East Coast of Australia: Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Diving the Great Barrier Reef has been on my bucket list for years. I fell in love with diving 6 years ago during our first ever holiday together in Thailand. Before arriving in Australia we decided to take our PADI Advanced, in Indonesia.

We were staying in Port Douglas so decided to take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef from there. Not a bad way to kick start our Aussie trip! There are a few companies to chose from, but unlike Asia there’s not much difference in price. Each company offers a slightly different package but the cost works out roughly the same for three dives. 

Each dive company needs to hold a marine park permit to allow them to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Not all dive companies hold permits for the same reef. We decided to dive with Poiseden for two reasons; they only take out qualified divers and don’t offer learn to dive, which appealed to us because we wanted to dive with people who had dived before. The second reason and the decider was Poiseden hold a permit for the Agincourt Ribbon reef. This reef is one of the furthest from the mainland, on the outer reef, so in theory the most pristine.

We left the Port Douglas harbour at 9am. The dive boat out to the reef was beautiful. From previous dives we’ve been used to much smaller fishing-style boats, looking slightly worse for wear. The catermaran we boarded was huge, holding up to 80 people, but as we were diving slightly out of season there were only 40 people in total (including snorkellers) so there was lots of space. The boat was fitted with lots of comfy seating, tables and a bar. The outside had a partially covered deck and more seating. The staff onboard prepared lunch and we had access to hot and cold drinks. The most luxurious day of diving we’ve ever experienced.

The dive rules for the Great Barrier Reef are different from the rules we’ve previously followed. The maximum depth we were allowed to dive to was 24 meters, even though we’re qualified to go to 30 meters. There was one dive in particular which had some great marine life a few meters deeper and we were gutted we couldn’t get any close! We were also surprised that our maximum dive time was only allowed to be 45 minutes, or until the first person in our group hit 100 bar – which ever came first. We’re both good with our air and our average dive time is usually 1 hour, surfacing between 30-50 bar.

The journey out to the Agincourt Ribbon reef was roughly 70km. During the journey we got kitted out ready for the first dive. Here is a picture of us just before our first dive, in our very attractive stinger suits:

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We visited three different dive sites on the reef that day. The first one was Phils. The longest of the three dives and the least exciting. There wasn’t a lot going on in the way of sea life, but it was our first opportunity to see some of the beautiful corals, and they were really stunning. The first dive was also a good opportunity to suss out our dive group – basically who we wanted to avoid swimming close to. One couple in particular had arms and legs going all over the place so decided to stay well clear to avoid having my mask knocked off!

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Sam at the first dive site

The second dive site was New Stone Henge. It was definitely a lot better than the first! The coral was brighter and there was a lot more to see. We really wanted to see a manta ray at some point during our dive as we had missed seeing one in Indonesia. No manta ray was found but some great big parrot fish which are always fun!

Saving the best to last, although in this case I wish this had been the first was the dive at Nursery. This was the shortest dive (30mins) and ended up being the best by far! Why is that always the case?! The corals were so impressive and the colours were insanely bright. It was like swimming over lots of deer antlers, and the corals went on for miles. Unfortunately our GoPro pics don’t do the colours justice. The blues, pinks and yellows were so vivid. I have never seen coral like it.

*Pics to come*

Towards the end of the third dive we reached a large pinnacle which we circled around as we made our way up. It was incredible and teaming with sea life.

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I could have spent hours swimming around looking at all the fish and plants so I was disappointed when we were surfacing so soon. There was even a large reef shark lying on the bottom of the sea floor which I wanted to get closer to!

We used our GoPro to take videos, and we’ve taken still shots from the vids. Still have a few more to upload, just wish we had had a filter. The pics just don’t do the Reef justice!

Overall, we had a really enjoyable day on the reef, just wish we had been allowed some longer, deeper dives! 

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