Getting ready to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef
First a weight was attached around my waist. Then Ben, our Calypso Dive and Snorkel instructor, put a 30 pound backpack (known as a BCD) and scuba tank on my back, making sure I didn’t topple over as I sat down. I put my feet in the ocean water and squeezed my feet into the super tight flippers. Mom, Dad, and another man in our scuba group were already in the water. Another dive instructor motioned for me to scoot into the water.
I was nervous about sharks, but nothing else–not running out of air, not even the boat leaving without us.
I enjoy watching Shark Week and Animal Planet shows a lot, even though I know I will be scared for stuff like this later.
Delaney didn’t want to scuba dive, so she went on a snorkeling tour with a few other people and a different instructor. The rest of my family, though, booked this scuba dive months ago.
I was in the water of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, where I would complete my first ever scuba dive. The dive was just an intro dive for newbies like me. My parents are certified divers, but haven’t dived in 15 years. So they did the intro dive with me.
Stinger season on the Great Barrier Reef
I was wearing a full body stinger suit, because this time of year is when all the box and Japanese Irukandji jellyfish are drifting through the ocean. “Stinger season” in Australia is generally from November to May, in the top half of Australia’s east coast. Therefore, you should always wear a stinger suit in the ocean during this season. On some beaches there are giant nets providing a “safe” place for swimmers, but the Irukandji jellyfish is tiny so they can swim through the nets.
The most deadly jellyfish is the box jellyfish. A sting by one of these, and you’re a goner. The Irukandji jellyfish rarely kills, but it is extremely painful. In my opinion, the one you need to watch out for is the Irukandji jellyfish. It has venom 100 times more potent than a cobra, and is believed to be the most venomous creature in the world. It is crazy tiny though.
The only people who swim (without stinger suits) at the beach during stinger season are tourists. The locals know better. We didn’t swim at the beach either.
So covered head-to-toe in my stinger suit, I slid down the boat’s steps toward the water. My air tank lightly banged each step, but I made it into the water. My BCD was pumped with air so I could float easier, but I kept rolling to my side. I swam to an algae covered rope and grabbed onto it. The other employee tested my diving skills that we had been shown on the boat ride to the reef. First, I just went a foot under to begin the test. I had to copy everything the man showed me. First we stuck the air tube (regulator) in our mouths and practiced breathing in and blowing out bubbles slowly. After some breaths, I practiced getting water out of my tube. It took me three tries, and if I got it wrong a few more times, I wouldn’t be allowed to scuba dive. I managed to get it right though. Finally, I tried recovering the air tube if it fell out of my mouth, and got it on my first try. I had completed the skills check, and shook the man’s hand as he went to test someone else.
Still underwater, we began shuffling our hands down the diagonal rope, deeper and deeper in the ocean. About 2/3 down, we let go of the rope and slowly swam to see the coral and fish. The coral was in every color imaginable, aqua and purple, orange and blue. I noticed many rainbow checkered fish. We swam and pointed at any cool looking fish. Occasionally, Ben would write on his awesome underwater notebook the type of fish or creatures we saw. Once, he even picked up a sea cucumber! It had noodle-like things coming out of it, and curled up after he released it back to the ground.
I had already forgotten about sharks.
Before I knew it, it was time to climb back up the rope. I checked my maximum depth and time. I only went 18 ft 4 inches deep, and 28 minutes. Then the hardest part was yet to come. Climbing up the boat platform steps with the 35 pounds of gear on my back. That may not sound like much, but it’s half of my body weight!
With some help from the crew members, I made it up the stairs without falling backwards. I had so much fun that I decided to replace the next and last stop on the reef for another scuba dive, instead of a snorkel. On the next dive, which was a real one, not an intro, I got to 24 ft 9 inches and 36 minutes underwater.
I loved scuba diving so much that I want to take a certified diving course when I get home.
The only bad thing is that my first dive was at the best place in the world, so nothing will ever compare!
Now I want to go swimming with whale sharks off Holbox Island, Mexico!