Finding Nemo

I’m going to make myself wildly unpopular with any Australians reading this by admitting that I wasn’t as impressed by the Great Barrier Reef as I had expected to be. Maybe because we came from spectacular Bali where the underwater wildlife is incredibly rich or maybe months of anticipation meant our expectations were simply stacked too high but either way, our first few dives on the reef left us with a bit of a “Meh…” feeling. That is, until our first night dive.

Night dives are always kind of exciting for the obvious reason – darkness is scary. Especially underwater where you know that you’re just a tiny little fish in a huge expansive sea and you never know if some of the inhabitants wouldn’t be above taking a nibble or two out of your wetsuit-clad sides. Now add sharks to the mix and you have a level of excitement that’ll either induce a heart-attack or a chest-bump followed by a loud “YEAH!”. Either way, you’ll probably pee your pants a bit.

As soon as the sun set, the captain of our boat, Ocean Quest, would turn on the lights underneath the boat to mark our location for returning divers and attract a bit of entertainment. The usual fish in attendance were giant trevallies and red bass, both fairly sized in their own rights. After a little while, the more menacing looking ones would appear as well; first the barracudas and finally the reef sharks. Here’s a little taste of the action:

Here’s a funny bit of info you might not know: big fish love night divers. Why? Because they use your flashlight as an easy meal finder. As soon as you shine your light on a little fish, “Ooh, look at that cute little fella”, ZOOM the big fish race in and snap it up. So not only do you crap your pants at the surprise attack, now you also know that you have constant companions right behind you. Turn to look for your buddy and some big-ass fish is just above your shoulder, waiting for you to point out his dinner. To keep the ocean stocked for the next divers, we were each limited to one kill a night (unless your buddy declined his, then you could have two).

Maybe it was our knowledge of the danger that lurked just beneath the surface (at least at night) or maybe it was our newfound freedom as freshly certified advanced open water divers but the dives only got better after that. There still wasn’t much more to see but we started investigating the smaller things: a family of clownfish living in an anemone inside a giant coral, as perfectly safe a home as they could ever find, outrageously adorned nudibranchs and even the odd turtle which was definitely the highlight of our time on the reef. That and seeing one of the dive masters drop to 35m and come back up in less than a minute. Ridiculously stupid but oh-so-impressive. Yeah, yeah, it was my fault he had to do that – my weights fell off. Oops!

When you do the advanced certificate you have to complete a few mandatory dives – navigation, deep and buoyancy control – and then you get to choose two electives. In our case, they added a fourth mandatory one in form of the night dive and we chose underwater photography as our elective. Thanks to that we now have goofy pictures of us under water! (The colors are not very good since we had a crappy rental camera. The picture with Wally, the resident Maori wrasse, came out better because it was taken with a pro camera.)

Our instructor Nick and a turtle friend

Now we’re heading slowly down the east coast towards Townsville and the Yongala wreck. Keep your fingers crossed that we get to dive it! Apparently conditions have to be perfect since it’s in a slightly precarious location just between the reef and shore where the currents are especially strong. Oh goody…

3 Responses to “Finding Nemo”

  1. Vicky says:

    you have become very Asian doing your victory sign on every photo – very sweet 🙂

  2. Curt says:

    Frankly, I’d rather head to the Adelaide Oval in South Australia, singing “You all live in a convict colony” (to the tune of Yellow Submarine) before taking another swig of my Coopers. As always, your photos look awesome and I’m shitting myself just looking at that shark video.

    Love you guys!

  3. Alex says:

    Where’s the video of you guys diving with all those sharks? Ah? If you don’t have it you wasted the whole trip!

    Pictures look awesome.

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