Sunday, October 29, 2017

Diving The Great Barrier Reef

So, in keeping with my sometimes-blogged-about observation: people generally more enjoy hearing about what went wrong on a trip rather than the "I loved this and that."  Truthfully, I even enjoy telling the travel-hassle stories more than the "I went here and saw this and that..." (well, except for Facebook which I consider to be mostly "bragging" anyway -- and I use it that way as well).

And, this diving experience did serve up a few of those stories that I'll lead with:

1.  On one of the dives, I led my buddy back to the wrong boat!  Humbled by the error, thereafter I relied more heavily on the superb underwater navigation skills of my diving "buddy" for the 11 dives - a 30 year old dentist from Argentina.
She sweetly shared in the miscalculations -- and the experience could not have been better in being reminded that sometimes we learn best from failure!  Of course we enjoyed many laughs about it -- including the reactions of the divers on the other boat who were also just coming in from a dive.  When one asked how we got there -- I just told 'em we swam in from Cairns (3 hours away)!  Also, we didn't hold the record for getting lost on our boat -- others had to be picked up more than once -- and we had some solid excuses as the boats were identical from the same company -- with the same name ScubaPro.  Ours just happened to be ScubaPro III instead of ScubaPro I and there had been some challenging current that affected other divers as well.  I couldn't help but think about all the platitudes about only seeing what you are looking for!

2.  I failed to realize that unlike Bali diving, this company did not provide "booties" to wear inside your fins -- and I ended up the 11 dives with toes that looked like they could be good shark bait. No long term damage -- and really quite minor in the big scheme of things -- but irritating nonetheless.  I won't be making that mistake twice -- but I may well end up on the wrong boat again someday!

That's it -- nothing else to add to the fun of difficult travel stories.  The rest was AMAZING!  Great people (24 divers from around the world), great staff (fun and talented), great training, great food, comfortable bunks (I was bunked with a mid-20's guy from Santiago), calm seas (no one got sea sick), and wonderful dives.  And I learned a ton -- not only because I decided to take the Advanced Open Water certification and the Enriched Air certification training -- but also because most the dives were not guided.  Don't get me wrong -- I greatly prefer guided as it eliminates much of the underwater worries regarding time and place, and makes for a MUCH more relaxing dive, but being totally responsible for ourselves (buddy and I) and all our own gear preparation took my diving capability to a new level.

These photos don't do the trip any justice -- but there was little time for photos anyway and it's an experience, like diving itself, that no photo can explain.

And yes we saw sharks (2) and many turtles of all sizes -- and lots of beautiful fish.  I even experienced my first ever night diving (did two of them).  But please don't ask me to compare diving here and in Bali -- every dive is amazing and like life itself, sometimes the "experience" depends on so many variables -- weather, mood, attitude, people you're with, comfort with gear.  I truly believe I could go diving in the exact same spot every day and have a truly unique and wonderful experience each time.  As I have gotten more comfortable in the water, I truly love the feeling of weightlessness -- and I love just taking a relaxed pace.  I do think it's a little like motorcycling in this way:  some people treat it as a search, and speed along looking for the next thing -- others enjoy the ride in the moment.  Every fish, every school of fish, every clam (and we saw some giants), every coral, is fascinating when viewed from the weightless state of diving.  I'm convinced that there is no "one best place."  The Great Barrier Reef did not disappoint and I'm happy to make this bucket list check mark -- and I will be delighted if I should have the opportunity to return!