Last week I went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It was a highlight of my entire life to date and let’s be honest here; I have done some EPIC stuff over the years but this really did take the biscuit.
Since arriving into Cairns (back in January) so many people have asked me ”Have you been to the Reef yet?”, for me to say ”Nope, not yet – it’s on my list!”. They have always replied knowingly ”Just you wait” …
Two friends and I got up early to drive North of Cairns to Port Douglas for our adventure with Divers Den – the whole day was a highlight! The Crew were amazing. The boat was huge and felt like it had everything we could need. The weather was perfect and two Humpback Whales came out to wave at us about 10 minutes after we left Port!
The diving experience itself was something I was never sure I could do. Historically I have had a problem with my left ear since I was little (I used to poke things in it, yep!) … so; anyways, all these years I have been all ”Not sure if I can dive” and it’s never been high on my To-Do List.
Travelling through Thailand in 2014 (and living there in 2015) I had so many chances to get ~under the sea~ but I always walked past the dive shops favouring a party instead. All people talked about in Koh Tao was diving; I couldn’t relate to them at all. PARTIES PLEASE.
Oh, how I was missing out. MASSIVELY!
While I can look back now and ”Wish I had done it sooner”, I am definitely in the ”Better late than never” category. A part of me thinks I was not destined to dive before I got the chance to do so at a 7th Natural Wonder of the World. The Great Barrier Reef is known universally for being one of the best dive sites in existence. And while I have nothing to compare it to; what I can say is – it blew my mind.
My friends were qualified divers so they went off together and I cracked on with an ‘Intro Dive’. I expected 4 or so people in our group plus one Instructor. Lucky for me it was only 2 people (plus me). Then even luckier, those 2 couldn’t do the ‘Skills’ so they decided to go snorkelling instead.
… When you are on the boat on the way to the dive spot you have a ‘Briefing’, whereby your Instructor explains your equipment and the plan for the dive etc. No joke, I zoned out a bit at this point – it was a lot of information to take in. I then worried I was ”Going to die” because I had missed something? … However, never fear, turns out I did take it all in. Also, my Divers Den Instructor, Pablo (aka LEGEND!!) was super-chill and gave me full confidence in him from the get-go.
I told him about my self-inflicted dodgy ear and we agreed; if I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it.
Basically; if you get severe ear pain on your descent, you cannot dive. Your ears are of huge importance as you need to be able to ‘equalise’ (clear your airways like you would on a plane) as you go down into the blue and again on the way back up.
If you f**k around you are at serious risk of long-term damage; only an idiot f**ks about in the water!
Just before we dove in I sat on the back of the boat with my legs in the water and thought ”This is it. I can either do it. Or I can’t – I really hope I can”. I said a little internal prayer to the Dive Gods up the in the sky then next minute Pablo is counting me down to flip forward into the ocean. It’s now or never …
Before you try to actually dive you are placed a couple of metres under water, on a pole attached to the boat. Here you hang on and get used to using your tank for breathing. I felt at ease at this point. The noise of the bubbles (and my breathing) surprised me but I soon understood ”All I have to do is breathe”. Pablo had told me this on the boat; he was right obvs. I chilled out. What is more natural than breathing right?!
Whilst on the pole you check how your ears feel (mine were uncomfortable but ok – they felt weird but not worrying). You also have to lose your breathing mouth-piece while under water, find it again then put it back in.
When practicing this you have to blow bubbles gently through your mouth while you lose it, stay super calm, find it, replace it, blow out while saying ”2” then resume breathing again.
I couldn’t get this at first and while I wasn’t proper scared, it annoyed me. I knew it would be easy ”Once I knew how”. I quickly realised I wasn’t getting it because I was breathing out twice with two ”2’s” when trying to clear my airway. So I was making more work for myself essentially. Breathing out twice also meant I was giving myself more time to panic and less time for my mental headspace and breathing to feel as one.
When you don’t know what you’re doing that millisecond of unrest can feel like a LONG time under the water.
I went up and asked Pablo about how to get this right and said “I’ll get it!”. He confirmed I only need to say ”2” once and that was it; it clicked. Now we’re dancing!
As mentioned, the couple who were meant to be diving with us hadn’t gone further than the skills so it was just us ready to go once I had got my shit together …
After that brief skills test on the pole; Pablo looked at me and signalled ”Follow me”. One minute his eyes were looking at mine, the next my trust in him was certain. Then that was it.
He turned around, I followed him and we were gone.
I will never forget that first moment of descent. It was just wholly natural. I distinctly remember feeling ”This is IT!! This is where I’m meant to be”.
My heart immediately felt full and eager. Like my eyes were about to pop out with love for what I could see. I can’t describe a time I have ever felt that way before. It was surreal and purely amazing. Gliding down into the ocean; I was awestruck.
That first dive lasted around 20 minutes and trust me; The Great Barrier Reef is NOT dead. I have never seen so much life, so many colours in one place. Hundreds (possibly thousands) of fish, clams and all sorts of living, breathing beings were absolutely everywhere you looked.
Rainbow colours, animal prints, clams opening and closing as you swam by, lots of different textures of coral, fish blinking directly at you, things that looked like big slugs. The list of ”I’ve never seen one of those before!” was literally as endless as the water itself.
I kept thinking ”WOW! Have to remember this one!” ”Amazing, don’t forget that one!” ”So beautiful!” …
The water was cold down there, we went about 9 metres at our deepest point but it was just so beautiful; nothing was a worry.
