Diving the Reef
Same same, no difference. As usual it’s already a long time since my last article. Anyway this time I won’t relay on all the things that happened since then and only refer to the past week. I arrived in Cairns on Sunday the 5th after I went skydiving on the same morning. That was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had! Nothing compares to the void that you feel when you dive in after jumping out of the plane. The experience is certainly not for everyday but that’s only because of the exorbitant price! I can understand the boys, who gain their money with leading backpackers through the air. My guide told me it never really loses its thrill. I even got some pictures (which made the whole joy even more expensive) but I haven’t had a look at them yet. That’s because they’re on a DVD and my beloved MacBook Air doesn’t contain a disc drive at all. So I will wait. And so will you.
Since I’m in Cairns I have been on two liveaboard trips with Deep Sea Divers Den. A company, which provides trips to the Outer Reef and to the Northern Reef. I booked my first dive trip on Monday after arriving and decided to go for the PADI Advanced certificate. On the boat I met a funny Canadian guy and we had a great time over the three days on the reef. The crew was really laid back and relaxed. On the first day we had two dives from another boat, which brought us to the Ocean Quest. I had to repeat some details in mind but most of the important issues were still present. After these two I was back in the material. Later in the evening I had my first night dive. As we entered the briefing deck we met a quite scary surprise. The captain switched on the light on the back of the boat and there were about ten sharks going crazy about the fish, which came there because of the light. It was an amazing picture. The sharks were certainly not dangerous but it was pretty impressive anyway. The dive itself was not really special. Only the Giant Trevallies made it interesting because they just appear everywhere and quite unexpected. And they look mean. One of the highlights of the 12 dives on this three day trip was the sighting of two turtles, which were swimming around us in their own relaxed speed. It’s always a pleasure to observe these mammals under water. The Advanced course itself was cheap. All I had to do was completing the knowledge reviews for five chapters and pass some easy skills during five dives. So I wasn’t really stressed over the time. Twelve dives over three days is a bit much by the way. Especially because on the last one we only had three of them. That means on Wednesday we went for five dives and that’s almost more than is healthy. But we managed it anyway and I wouldn’t change anything.
The second trip went out to the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef. All the guys I asked before said, if you really want to see the reef as you expect it, you have to go north as high as possible! What they meant were probably the spots I went to on Taka. That’s the name of the second boat and it’s quite popular. At least among divers. Whenever I told one of them that I leave on Taka next Friday I got jealous reactions. I like. We left Cairns last Friday on about 5pm and traveled until the next morning to reach the northern reef. We got a briefing and I spontaneously decided to continue my diving education with the EANx course. That’s just the short version of Enriched Air Nitrox and means that instead of 21% of oxygen in your tank you get up to 40%. It makes breathing a little easier and after the dive you don’t feel that tired. But the main advantage is that you can stay deeper for a longer time without getting the decompression illness. Disadvantage is the high price and the danger that comes with more than 21% oxygen. It can cause fire or even explosion but only with bad maintained circumstances. Further you cannot go that deep than without Nitrox. As if that would make a difference if you’re allowed to go to 32.7 meters than 33.5 meters. The most animals live at about 18 meters or higher so I doesn’t matter anyway. But the higher oxygen level the less depth. The benefit for me is quite small because I’m usually running out of air before I got the danger of decompression illness and I don’t use to go that deep. But anyway now I’ve got the licence to use it.
The diving on the first day started on the Ribbon reef #10 with the famous Cod Hole. The name comes from the numerous cod fish, which live on this spot. These are quite big gray and black fish, which are actually very friendly. Some of the divers with less than 50 dives had to go guided on the first one to show that we’re ready for diving in pairs. On the second dive we were finally allowed to do that but before that everybody participated the Cod Feed. That means every diver sat down in a circle around the guides and they then came around and fed the cods. The result was a great experience and some amazing pictures. Yes, I rented a camera and took over 400 pictures on the 14 dives. And no, I’m not a professional. But at least they’re self-made. Other dive sites we visited on this day were Pixie’s Pinnacle and the night dive at Challenger Bay. The pinnacle was amazing. It’s like one big tower raising out of the ground with uncountable corals and fish living on it. The night dive we later made was actually the best I’ve ever participated. All right it was only my third but not everybody has that much night dives. Animals we saw were two moray eels and I even found a white and yellow striped worm. The night that came after that dive was remarkable. The crew already said that the crossing to the famous Osprey reef would be quite bumpy and so was it. I felt it funny lying in bed and get pushed from one edge to the other. I think I even slept some hours. Maybe only because I was so tired and couldn’t sleep the last night. Our first dive on the Osprey reef was the North Horn. The name is because it’s the most northern point of the reef. It’s very impressive. You stay at your 20 to 30 meters knowing that only a few meters further it goes vertically down to 1000 meters and all you see is darkness. The second dive that day was the mysterious shark feed. Dive site was the same but this time the guides brought some dead fish in a container with them. As they released them the numerous sharks went crazy and it was like a huge ball of sharks fighting for these tuna heads. There were so many of them and you could really get goose skin of that. After a few minutes it was over and we continued our dive as usual. The sharks were everywhere and so where the remoras, the small fish, which always swim with sharks and other bigger things. They sometimes even follow divers, what is quite ridiculous. By the way the sharks were not dangerous at all. It were mostly Black- or White-tip reef sharks, which don’t get very big and don’t care about humans at all. Some of the guys saw a Leopard shark under the boat but unfortunately we were not there at this time. The two further dive sites on the Osprey reef were The Entrance and Half Way Wall. No night dive. I know the travel to Osprey was mad but you can top everything! The way back was far more scaring and I really was afraid to hit my head somewhere or just fall over while walking to the cabin. I even had the hilarious idea to take a shower during this swell. The result was a flooded bath. Never mind. Everybody survived the night and in the morning we went diving at the lower Ribbon reefs like #3. The dive sites were called Steve’s Bommie, which we dived twice and is also known as Temple of Doom. The next was Princess Pinnacle and eventually Beer Garden for the night dive. Bommie is a short form of an Aboriginal word with the same meaning as pinnacle. I really like these pinnacles. You see so many various animals on pretty few terrain and you can easily see the difference in the high. Down at 25 meters are other fish than on 14 meters. And if you’re not available to navigate on a pinnacle you’re just stupid. The Beer Garden night dive was the worst I’ve ever had. There was just nothing, not even Trevallies. All I saw was a big red crabs in a shell. That was nice but that was also all I found. The last two dives we spend on the Outer Reef on a site called Troppos. I knew this site from the first trip already and dived it five times completely. The first three times were better, if even because the water was only 23 degrees warm. At least we saw a turtle on the second dive.
As little money as I spend during the first two months traveling, the much I spend now for these two trips. Diving is very expensive but I don’t know when and if I will be here again and so it was worth it. The two trips were quite luxurious and the food was always great. The crews were helpful and nice and I had two great times. So I don’t complain about anything. I had now 26 dives over eight days and that was very much. In Gili I never had more than two a day so it was quite ambitious. I have some days break now and will go for my last five days on the weekend with Tiago. I think that will be more relaxed. Diving still great but I’ll also be happy when I am far away in the outback in two weeks. My time is running low here in Australia. Tomorrow in four weeks I will be in Switzerland again. There are things I will desperately miss about Australia like surfing or diving. Just the sea and the sun. But I also miss the good food and especially the bread in Switzerland. So it will okay to come back again.
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