Way back in 1996, when I took classes in a Denver swimming pool, ultimately earning my PADI Open Water Scuba Diver card, I remember my dive instructors telling tales about the underwater world in Queensland Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Their descriptions of the colors, the variety and the textures of the reef, and the marine life that makes its home there, dazzled me. I dreamed of diving the Great Barrier Reef for more than a decade, and I realized that dream just last week, courtesy of Tourism Queensland.
Upping the are you kidding me, am I really doing this? factor was my dive buddy: Ben Southall, winner of “The Best Job in the World” promotion that Tourism Queensland ran in 2009. Since he worked as a Caretaker for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, Ben completed a four-month kayaking and sailing expedition along the Great Barrier Reef, and has served as a knowledgeable, enthusiastic ambassador for Queensland, Australia. Ben’s passion for the reef, the environment, photography and videography is infectious.
Perhaps most importantly, Ben, and my patient Poseidon dive instructor Herold (from the Netherlands), made me feel at ease and safe underwater. I’m not a confident diver — up until last week, I’d only dived seven times in open ocean waves. But Ben and Herold — and the entire staff on board our high-speed catamaran, the Poseidon III — made our day’s three dives so comfortable and hassle-free. And, well, amazing.
Indeed, the Great Barrier Reef lived up to my longtime expectations — and beyond. I got up close and personal with crazy colorful fish. Saw vibrating coral, giant clams, even a loggerhead turtle. By dive three, when my beating heart had calmed a bit, I smiled while making my way through underwater caves — oh yes, caves. At one point, truly, the beautiful sights moved me to tears; not easy to blow one’s nose while wearing a mask.
Equally fun and entertaining was the camaraderie my traveling companions — and fellow divers — enjoyed on board. Oh, so many giggles getting in and out of wetsuits between dives (we couldn’t wear our wetsuits into the front of the boat, where lunch was served). Again, upbeat Ben and kind Herold were so wonderful to help me in and out of my gear — from weight belts to BCDs — and Ben checked my tank to make sure I had enough air. Truly, I could just focus on enjoying the underwater sights when we went down; and could rest and chat and enjoy the scene on board the boat when we were above.
Here’s just a peek at my day’s experiences:
Things to know if you book a day adventure with Poseidon:
- Poseidon offers daily trips to the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs.
- Guests can choose to snorkel, book an intro dive (even if you’ve never put on a regulator before) or take three scuba dives on the day’s excursion.
- Coffee and muffins are served on board as soon as you arrive; lunch is yummy deli sandwiches, salads and sweets. In the afternoon, enjoy hot drinks and more snacks, and after you’re finished swimming and diving for the day, alcohol is offered for purchase.
I visited Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef courtesy of Tourism Queensland. For more travel inspiration, check out their Queensland blog.
A hearty shout-out to my new friends who accompanied me on the Poseidon III: Jackie, who kindly shared her “slow and steady breathing” app with me, when my anxiety level skyrocketed before my first dive; friendly Mei, whose beautiful smile lights up a room (and a boat); and Jess, who amazed me by completing the on-board intro course to scuba dive for the first time (go girl!).