in 1991 so we both agreed she sould do a one day refresher. We’d found a company who offered a good live-aboard package for 2 days and 1 night and so we booked both her refresher and our Barrier Reef “expeience” with them, the Deep Sea divers den.


A few days later Sylvia spent the day doing her refresher course. Whilst I continued with the web updates and looking into various travelling options for us. Whilst in Red Lynch(our area in Cairns) we became friendly with the video shop owner who was dying to go travelling(as he was getting a bit older for some travel adventuress) but was worried about his elderly parents. We could see and feel his frustration and so spent some time listening and talking with him of our experiences and hopefully gave him some practical suggestions for the future.

We spent a day getting ourselves oragnised with swimsuits, haircuts & an appointment for a visit to a chiropracter as my back was starting to hurt very badly.

The next day we went diving on the Outer Barrier Reef on boats Reef & Ocean Quest.


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Reef Quest used as a day-dive boat and 'tender' for Ocean quest which is a live-aboard boat.


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Ocean Quest, our Hotel for a night.


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Looking out on the Great Barrier Reef.

We both did 6 day dives and I did one night dive. We also dived without a guide for the first time(s) which generally went very well and improved each time we went together. (This decision to go-it-alone was prompted by a Russian family of 4 who were all supposed to be qualified divers but created havoc above & below the water.)

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Happy shiny people above the sea ready for our first dive on the Barrier Reef.

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No looking quite so happy which was partly due to the Russians and partly due to dissappointing visibility and dead coral.

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Looking at my instruments and letting some air out of my BCD-can't imagine what I was thinking !!

We did however get separated once for about a minute and I was frantically swimming around trying to find Sylvia, not sure what to do. I started to panic a bit, reminded myself that this wasn’t the time and wouldn’t help anyway and so continued searching. Finally, after about a minute, Sylvia re-appeared, apparently having had problems with her buoyancy and had ended up going to the surface. I was angry and worried at the same time. I reminded myself later though that she hadn’t dived for 16 years and was in fact doing incredibly well considering all she’d had was a one day refresher without an actual dive. We discussed the policy for such an event in the future and adopted that endorsed by PADI should a similar event occur. 1 Minute search and then to the surface to look for each other or get more help.

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Some coral & a cuttle fish seen on our first dive-Adult cuttle fish are around the size of a large cat which surprised me.

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We had 2 really lovely dives together, one at 06:30am of our second morning where visibility was very good and fish life was more abundant than we’d seen so far.

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Reef Tip shark, (courtesy of ships photographer).

The second was later that day around a rock column. We’d been given a very good pre-dive briefing and followed the suggested dive-plan almost to the letter. It paid off, we got the longest dive from our air so far and were able to really appreciate the colours of the coral and fish as we neared the surface. I also had a great night dive. I don’t know what it is about night dives but I find them the most relaxing. On this particular one we got to see an abundance of giant Trevlli and I got to team up with a really good “Buddy”. I was as exhilerated as a child when I surfaced and poor Sylvia did her best to share in my enthusiasm whilst taking pictures of her ecstatic crazy frog-man boyfriend.

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Preparing for the night dive.

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Leaving the saftey of the boat for the black sea.

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Returning.

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Drawing a breath before poor Sylvia is bombarded with my stories !

We didn’t want to leave the ship(we'd booked for two days but that could be extended just for the asking...and paying) but we knew we had many more things to see and do and more dive opportunities ahead of us so we went with the resignation of “there‘ll be another day“.

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Seen in the Harbour on our return to Cairns.

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The following day I met with my pre-dive appointment with a Chiropractor. The appointment seemed to go ok, X-rays were taken (as was my Money) and a prognosis offered. After signing papers relieving the Chiropracter of any responsibility he set to work on me. After about 5 mins he was done and recommended follow-up treatment. I was sceptical as to the benefit of my visit but must confess that the pain was significantly easier (and my back felt different) even that day and the pain has never returned to the same level as before to the point of writing late in November.) I believe this has also been aided by the use of the Air Hawk seat as I said earlier.

On the Sunday we drove up to Port Douglas and spent the day on the beach. We mainly went for the ride many had told us of but it was only interesting for about 25% of the ride. Port Douglas was ok but nothing special. We enjoyed the day none-the-less.

The following day we leave in general direction of Townsville and arrived at Rowes bay caravan site. It was a bit of a dump but the only one we could find in town. The fridge was so full people couldn’t put their perishable goods away. We were going to Townsville to look for a replacement camera for the drowned Olympus, new riding gloves for us both, a new electric razor that would hold a charge, and for me to dive on the Yongala ship-wreck which has become a modern day coral reef.

I managed to find a really nice Remington replacement for half the price of a basic Phillips. I’d used Phillips for 30 years and was sceptical of Remington as I’d seen too many Victor Kyam adverts in the 70’s & 80’s. However Phillips really have gone too fancy with their designs and prices. The Remington Titanium is excellent and fitted exactly what I needed which was a dual power razor allowing me to use the razor with a totally discharged battery if it is plugged into the mains, and whilst doing so, charging up the battery ! It also gave me a far better shave ! We found Sylvia a Sony camera which whilst not water or shock-proof(not that the Olympus was in the end anyway) takes far better and more consistent photos and videos that the Olympus could and was also less than half the price of the basic Olympus !! We also both managed to find some good cheap summer gloves to last us the rest of the trip so all-in-all a good place to do shopping, especially at a large chain retailer, Harvey Norman, who gave us both additional discounts as we went to pay for the goods.

For the Yongala I was up early and collected at 06:30. The boat ride was 3 hours each way to the dive spot and we were taken there in a surprisingly small boat. I had arranged 15l tanks(as an air gulper) and they’d topped them up too so I hoped to stay down roughly the same amount of time as the other divers. I met a decent Dutch guy and we elected to buddy-up. The dive wasn’t as spectacular as I’d hoped but the fish we saw were much bigger than I’d seen in Australia before and they were spectacular. I also got to see a 2-3m Shark, we think it was a nursing shark-it was harbouring in the wreck. I also saw one of the ships toilets lying on the ocean floor. I had a nice all round day finished off by a nice chat on the way back to an Australian from Canberra and a Woman from Norway.

Sylvia had spent the whole day working on our schedule for our route and timings around Australia. She is a good woman. :thumb2:D:clap

Mike.

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Initially we thought we'd found him but they were just a couple of clownes.(very bad diving 'joke')
 
Good one. :clap

(I thought that there was not much worse than being stuck in a dive group with one liability, a whole family of them must be a real trial!)
 
Hi Mike,

Yes, they were a real pain. The boys didn't even have their masks on properly and their Father swam around like an injured Walrus. On the positive side though it 'forced' me to go it alone with Sylvia which was a nice next step and at about the right time.

Regards,

Mike
 


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