#Finding Nemo #Nemofound

This is perhaps the most overused phrase in Australia. It has proliferated itself everywhere from Twitter captions, Instagram, and Facebook posts. Still I can’t help myself from using it. I’m addicted – what can I say.

For my first excursion in Cairns, I went diving on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The diving on the GBR was the best diving I have done in my entire life.

I was a bit worried when I woke up in the morning to go. Not surprising, it was raining and windy. Luckily the rain was isolated to the coast and the rough ocean waves caused by the wind were mostly blocked by the reef. During our pre-dive briefing, the crew informed us that the conditions weren’t that great. I’ll take 40 feet visibility, 77 degree water, and small 2 foot waves any day over diving off the coast of Virginia. I suppose it is easy to become spoiled when you dive the best reef in the world day in and day out.

The boat I was booked on was big and fast. It held approximately 60 people and looked more like a mini cruise ship than a dive boat. Luckily most of these 60 people were snorkeling and there were only 10 or so people diving. It made the reef feel a lot less crowded. The ride out to the reef was about 1.5 hours. Had we been on a normal dive boat (like the Miss Lindsay – a VB dive boat), the ride could have easily been 3.

For my first dive I decided to pay $15 to go with a guide. I could have gone with just a buddy but I thought it wise to go with a local to get a feel for the reef. Plus he showed me some rather interesting species of fish. I would have probably missed most of it had I gone alone. During the dive, I was paired with 2 Austrian girls; my dive buddies, and together the 4 of us descended to about 50 feet and worked out way slowly along the reef to about 20 feet. The total dive time was about 40 minutes.

For the second and third dives I went just with the two Austrian girls. Since they consumed their air a lot slower than me, I usually ended my dive slightly before them. For both dives, I signaled my goodbye and surfaced on my own – usually right next to the boat. They stayed down and followed up approximately 10 minutes later.

Interestingly, they put me in charge of navigation. I don’t know if that was the best decision, but since we were diving in a secluded reef cove and typically averaged only 25 feet or so, if I had wanted I could have surfaced wherever and just swam my way back to the boat. But I liked the challenge of underwater navigation, and I am proud to say that both times I managed to navigate my way back.

During the dives I saw an enormous variety of sea life. I saw every tropical fish imaginable. Unfortunately I didn’t see any turtles, but I did find a White Tipped Reef Shark. I’ve got some incredible GoPro video of me following that shark. At some point (when I get to Asia) I will try my best to upload some videos.

In all I was able to manage 2 hours of bottom time over the 3 dives. I would have loved to go again, but at $225, I thought it prudent to wait until Thailand. Apparently you can volunteer working on the boat for two free dives. I learned this by chatting up the bartender on the boat during our ride back. Sadly, this perk was booked up for a week solid.

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