I went “Down Under” for my first time; my eyes began to well up with tears, as I let out a giggle of joy through my breathing tube. I was entering a magical world that I had never before seen and I was overwhelmed with this new discovery.
I did it! I went “Down Under” at the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia! While visiting family friends in Brisbane, I contemplated adding on a weekend jaunt to Cairns, North Queensland to experience one of the seven wonders of the natural world. A friend back home urged me to visit the Great Barrier Reef while I was on that side of the world. In all honesty, it wasn’t that big of an attraction to me (or so I thought!), as I had never before gone snorkeling or diving, and I truly didn’t know what I had been missing out on.
But….a little voice inside was gently telling me to go ahead and book that side trip. Stop thinking about it and just do it. And so I did!! Isn’t that the whole point of traveling? To try new things, expand your horizons, become comfortable with your uncomfortable? I now know that I would have regretted not going. When the opportunity is there, take it. You will only enrich your life and learn from new experiences; and this is what I’m hungry for as I travel around the world. This was one of those “firsts” that I will never, ever forget!
Pictured above is me with new friend Bryony Bonekyn of the UK; we were each other’s support as we were both snorkelling for our first time!. A few months after meeting Bryony, I learned that she was killed in a tragic accident during her travels. She was a beautiful soul exploring the world and I’m so glad our paths crossed. RIP beautiful Bryony.
I went with a few new friends that I met in Cairns, and we went with Down Under Cruise and Dive. The staff are very friendly, engaging and helpful. While the company offers many packages, the one I went for included snorkeling at two different reef locations; BBQ’d lunch (steak, sausages, fish, prawns, and fresh salads); a snack in the afternoon; and onboard live music on the way back.
If you ever go on such an excursion, for those of you who are prone to even the slightest seasickness, make sure you bring anti-nausea pills. But if you forget, no worries! Down Under Dive is well-stocked with a big container of natural ginger pills for passengers to help themselves to. (I had to make use of these!) The thought of me getting sick hadn’t even crossed my mind before I arrived at the boat, so I am grateful that Down Under was prepared!
We stopped at two different reefs; the first one was Saxon Reef (1.5 hours out of Cairns), and the second one, was Hastings Reef (another 30 minutes on the boat). The latter had much more reef to explore and the water temperature was a bit warmer, at +26 degrees Celsius! Can you imagine that?? That is just a bit warmer than the average (air) summer temperature back home in Yellowknife!
I got all geared up in my flippers, goggles, breathing tube and life jacket (I can swim, but I wanted to comfortably float with minimal effort!) I jumped off the back of the boat into the water and swam around like a mermaid, exploring the reef and passing by vibrant-colored coral and fish. I was in a magical underwater garden with sea creatures and tropical fish (that I’ve only seen before in pictures) swimming around me and through the crevices of the reef.
I was fortunate to have the use of a friend’s underwater camera at one of the reefs. The casing was clunky (for obvious reasons) and it wasn’t the easiest thing to operate while floating in a life jacket, but I managed to get a couple of decent shots. (This is a whole new kind of photography I am not used to!) I’ve also included a shot taken by one of the other divers who used the camera. If you don’t have an underwater camera, don’t worry! Down Under Dive has you covered again! You can either rent a basic underwater camera or purchase a simple plastic covering for your smart phone. (Suggestion…be sure to make use of this! You won’t regret it!)
I wish we had more time at Hastings Reef (it was around 3 hours), as I was just getting the hang of swimming like a mermaid and there was so much more to explore. However, my time was cut a bit short because….
I upgraded for the “Get High” package, which involved a 10-minute add-on helicopter tour! While this was a very short trip, it was well worth the extra cost to have the opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef from the air (and I was in the front seat)! (You could also upgrade to fly all the way back to Cairns). What a breathtaking view!
Going Down Under for my first time was an “out of this world” experience and I will definitely want to be doing this again and again when the opportunity arises in the future. Who knows? Maybe I will graduate and try out diving next time!
For pricing and reservation information, visit Down Under Cruise and Dive.
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Travelin’ Tawna! (In Tuscany now…..)