I, along with many of my other peers, am now scuba certified! It was a four day process to get our certifications. One day was spent in the classroom watching videos and taking tests, the second in an enclosed pool to practice the skills that we were learning, and the third and fourth in the Great Barrier Reef!
Beginning to learn and practice our skills in the pool was incredible. Everyone said that I would remember my first breaths underwater and they were absolutely correct. I remember looking at my instructor, Brenden, and feeling like I was invincible. I could breath underwater! I almost forgot that I had a huge tank on my back and a regulator in my mouth.
As we started practicing the skills I thought this was it, this was the coolest part. How can you beat the first breaths you take underwater? How was anything going to top that? But oh boy was I wrong.
For our days spent in the ocean we went to Fitzroy Island which is an island about an hour away from Cairns by boat. Our first day in the island we did two more skills dives by the shore before we went out on the ocean the next day to do our final dives. Just off the shore there are tons of different types of fish and coral only a couple of meters from the surface. My group was led by Brandon who is permanent staff on the island so he said he knows where all of the cool animals live. On our dive we saw a lion fish, a sting ray, clown fish (nemo), barracuda, sea cucumbers, and so many other other types of life that I can’t even remember.
We all completed our skills without a problem which means that we all got to dive in the middle of the ocean the next day!
Our last day of diving we left Fitzroy Island and traveled out to East Timor, one of the dive spots on the GBR. Our first dive that day was our last skills dive. We dove down to the bottom, about 18 meters, and did our final skills before we could do our fourth dive which was just for fun. We got down to the bottom and sat on our knees to show we were ready to start and my instructor for the day, Joey, gave my group specific hand signals to show us what she wanted us to do. Once we all completed the skills, she asked us how much air we had by tapping her first two fingers on her palm and we responded with how much air we had in the way that we were trained. When Joey was sure we knew our stuff we got to swim around until we were running out of air and had to ascend together.
We all had buddies for the week, my buddy was Cammie which means that we always had to be within two swift kicks of each other. This was mostly a safety precaution as well as a precaution to make sure we were having fun (so says our scuba handbook). Cammie was the best buddy. We explored, mingled with some fish, and pointed out all of the cool things that we saw to each other.
When the first person in my group gave the signal that they were low on air Joey gave the signal to begin our five point ascent. STEAK was the acronym we used: Signal, check Time (and air), Eyes up, Arms up, Kick up. Once we got to the surface we checked back in with the boat’s crew, had lunch, topped up our air tanks, had lunch, and prepared for our fourth and final dive.
The fourth dive was by far the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. Not only could I still breathe underwater, but now I could fully explore the reef, with my buddy of course. I was allowed to bring my GoPro on the final dive so I got to capture some pretty insane moments with the plants and animals on the reef as well as my peers amazement with what we were all seeing.
When the first person in my group signaled to Joey that they were low on air we ascended to the surface for the final time. I was really bummed that it was over and may or may not have bobbed around on the surface for a little longer than I had to just so that I didn’t have to get out of my BCD just yet.
When I finally got out of the water one of the crew members told me that we still had a half hour before we were leaving for Cairns again. She hadn’t even finished her sentence before I had put my flippers and snorkel back on and jumped back into the water to soak in as much as the reef as I possibly could. I saw the same diversity of animals in the shallow part of the reef as I did in the deepest parts that we were allowed to go. I spent my final 30 minutes with the reef chasing around fish with my GoPro and relaxing into the waves as I watched all the fish swimming around me.
Scuba diving was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Unfortunately, technology is not on our side at the moment and I am not able to upload the photos and videos that I took while scuba diving so for now you’ll just have to believe me that it was incredible. Hopefully the issues will be figured out soon and we’ll be able to share our amazing experiences with everyone. But for now, we’re headed to the Australian Outback!