First Dive Ever…on the Great Barrier Reef!

Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef

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.

Just sharks.

I enjoy watching Shark Week and Animal Planet shows a lot, even though I know I will be scared for stuff like this later.

Family in stinger suits
We look like a family of Teletubbies in our stinger suits.

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.

Scuba divers on the Great Barrier Reef

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.

Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef
Dale and Riley getting ready for their second dive at the Great Barrier Reef

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!

Fantastic day with Calypso Dive and Snorkel
Fantastic day with Calypso Dive and Snorkel!

Now I want to go swimming with whale sharks off Holbox Island, Mexico!

16 thoughts

  1. Hey Riley it is Anna,
    I know I am just now looking at this but I hope you’re having a great time. I miss you so much. I love reading all of your stories and I can’t wait to catch back up later. Have fun!
    ❤️- Anna Crim

  2. Riley, you have not met me but I work with your dad! This was such an exciting reading that I felt as though I was there checking out those beautiful fish with you! So pleased you and your family are having this unbelievable opportunity! I loved the photos being there too!

    1. Pam,

      Great to hear from you, and glad you’re following along. It was very exciting to dive with Riley, and to have her first dive on the Great Barrier Reef of all places; incredible! See you soon.

  3. So glad you enjoyed it!!! We love diving!! and it is something you will be able to do with your family for a long time! Our family is back home from our year of travel but we are taking a dive trip to Bonaire in March because we love to dive and miss it!!

  4. Hey Riley, you just plan to go back one day when you are certified! Maybe then your sister might join you! Keep writing! Love reading about your adventures.

  5. Riley,
    It is so much fun to hear of your adventures. We are thinking of you back here in Birmingham.
    It has been very cold and school was delayed two hours on Monday and Tuesday. Today, it was back to the normal routine. Tell your family we said hello and can’t wait to read more of your stories.

  6. Riley – I love reading about your family adventures and look forward to reading each one of them.


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