let me just say that i am in love with the Great Barrier Reef. this past weekend, i went out to get my advanced open water diving certification. i signed up with a local dive shop called Remote Area Dive and was actually super lucky to get a spot on the trip- the next wouldn't have been until April and I was able to get $100 student discount! (side note: everything is more expensive in Australia except for the mcdonald's ice cream cones. they are only 30 cents here) i woke up early saturday morning to take a 5:15 am cab to the dive shop, where a whole group of us divers (some new, some experienced) met up and took an hourish bus ride to the boat. i impressed everyone with my ability to fall asleep in any moving vehicle almost instantaneously and even treated them to some drooling. the boat ride was a quick thirty minutes out to Pelorus Island, where we would be setting up camp for the weekend. i was immediately struck by how brightly blue the water was and couldn't wait to dive in. we anchored the boat offshore and haphazardly carried everything onto the island. Remote Area Dive keeps the small campground set up, so all we had to do was pick a (small) tent and throw our backpacks in while they laid out fresh tarps for the "kitchen" and "living room" areas.
the boat has a roof that we jumped and dove off of later
i was really hoping no one would drop my backpack..
the kitchen, where i ate more peanut butter cookies than i can count
wetsuits pretending to dry in between dives
our tent with a ocean front view and a sweet hammock
then we were off for our first dive at a site called Moon Pools near Orpheus Island, a five minute boat ride away. its going to be hard to go back to diving in California.. the water is so warm here that after fifty minutes under in a thin wetsuit, no hood, no gloves, and no booties i was content to stay under for another hour. the corals and fish were incredible, i loved watching their interactions and wished i knew how to identify more of the species. by the end of my semester i should know way more though because of my classes. we followed our first dive by moving onto the next site, Sharkbait (so called because of the cliffs on the island - if you jump off the wrong way you could crash onto rocks below and become food for some creatures..). of course we had to all go jump off some of the tall rocks - i screamed the whole way down. we had another dive there and then headed back to camp for lunch.
view from our campground
apparently this plant is poisonous.. what isn't in australia?!
the beach was very coral-y
after lunch, we explored Pelorus a little more before it was time for another dive right off shore. this site was called AJ's (no idea why) and we had a night dive here as well. it was half scary/half awesome diving in the dark- all you could see was a small spot illuminated by your flashlight. unfortunately no sharks made an appearance, but we did see some barracudas.
i'm not sure if its all the short naps i took that day (in the taxi, on the bus, on the boat, in a chair by the fire..) or maybe the loud thunderstorm or the suffocatingly hot tent, but i could not fall asleep that night. regardless, we were up bright and early sunday morning for two more dives, a deep and a drift. diving deep here was way different than back in california- i'm used to dark, really cold water whereas here the temperature remained pretty constant and it was just as bright. sometimes when you go deep, you can show symptoms of nitrogen narcosis - basically you feel sort of loopy/drunk. i kept myself together but couldn't stop laughing for some reason at one point when we were practicing counting off from ten on our fingers..
the drift dive was the BEST. DIVE. EVER. not that the current was even that strong, but the corals and fish here were just so so beautiful. the pictures i'm posting were taken by a fellow diver, Michelle, but i am hoping to get my own underwater camera asap. it was so hard for me to see these incredible animals and not be able to document them- luckily Michelle did!
while i came away from the weekend exhausted & with numerous bug bites and scrapes, i would do it all over again. and the great thing is that i will be! maybe not the camping part, but i am going diving and snorkeling with two of my marine bio classes and i am also hoping to go on a dive to the Yongala, a shipwreck that may be one of the best dives in Australia. my friend Katrina dove there this weekend, and you can read about her experience through her blog here: http://harvardia.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/day-20-possibly-best-day-of-my-life.html