We always knew we wanted to dive the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) but after talking to divers in Indo, Thailand and Philippines, we were not expecting much. I think GBR was at its best about 10 years ago and has since been abused and partially destroyed. We actually contemplated skipping it altogether and re-allocating the budget to diving in French Poly. But in the end, we couldnt leave Cairns without at least seeing it. So after hunting around for the best deal, we settled on a 3D/2N liveaboard with ProDive. We boarded early the first day and had a really rough 3 hr to the outer reef- sea sickness was barely averted!
The weather at sea was sunny and beautiful which made the water a gorgeous see through blue. But its soooo windy. The first dive was a real surprise for 2 reasons: first it was FREEZING 24C. We both wore 2 wetsuits but I shivered the whole time and did not particularly enjoy it (I know, we are really spoilt to have become accustomed to 28-29C water). The second surprise was the state of the reef which was better than I thought it would be- we were on Milln Reef which hosted several sharks and turtles and loads of fish. Also several sand sting rays and both hard and soft coral.
The diving here is without guides so there is a thorough briefing w compas headings then we are on our own. Its not worrying though as the diving is shallow and we almost always ran into other divers. And we had good kit including compases and safety sausages.
We did 3 dives the first day (skipped first night dive), 4 the second and 1 the last. The second night dive was pretty cool and very easy- we hung out under the boat watching the grey reef sharks (2) hunt the long tom fish that were attracted to the boat lights. There were so many fish under the boat and the shark just swam around at its leisure, sometimes coming within a few meters of us!
The reef definitely appears to be recovering and whilst there is plenty of dead coral, there is also loads of growth and health coral. Generally more hard coral with lots of table coral, staghorn and finger coral but soft coral is also fairly common. I was pleased. However, there is still a lot of work to be done including stopping the shark fishing which is not actually illegal in Australia. The dive leader was explaining that its not illegal unless you just take the fins. So- the fishermen take the whole shark and dump the body on land:(
Our friendly whitetip:
One of the many turtles we encountered:
Plenty of good hard coral provides a nice backdrop: