They are huge fish (maybe 1-1.5m long) with a big bump on their forehead, rather ugly fish, but beautiful for it.
Up until now, all my dives have been made following a divemaster around the dive site. Australia is generally very different. I had been told this before, but on the boats the
school gives you a briefing about the dive site and then sends you off to explore it for yourself (with a buddy of course). Initially I didn’t like this idea because when you go with someone who knows the dive sites you get to see the best parts of it. They can also point marine life and corals out to you and tell you what they are. As the weekend went on, I felt much more comfortable with the idea of diving without a divemaster. Even though I am a confident diver my navigation skills suck. Since I only have to follow someone around a site, I rarely take the time to get my bearings and navigate a site. After a few dives, I certainly did get better at this and I think my diving has improved because of it. It also gave me chance to be more in control of the dive, such as depth, air, speed, etc.
Having to think about my own safety, dive profile and also that of my buddies really makes you more aware. So, all in all, I think it was a good experience not having a divemaster present.
Initially 4 of us teamed up to dive. I buddied up with Charlene, a gorgeous French girl. We were probably the most experienced divers in the group, so it made sense. We also
buddied up with Dirk, a South African guy and Gemma, an English girl who left our group after a couple of dives as she was doing her PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, so had to dive with them. After this, we just went down in a threesome. Charlene and I used about the same amount of air through the dive, which worked out great as we both finished about the same time, but Dirk used his air a bit quicker, so he would often leave us, ascend to the surface and we could carry on for another 15 or so minutes.
The water in the Great Barrier Reef is quite a bit colder than I have been used to in SE Asia. In Asia it was a consistent 30 degrees. Here is it a consistent 26 degrees, and I really felt the difference, even though I was in a thicker, full length wet suit.
I am actually a little disappointed with the Great Barrier Reef. For one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, I was expecting a lot more. Visibility was 15-20m and I was expecting crystal clear waters with 30 or more meters vis! Also, there was a lot of dead coral around and the colours and marine life were no where near as vibrant as I had been expecting. They were some great dive sites, but I really was expecting something a bit more spectacular.
The general Schedule on the boat was dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, sleep, night dive, eat, drink, sleep. We did this for the first 2 days and then the third day was a very early start with 3 dives completed before lunch, to give us time to sail home at a reasonable hour.
We saw plenty of cool marine life on the dives, lots of White Tip Reef Sharks, Turtles, Mauri Wrass, Giant Barracuda, Trumpet Fish, Anemone Fish (Nemo fish from the movie Finding Nemo), Trigger Fish, Giant Clams, Blue Spotted Lagoon Rays, Bat Fish, Nudi Branches, Flatworms, Lion Fish, Banner Fish, Giant Trevally, etc.
On one of the night dives, I had a bit of a scare and got to put my Rescue Divers skills to the test. Nothing serious. We went down in a group of 6 people. I had teamed up with some of the new Open Water Divers who were not that experienced. I was the most experienced diver in the group, so I took the lead. When we had descended to the bottom of the Buoy Line I counted all six of us, so off we went on our first bearing to the first spot of the dive site. When we arrived there, we realised there was only 5 of us. One of our buddies had gone missing on the 2 minute swim over. I told 3 of the group to stay put while me and my buddy, Dirk, went for a 1 minute search to find the missing person. I hadn’t been able to figure out at this point who it was that was missing as it was dark and difficult to identify people. While we were off searching, 3 more people joined the 3 I had left behind and they though it was us, so they carried on with the dive. I chased after them for a bit to try and get them to stop so I could figure out who was missing (as we hadn’t found the missing diver) but realised I would waste too much time, so me and Dirk ascended and fortunately he knew who was missing. We swam back to the boat and I raised the alarm. Fortunately the missing diver was back on the boat. During the descent she had problems equalising and was not able to get any of our attentions, so she had to go back up. To force her way down to us would have probably exploded her ear drums, so she did the right thing. I think when I counted 6 people before we started, someone from another group was sitting with us so added to the confusion. Once I knew the missing diver was safe, Dirk and I descended again and carried on our night dive, but stayed close to the boat as we had already used half of our 30 minute dive time. In the end we had a great dive and saw a few White Tip Reef Sharks and a beautiful Blue Spotted Ray. When we finished the dive I spoke to the main instructor on board to check I dealt with the situation properly and he said I did everything perfectly. It was a very simple situation, and no-one was hurt, but it was good practice of my training. I was proud of myself that I stayed calm, assessed the situation, took clear control, let other people know what was going on (telling them to stay put while we went for a look around) and then decided to terminate my own dive to go back to the boat. It is so important to stay calm, and a night dive situation is so much more confusing than it would have been in the light.