When we came up for air I couldn’t get over the feeling of pure exhilaration. It was the one of the highest natural highs I have ever experienced. I was hooked after that first descent. More please!
After lunch we went for another dive and super lucky for me again; it was just me and Pablo.
I honestly was beyond lucky to have two private dives in one day! It was just us and the ocean, absolutely unreal!! Before we went down I was all ”I wanna see a shark, it’s my ultimate life goal” and low and behold; we saw a shark.
Pablo tapped me on the arm and pointed and before me, a few metres further down was a Black (or White, I couldn’t see clearly but I think it was Black) Tip Reef Shark laying on the ocean floor. It was about 2m long, laying peaceful as can be.
It was majestic, I cried happy tears inside. I hope I never forget those moments, even in my old age I like to think that’s the kind of memory that will never be erased from my mind regardless of how loopy I end up going when I’m 120.
As I write this I am looking ahead to this weekend; where I join Divers Den to start my 4 day ‘Open Water’ course. Completing this will mean I am a ‘Certified’ diver, so can therefore go diving with my mates and not always need a guide.
I genuinely feel like diving is something I was meant to discover. If I had never left Sydney I may never have got round to doing this. So as much as I still continue to yearn after my Sydney life every day I cannot deny the fact that I am living in one of the best places in the world right now. I have definitely found a degree of ‘love’ for Cairns recently and lord knows it’s taken me a long time to adjust and feel those feelings for here but recently I feel like I’ve had my eyes opened up to what this place is all about.
I can’t thank my friends Frazer, Gina and Liam enough for making this day happen. Pablo, you legend – we will be diving again soon when I have my Cert! And of course, the awesome Divers Den Crew for the epic first experience. I am absolutely buzzing for my Open Water and look forward to reporting back on it soon!
”Let’s go diving”
***Please note; My to diving write up is purely based on my own experiences during my first two intro dives. Of course there is a lot of bad press out there (and hardcore evidence) stating the Reef IS dead. I was lucky to see a thriving area of the Reef and while I can’t comment on things I haven’t seen/ have no knowledge of I will always be honest in what I share. As I get more educated with what I am seeing and go to different dive spots I may have different information to share with you. I am a baby in this underwater world and am super excited to learn as much as I can about the diving / the Reef/ our planet while I’m in Cairns***
”Failure” makes you who you are
As always, I have friends around me going through a lot of different shit and while I will not go into details; I would like to remind us all that FAILURE is NOT FAILURE.
If something is not working out for you; honestly, please take it as a sign it is not meant for you.
I feel very strongly about this and see every bump in the road as an opportunity to swerve onto a better path.
I have royally f**ked up so many times in my life (haven’t we all?!) and look where I am now. Look where you are now and what you have been through. Don’t tell me if your time is rough now it’s the worst it’s ever been – I bet you’ve been through even worse and come out of it.
Things feel so important (and laden full of worry) when they are going wrong. It’s all you think can think about and you worry what others think etc. You worry about where to go next. What to do. Who to trust when you’re living in a state of confusion. What is the ‘right’ thing to do. BLAH BLAH BLAH.
My advice in times of unrest;
- Day by day, just get through today. Then get through tomorrow. Keep going in little chunks
- Don’t plan too far ahead (day-by-day is key)
- Laugh at yourself – come on, it’s not really that bad is it? As my Uncle always says ”World keeps spinning, nothing changes”
- Use every knock back as a learning curve
- Remember; if things are going ‘wrong’ it’s a sign that you were not on the right path anyway
- Know; every time something f**ks up, it finds a way to work out
- It ain’t over ’til it’s over – no matter your age or status; you have so much to look forward to in your life
- You might feel shit but your family and friends LOVE YOU regardless
- You might feel worthless but you are so much to so many – please don’t lose sight of who you are
And my ultimate tip; GET EXCITED BABY! Because things have to go to shit to come good. The worse the fall the higher the climb. I have been on my ass in so many areas of life (mainly men and visa related!) over the years and hey HERE I AM cracking on and doing my utmost to make the most of every day.
You must use any hard times to work out what you want; because when you know what you want things become easy (life starts to work for you as it should). As cheesy as it sounds; you really do ”got this”, even though you don’t think so right now. You’ll look back one day and be like ”I got through this, I can get through anything”.
Witness the CrossFitness
I am into my third week at Marlin Coast Crossfit and while I have 0 photos of me at work in ‘The Box’, because CrossFit is not the kind of place you take pics / look in the mirror (there aren’t any mirrors!) – I will say it is amazing. I am loving it. Every single session is different. Session are a mix of cardio, weights, gymnastics, core and beyond.
One of the best things is; I know I am going to learn something every time I attend.
My body is already changing shape, it’s awesome how well you can respond to training when you really apply yourself. If you are keen on training but have never tried CrossFit I 110% recommend finding a ‘Box’ near you.
Train like an athlete, feel and look like one (eventually!). I have so many goals for this fitness journey but one of the main ones is walking on my hands – I reckon this will take at least (!!!) 6 months to get to. Let’s see!
Thanks for reading, have a great week. PLEASE go diving if you ever get the chance!
Shout out to my Mum today – Happy Birthday to my fabulous Mum! One of the best lessons I have ever learned from her is ”Be yourself”.