A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about diving

Diving the Great Barrier Reef!

Whatever our (fairly neutral) feelings about Australia as a whole, it must be said that we ended our 8-week trip on a high. The Great Barrier Reef is more than deserving of its place as one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and for me it was the site of several diving firsts; my first reef dive, first dive without a guide and first shark sighting.

Although initially worried by the large number of people on the boat, it soon came to light that most were aboard just for snorkelling, and in fact only about ten people were fellow divers. I must admit I've never been more grateful for my dive license; as the snorkellers splashed about on the surface fighting for space, John and I jumped into the water with a guide and one other girl and sank into the quiet tranquility of the reef.

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Our first dive at Hasting's Reef was led by a divemaster, who led us around the reef pointing out coral and marine life as we went. We passed a reef plant covered with closed buds that opened when you ran a hand over them, and soon spotted some clown fish (aka 'nemo fish'). Our divemaster also handed us some lumps of rubbery matter with a spongy, slimy feel, that turned out to be sea slugs.

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After a buffet lunch we moved to our second location, Saxon's Reef. and decided to attempt our second dive without guidance. After a quick briefing on navigating around the reef, we jumped in and began our solo adventure. We quickly encountered a large fish hiding under the boat, but soon left it in the company of snorkellers and descended deeper into the ocean. We were intrigued by a venus-fly-trap-style plant that almost closed on my fingers as I waved a hand near it.

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However, our most exciting discovery was yet to come. We had been told that sharks were present in the area, but we hardly dared hope to find one until we rounded a cluster of coral and spotted one just below us on the sea bed! John is notoriously terrified of sharks, and initially seemed to fight the urge to swim for the surface, but as we swam closer it was clear the reef shark had no interest in us. At around 1.5m it was fairly small in size, but we rose to the surface at the end of our dive with exhilaration still coursing through our veins. Fantastic!

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Posted by kate1401 15:57 Archived in Australia Tagged diving shark great_barrier_reef coral Comments (0)

Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg

So, after a gorgeous but exhausting trip along the Garden Route, we finally reached Port Elizabeth to spend a week with John's friends Tom, Jaquie and Jono and get some relaxation time! Port Elizabeth is a small but beautiful town on the south-east coast that a lot of tourists rush right through, or just spend a couple of days in, but for us it made a perfect rest stop. Our hosts were lovely; Jono took us to the beach on an ill-fated mission to teach John to surf, and at the weekend we took a trip to Addo Elephant National Park for a day of safari. I was disappointed in my quest to see a lion, but we did see elephants, warthogs, kudu, zebra, and huge tortoises taking a casual stroll down the roads. A contender for the best moment of our trip was when a group of elephants appeared out of the bushes right by our window, forcing us to quickly reverse or be crushed. They gave us a dismissive glance before strolling across the road right in front of us.

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That was pretty much the end of the relaxation time for me, as I had the daunting task of completing my PADI Diver Open Water course in just 2 days. On my first day I learnt all my skills in the safety of a swimming pool and then went to the beach to do one dive in the sea, then got up bright and early on day 2 at 6am to do another three dives before lunch. I was exhausted, and my back ached from carrying the weights and air canister in and out of the water, but I was a qualified diver! Who knows, it might even be the beginning of a perfect six-pack.

The next day we set off for Durban at 7am. It felt like the longest coach ride in the world but we made it, finally stumbling into our hostel at 11pm. Our hostel was pretty close to the beach and an impressive new centre called Ushaka Marine World, a water park/swimming pool/shopping mall/food court that offered plenty entertainment. It was also clear why Durban is seen as a surfer's paradise; the waves are huge and pretty much constant. Having said that, we weren't really enamoured with Durban; it's noisy, dirty, and it rained quite a lot. If only we could surf...

As our time in South Africa drew to an end, we just had time for a one-night stopover with my Grandad and his wife Louise, who gave us a bed for the night and took us walking in Klipriviersberg, a local nature reserve in Mondeor. The reserve was beautiful and felt so far away from the world, and John even made some new friends when we stopped for a snack.

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It was definitely a flying visit; that night Louise dropped us off at the airport and we were on our way to Bangkok, where I now sit writing this blog. Updates on our Thai adventures coming soon...

Posted by kate1401 00:24 Archived in South Africa Tagged diving safari johannesburg durban port_elizabeth Comments (0)

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