Aussie Road Trip: Cairns and diving in the Great Barrier Reef

What a start, Cairns.

My Dad once told me that he and Bernard left home one day to try and make it to Cairns by hitchiking their way up the coast from Sydney. Dad also said they only made it as far as Brisbane, which wasn’t a bad effort in a time without internet or cheap air travel. It’s this attempted venture that made me feel so accomplished when I stepped foot in Cairns. It was as if I was grabbing the baton and finishing what they started all those years ago…with the help of the internet and cheap air travel of course.

It was well worth it too, especially as the northern Queendland city’s famed humidity was sitting at a reasonable 60%, much more manageable than the summer which hits the late 90s.

After settling into the hostel, I managed to find the only other person in Cairns who has heard of DDVs and Chameleon- two disgraceful Southend nightclubs which I both adore and despise in equal measure.

That’s right, after meeting up with people all over the world for the first 22 days of my roadtrip, I find an Essex girl who I can talk to about pints and other UK stuff.

Not only did I make a new friend, but also a skydiving buddy for Byron Bay. Finally, someone not afraid to jump out of a plane flying at 14,000 feet. See you there, Chrissy!

This morning after a solid Eggs Benny and a coffee, I ventured to Marlin Marina where my Tusa 6 vessel was ready to depart for The Great Barrier Reef !

On board were a tonne of friendly people and staff from all over the world. It was a great experience from the start, with expert knowledge and tips and good humour to put everyone at ease. The organisation was exemplary and they really worked hard to make sure everyone had fun.

We managed three 45 minute dives in the day, and saw everything from Nemos to living, breathing coral. It’s so surreal watching them breathe, it’s like watching a tree inhale and exhale, with bright neon lights on the tips of its limbs.

The barrier itself is huge. It is difficult to express the majesty of this structure, and when you consider that it covers 350,000 square km, it is a testament to the raw and unforgiving power of nature.

It’s not necessarily the amount of wildlife here, it’s the sheer variety of it. The colours, sounds and textures of this underwater network is astounding and makes you feel like you’ve drifted into another dimension, where colour rules and everything has a job to do.

The reef is like a body, and every cell is part of a greater group of important organisms that keep its heart beating. The thought of losing this stunning natural wonder is horrifying, and the work that PADI and other organisations do to help preserve this underwater landscape is vital to its survival.

The guys on the boat described it best. You wouldn’t go into someone’s house and start touching their face and taking their stuff, so don’t do it to the habitat. We are guests in their world and what a privelage it was to pay them a visit.

This was truly an experience I won’t ever forget and urge anybody to take up scuba diving in order to do it, after the scary bits and the training, it’s actually unbelievably fun and the people you meet are some of the most interesting you will find.

This was something I’ve been dreaming of since sitting at my office computer googling pictures of the reef and thinking “one day” and today it finally happened, so I’m pretty over the moon.

For now, I’m going to relax, decompress and have a beer, and in the twilight of my roadtrip, I have plenty to reflect on and still plenty to look forward to in order to keep my mind at peace.

Thanks for reading!

Goodbye and just keep swimming.

IG : malzjames

SC : jamesinaus

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