Diving along the Great Barrier Reef

Diving along the Great Barrier Reef has been on my list for a long time. After having been there I can wholeheartedly say that it is absolutely worth it. We did a weeklong life-aboard on the outer reef and it passed way too fast. We did this trip in four stages. First a couple days in Sydney to acclimate and get over the jet lag. We then flew to Cairns where our boat departed. The main act was diving long the Great Barrier Reef. Finally we spend a couple days in Melbourne looking for Australia’s other famous critters. There are a couple pictures and impressions of the non-diving part in the Australia 2019 post.

We chose to spend our week on the Great Barrier Reef aboard the Spoilport, a custom dive live aboard run by Mike Ball Dive Adventures. It was perfect in every way with a phenomenal crew. The original itinerary was to spend 4 days diving the Coral Sea near Osprey reef and then 3 days on the actual GBR. Unfortunately, the weather was not with us and we could not make the crossing. It was just too windy. On the upside, we got to dive a couple more days on the GBR.

As an added bonus we had several encounters with Dwarf minke whales. It was already past their prime season at this location, but a couple did decide to hang back. These encounters are snorkeling only, which is nice as there is no limitation on how long you get spend with the whales. It is entirely up to them to decide. There are no pictures as my little camera that I normally take on snorkeling gave up on me. Still, seeing these beautiful animals is amazing.

The rest of the actual diving is also nothing short of amazing. We encountered a huge variety of animals of all colors and sizes, big reefs full of healthy corals and calm waters. Over the course of the week I got a total of 22 dives and 19.5 hrs below the waves with a couple stories to tell.

First off was the encounter with a large Olive Sea Snake. These are amongst the most lethal snakes anywhere, but do not attack humans. This one snake, however, took a liking to my dive buddy and decided to go after her. Not to harm, but simply out of curiosity. It was quite impressive to see this huge snake move about and checking out a diver. Needles to say, my dive buddy was far less interested in the snake.

Another dive was marked by a group of huge, (American) football sized, cuttlefish. I have seen plenty of them before, but they are usually rather skittish and maybe fist size. This one did not care at all that I was there and proceeded to poke around the holes of a coral mount to find a good spot to deposit her eggs.

Lastly, it is interesting to compare the GBR with Fiji and Indonesia, the two regions in the coral triangle I have been to. Indonesia has more colors on the corals of the Bunaken National Park, but mostly smaller critters. Fiji has more soft corals. The GBR appears a bit subdued at first, but has much more and much bigger marine life. The reefs have suffered from global warming and patches of coral bleaching can be seen occasionally even on the outer reefs. It is still a beautiful sight to be seen, though. There is an enormous diversity of life out there.

Australia 2019

Diving along the Great Barrier Reef has been on my list for a long time. After having been there I can wholeheartedly say that it is absolutely worth it. We did a weeklong life-aboard on the outer reef and it passed way too fast. We did this trip in four stages. First a couple days in Sydney to acclimate and get over the jet lag. We then flew to Cairns where our boat departed. The main act was diving long the Great Barrier Reef. Finally we spend a couple days in Melbourne looking for Australia’s other famous critters.

Stage 1: Sydney

After a long flight we got to Sydney in winter. It was a lot colder than expected to start with. Once we had properly bundled up, we got explore the center of this beautiful city. It is very user friendly on foot. The rapid transit and ferry system make getting around a breeze. We did not have that much time and thus stuck to the main attractions. Day one was spend walking through the nice botanic gardens and visiting the famous Opera House and Zoo. While strolling around the gardens we made our first encounter with the native Cockatoos. They would become a common sight all over the place. The weather was not with on the second day and so we decided to get a sneak peek at our diving section by going to the Sydney Aquarium.

Stage 2: Cairns

Our only reason to visit Cairns was to get on our ship. The way flights and schedules worked out, we ended up with essentially two days to look around there. It is definitely a different vibe from bustling Sydney, but it did not disappoint. The aquarium is small, but very much worth a visit. It only displays the fresh and salt water species found around Cairns and does a great job in explaining all. One series of displays in particular got my attention. In these they sorted the fish by color and explained why that color gives them an advantage in their individual habitats (depths). The botanic gardens offer a nice impression of the surrounding tropical forrest. Lastly, at nightfall look for the flying foxes. They are huge bats of almost crow size. During the day they settle in a large tree near the library.

Stage 3: The Great Barrier Reef

The main part of this trip was diving the Great Barrier Reef on a live aboard. There is separate post ‘Diving along the Great Barrier Reef‘ with all the pictures about this part.

Stage 4: Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road

After a week on the boat, it took us a couple days to get our land legs back. It also took us a bit to get acclimated with southern Australia in the winter. It was cold, rainy and we got hailed on. As the name suggests the Great Ocean Road run along the coast near Melbourne. Given the number of rental homes and hotels it is clearly a major tourist attraction. Deservedly so, I must say. It offers beautiful views of the coast, wineries, and lots of hikes to see the local flora and fauna up close.

We were particularly interested in finding some of that local fauna, Koala Bears especially. I do not qualify as an expert in all things Koala, but I can say with certainty that they are indeed very cute, abundant and put any sloth I have seen to shame. They are the most stationary terrestrial animal I have encountered. The vast majority of them was curled up in a little fluff ball. That did not distract from them still being cute and fun to find and watch. Of course we found more Cockatoos and a plethora of parrots.

The trip did end with a day in Melbourne itself. It is a nice city and worth spending more time in than we did. But if you only have a short amount of time, I suggest doing one of those free walking tours. You get to see a lot of the city and learn a couple quirky facts along the way.