Apparently, you don’t need to be certified to scuba dive in Australia. After a quick lesson aboard the “Calypso” and a standard sign-my-life-away waiver, I donned a full-body stinger suit and scuba gear for the first time. Then, beside the boat, I had a quick three-part safety test underwater with Jenny, our guide for the day. Though I didn’t ace the quiz, I passed. Down we went, three of us following her slowly into the depths along a thick, moored rope.
We couldn’t not try scuba; we were at the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest single structure made of living organisms. Totally bucket-list material. It’s a good thing we got the chance, too, because the fragile system is not going to be around forever. Some experts give it only another 50 years or so, which is why scientists are racing to photo-document its current extent. Though it’s shrinking every year, it’s still so big that it can be seen from space, and we were lucky enough to get a closer look.
About 7 meters down on a small patch of sand, Jenny motioned for us beginners to kneel down in a circle. She then picked up a sea cucumber and handed it to me. It was slimy and weird-looking, so after a quick inspection, I passed it down the line. A few minutes later, she led us to a giant clam about the size of checked luggage with a wavy gaping mouth, and motioned for us to each touch it gently. It flinched shut with a slight creaking sound when my finger grazed its lips.
The dive lasted only about 30 minutes, but it was so amazing, we couldn’t turn down another opportunity and decided to spring for a second dive at the next site ($50 each extra). That time, I was allowed to bring my GoPro camera. I reached a depth of 10.1 meters and saw more amazingness, like a clownfish (Nemo!), a sea turtle (Crush!), and a lot more otherworldly corals. Check it out:
On the ride back to shore, Kristen and I were a bit delirious with the things we’d witnessed deep in the Coral Sea. Full scuba certification might be in our future. And just maybe another visit to the reef.
Disclosure: My trip to Australia as a DTourist is sponsored by DoubleTree by Hilton.