The Great Barrier Reef – Going down on the world’s biggest thing

“This night dive will last about 30 minutes and there should be plenty to see down there. It is also the time when the predators come out to hunt, including sharks…” The instructor’s briefing on board the dive boat ‘Pacific Star‘, gave us the low down on that night’s dive.

There is a real buzz to diving, but night diving is different again. Strangely enough it is very relaxing. Visibility extends to the limits of the torch beam and surrounded by black, the torch lights up coral and sea life with a fantastic library of colour.

From Airlie Beach I had elected to dive with Kelly Dive on a 3 day 3 night sail and dive trip. If you’re a diver or want to learn, sail and dive trips combine scuba diving on the reef and sailing around the Whitsunday Islands. On my trip I dived six times, one night dive, two dives around the islands and three dives on the Great Barrier Reef.

We didn’t see any sharks that night, you could say we were in luck. Realistically however, sharks are far less of a threat to man than the media would have us believe. The side effect of movies like Jaws that scared us senseless arguably led to a real yet unrealistic fear of sharks. To just put things into perspective, over 200 people each year are killed by coconuts falling from trees. Compare that to less than 6 people killed each year by sharks. There are a lot more shark attacks of course but as any biologist will tell you, humans are not part of the sharks diet and attacks are most likely due to mistaken identity, so don’t kick or flip like seal.

The Pacific Star is a purpose built Dive Catamaran, therefore entry into and out of the water is easy. Plus the dive instructor and dive master refill all tanks whilst you head for the galley with the munchies, still buzzing from the dive. The food was pretty good too, and enough of it to make you descend on the next dive without a weight belt.

Diving on the reef was the highlight of the whole trip. Our guided dive into ‘The Maze’ being the icing on the cake. We were led by our dive instructor (oh fearless leader) Joe into a narrow swim through between two platforms. At the rear was Lauren, the boat’s Dive Master. Because of her smooth fish-like propulsion technique, Lauren was always there, there and there, moving with stealth and speed. We were in good hands. Good bloody job too. As we made our way through the passages of ‘The Maze’, I felt like I as entering a secret world that only Captain Nemo previously knew about.

We didn’t meet Nemo, but we did meet a Moray Eel in ‘The Maze’. We looked at it and it looked at us, jaw agape and teeth on show. Choosing not to extend my arm too far out to point the Moray out to my buddy behind me, I made my way onward. The world is never quite the same once you’ve dived in waters like these. There is a whole different world co-existing beneath the ocean surface and it’s hard to find the words to describe how intriguing and harmonious it is. The best thing I can say is get out there, get in there and go down there.

When you get to Airlie you will notice that there are loads of booking agents on the high street. Tina at ‘Where? What? How? Whitsunday‘ (07 4946 5255) was pretty good at sorting my trip out and works on a no pressure-sales basis.

Sail and Dive trips can range from $100 – $155 for a day trip to $350 – $500 for a 3day / 3 night trip. It is good to shop around as there are always deals going. However, in the main prices are pretty consistent. The price includes all food and most boats operate a B.Y.O. system for booze.

Introductory courses and Resort courses cost around the $50 mark, some companies offer them free as an incentive to make a booking. A ‘Basic PADI Open Water’ course costs from $200 to $300. Once you have that you can dive anywhere in the world without any more training.

Australia is a great place to learn to dive as the safety standards are high and the diving is spectacular. I can highly recommend Kelly Dive who’s web address is and phone number is (07) 4946 6122.