I can barely swim to save my life and yet that will never stop me from diving into the deep ocean. For me visiting Australia was long over due as my best friend had moved there and it had been way too long since I saw her. Going to Australia felt incomplete if I didn’t make a stop in Cairns and go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef, is the largest living organism on the whole planet! As a matter of fact, The Great Barrier Reef is so huge that it’s larger than the UK, Holland and Switzerland combined. Crazily enough, you can even see it from space! As well as being the largest coral reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is also the healthiest.
The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 1500 species of fish, 400 species of coral and 4000 species of molluscs, making it one of the most unique scuba diving ecosystems in existence.
I flew from Melbourne to Cairns, which cost me $170 (INR 8,931) one way since my return destination was Sydney. I booked this experience with Sunlover as my friend had been on experiences with them and had absolutely loved it. While in India, I checked out the website and wrote to a person named Ezzy, who was kind enough to provide me detailed information. Pretty soon all the payment was easily done online and I had booked myself a day out on the ocean.
My itinerary involved:
Underwater viewing room
Glass Bottom Boat Trip
Semi Submarine Trip included
4 hours on the reef
Fish Feeding on the boat
Buffet Lunch Included with prawns, etc (Tea/Coffee and biscuits are available throughout the journey)
Theme Park Style Waterslide
The day trip is total cost of $200
1 x Intro Dive* is $145
Total Cost Day Trip with 1 x Intro Dive Included is $345 (INR 18,082)
This price did not include pick up and drop off at accommodation, but if you needed this facility, you could pay an additional $22. (INR 1153)
(Please Note: Pick ups can not legally be made to and from AirBnBs)
Tip: Try and get someone local to make the payment for you so that a 2.5% surcharge isn’t added to this amount.
In Parallel, I also researched and booked an AirBnb for my 3 night trip which cost me a total of $117 (INR 6100)
My first day in Cairns pretty much just involved me check into my stay, getting some food and exploring the area. The next day was Scuba Day! Which meant leaving my AirBnB by 7am since I was to report at the Reef Fleet Terminal by 8:30am. Upon arrival to the terminal, you basically just need to check in yourself with Sunlover front desk and there are many employees to help you out with anything you need. Once you board the boat, you can choose which deck you’d like to sit on and pick any seat of your choice. For sometime initially, it is compulsory to be seated till the captain gives the green signal to move about and for some indoor activities to begin.
The people who have purchased the scuba diving experience are grouped depending on what dive they have chosen (in my case the intro dive) and then small groups of 4 to 5 people are assigned to one certified diver and a time is allocated for the dive. Prior to diving, it is mandatory to attend a class session, which lasts about 45 mins to and 1 hour to understand protocols, hand signals and safety measures.
On arrival at our docking destination, all activities are open for everyone and people can lounge on the boat decks, go snorkeling, and enjoy all the activities included. There are times allocated for activities so make sure to know what you really don’t want to miss out on and do them!
Every divers group was called 30 mins prior to the dive and asked to change into our swimwear, thereafter which we were geared up in wetsuits, fins, masks, oxygen tanks, etc This process also involved going into a training zone that was set up to get accustomed to the water, signaling and breathing techniques. Once this was completed, it was time to dive under the ocean’s sparkly surface and into the underwater wonderland of colour, life and magic! I fail to describe this experience. I mean there is always slight fear of going that deep into the ocean not knowing how to swim but then you look at everything that’s under there and I was gob smacked in amazement. I forget whether the pictures the team took for each person was included in the price or to be paid for but either way, you don’t want to miss out on those pictures!
The dive lasts about 30 minutes but those 30 minutes leave an imprint for a lifetime. Once back on the surface, we returned all the gear to the crew and carried on with other activities and of course a delicious course of lunch. The return to mainland was around 6pm and I headed back to my AirBnb after grabbing some food along the way since the day had tired me out.
The last day in Cairns involved me hopping on a local bus and exploring some nearby markets and buying some souvenirs as they are comparatively way cheaper here than in Melbourne or Sydney. I also spent later half of my day by visiting the Esplanade. The Cairns Esplanade is a picturesque 2.5 km stretch of foreshore in the heart of Cairns that is managed by Cairns Regional Council. The parklands, playgrounds, boardwalk, lagoon and recreational facilities are all free entry.
After walking around and enjoying the stretch for a bit, I perched myself with a book in my hand and feet in the water and a coffee by my side. Needless to say, this is what perfect evenings are made of.
I chose to walk all the way back to my accommodation that may not have been my brightest idea because it was still pretty hot and the walk was 45 minutes. But come to think of it, I loved it. I stopped by and enjoyed a parade that was passing by, made it into a restaurant that was owned by an Indian – Australian family (which meant a lot of chit chat with me, the only Indian there at that moment) and then a peaceful walk back. Once I washed the day off my back, I sat on the open common space of the AirBnb and was very soon joined by a French solo Traveller and a British young couple and we spoke out our travel experience. Isn’t that what travelling is about after all? A group of misfits sharing the love for experience.
Called it a night and left the next morning for a new city that was waiting to be reconnoitered.
My stay in Cairns was short but if you have more days then there is a lot more to do. You could:
Explore the Daintree Rainforest
Enjoy the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Venture to the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Kuranda Village
Explore Fitxroy Island
Walk around in Barron Gorge National Park
See the Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls
Meet Crocodiles at Hartley’s
*Intro Dive – This is for non – swimmers wherein you are taken down for scuba with a certified diver and they help you move and navigate under water.