A Taste for Adventure

By Alicia Pettis

Bucket List Item: Scuba Dive in the Great Barrier Reef.

Today was the day I had been waiting for all trip! It was New Years Eve and I was about to accomplish one of my bucket list items for my life: scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

I’m a big believer in the power of setting goals. I like to set goals for each new year. Usually, there are around 2-3 of them and at least one get accomplished. This year, I did have a few, but the main one was going abroad. And, here I was, on the eve of a new year, in the midst of it all. It felt good!

Not only was I accomplishing a 2016 goal, but I was about to accomplish a larger life goal. It was happenstance that this activity would fall on the same day as the end of 2016, but it was a very happy one for me.

I gladly woke up early and headed down to breakfast with the girls. I made sure my GoPro was fully charged and ready for action. I wanted to remember the sights for the rest of my life!

We got on the boat and headed to the dock. We then headed to our boat, which would be taking us on a 90 minute ride out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was strongly encouraged that we take some sea sickness pills, so I took two and was very glad I did about 30 minutes later.

The ride out there was rough and many people were sick to their stomach. I didn’t want to risk anything getting in the way of my scuba.

I have never scuba dived before, but it has always been something that I was interested in because the beautiful sights in books and movies. It seemed like something exploratory as well, like you were this awesome adventurer looking at sights that possibly no one had seen before. A bit romantic, but possibly just a truly wonderful and fun thing to do.

I had signed up for literally just about everything you could do out there. This was THE thing I was most excited about.

My scuba time wasn’t until later in the day, so I hopped onto a “sea bob” tour. I didn’t want to just sit around my activities, so I jumped at the chance to finally get in the water and see the reefs.

A “sea bob” is basically a motor that helped you move faster through the water than if you were to swim. It goes in front of you and pulls you along while you hold on. It’s especially nice because it can take you farther out than you can do swimming.

Two of the girls and I got our snorkeling gear on and headed out to meet the guy who would show us the ropes.

Once we got out a bit, we started to look down at the Reef. It was incredible to see the coral and fish living in the water. I turned on my GoPro to catch some footage to share with my family. The sun was bright, so the water was clear and the colors were really shining. We got to do some deeper diving with the sea bobs, which was great to do leading up to the scuba.

We were all wearing stinger suits, which protect against jelly fish and other stinging sea creatures. Even though I wore my suit, my chin bumped up against a jelly fish which stung me. As it was put to me earlier, it felt a bit like a spicy oil got on my face. It stung a little, but not too bad.

Once we got back to the boat docking area, it was already my time to go up in the helicopter.

We got on a boat that took us to a helicopter landing pad in the middle of the ocean…cool. We got in and they started going up. I took a few videos and pictures of the Reef from above. It was stunning to see how large the Reef was and how far it extended. I loved how clear the water was, so much so that we could see larger sea creatures from above.

We landed on the pad, and I caught the next boat back to the boat-dock, just in time for lunch. After lunch, it was my time to scuba dive!

I headed over to the area, stinger suit on, ready to do this!

It seems I was a little too early for my group, so I had to wait, a bit impatiently, for my time. I sat with my flippers on and mask ready, tank attached. Finally, my intro dive group was going!

The tank was incredibly heavy while out of water and the fins were hard to walk in. But, I made it down the stairs into the water chamber where we would learn basic dive instructions.

Our instructor went over the basics like how to signal you were okay (👌🏻), how to get water out of your mask, how to get rid of pressure in your body and how to remove the breather and then put it back in. We mimicked the movements to show we were capable of finally scuba diving.

He gently led us down in pressure and closer to the ocean floor, checking to see we adjusted okay. I followed the instructions and didn’t feel much pressure. He then had us link arms and make our way into the open water area.

The sights were breathtaking! Quite literally, not only because it was beautiful but also breathing solely out of your mouth is such a weird feeling. Honestly though, I took to it really well and loved the feeling of surviving under water. It had been something I worried I wouldn’t like, given that I had hyped the experience in my head. But, it was even better than I could have imagined.

We were under water exploring as a group for about 40 minutes.

When we returned to the surface, I quickly grabbed my GoPro to be able to take it down for my second dive which was almost right after the first dive. They don’t let you take your cameras with you on your first intro dive.

In between getting my tank filled and getting ready for the next dive, I chatted with some of the scuba instructors. We talked about the most amazing sights they had seen scuba diving and how they got into their roles. They all had similar experiences, mostly did it once and got hooked. A lot of them loved seeing sea turtles and dolphins when diving. They encouraged me to get my PADI certification, which I had already been thinking about.

We went down for our second dive and the instructor gave me a little more leeway to explore on my own a little more. This time, with my GoPro, I captured some awesome sights.

One of my fave videos is of Wally, a friendly fish who likes to interact with scuba divers. He is pretty large, probably a grouper fish, with blue and yellow scales. He came up and swam towards me, then got a little pet from the instructor. It was just very cool to get so close to wildlife out here, in this amazing piece of nature.

When I got back up from the second dive, it was just about time for the boat to leave the platform we had been docked at all morning and afternoon. I was surprised as where the time had gone, but felt good that I had used my time wisely.

I got back on the boat to head back to land. We headed to the top deck to relax for a little after an adventurous afternoon. We even got some chocolate ice cream…best day ever, right?!

We docked and got off the boat to head back to the hotel to get ready for our New Year’s Eve night. I had to get ready faster than everyone else, since I had a meeting about our next couple days, where we would be sailing.

I got in my “play suit” and headed down to the meeting about preparing for sailing. After the meeting was over, I met up with the girls and we got on the coach to go to the local bar Contiki had gotten us into.

The woolshed is a local bar with a dance floor on the top floor. It had a fun vibe, with good music and cool lights. We got dinner and drinks there, while it was still relatively calm. Then, at around 10 pm, it got a lot wilder. We danced and had fun, bonding with all the new group members.

At around 11:30 pm, we headed out to the coastal area to see the fireworks, which were great. It was an awesome last day for 2016, and I knew tomorrow would be just as awesome.
I headed back to the room, eager to sleep after a long day.

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