Re: Diving Great Barrier Reef AU

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Posted by Eric Frasco on June 14, 2000 at 23:40:43:

In Reply to: Diving Great Barrier Reef AU posted by Suzanne Messina on June 14, 2000 at 12:49:56:


I was in Queensland last November, and it is quite different from diving in the US.

First of all, you will be in CAIRNS, but you spelled it the way Aussies say it, "CANNES", or "CAINES" (the "R" becomes silent in 'strailian speech). Cairns is way north in Queensland, and you will probably get there on a connecting flight through Brisbane or Townsville.

I dove out of Townsville (midway on Queensland coast) on the Mike Ball Expeditions Spoilsport. We did one day of diving inside the Great Barrier Reef on the wreck of the Yongala (highly recommended), and the rest of our diving was outside the GBR out at Flinders Cay.

Here's the basic truth about diving off of the Queensland Coast: land based diving sucks. It is inside the fringing reefs, and due to suspended particulate matter, visibility is usually ten feet or less (at least in November).

Outside of the fringing reefs, and inside the GBF, there is not much diving, except at some isolated coral heads, which are few and far between. And the visibility still sucks.

Once you get outside the GBF, visibility becomes fantastic. The Great barrier keeps the poor visibility inside, and the clean blue water with 100+ visibility is on the outside.

The problem is getting to the outside of the GBF. It takes about a day on one of the huge aluminum Catamarans that the Aussies favor building.

Bottom line: Sign up for a three or four day trip out to the GBF, you will get some spectacular diving. From what I experinced, shore diving or diving off a boat that only goes a few miles off shore is merely a shadow of what Australian diving really can be.

Other tips: Travel and boat charters rely on sales by travel agents working under commission, and these agents have been very prolific in their advertising. Before I travelled to Australia, I researched extensively on the web for activities in in a place called Airlie Beach ("ELLIE Beach" in 'strailian). I found about eight or ten different advertisements for boat trips associated with different resorts or dive shops. Each resort or shop had different pictures of diving activities, and bright sunny photos of their resort.

HOWEVER, after I arrived there, I found out the following: there was only one or two dive boats, and they were big boats and all the resorts and dive shops were contracting to only one or the other. Instead of getting clear blue diving on a small personal boat, I ended up on a cattle boat with a total of ten certified divers, and forty "scuba experience" divers (never dived before but experiencing diving with an instructor for the first time), and another thirty snorkelers. So we had some seventy people aboard, of which ten were actually doing real scuba dives. The first dive had twenty foot viz, the second had less than ten as the wind stirred up the particulates.

This is how they worked it: You bought your ticket from a travel agent ($100 US/ $150 AU), then showed up at the boat at 8 am along with all the other folks from all the other hotels in town that decided to dive that day. The huge Catamaran departed harbor, then about every 15 minutes, stopped off at another island resort and picked up more divers and snorkelers. Along about 10 am you did your first dive, then about noon you did a second dive, avoiding the snorkelers and "experience divers on your return to the swim step. On the way back home, after dropping off passengers all the way back, you got into harbor around 4 pm.

The crew was great, despite the cattle boat and the poor viz (I always found service in Australia to be friendly and courteous, but sometimes very slow). So I decided to consider doing a second trip with the cattle boat. But I declined when I found out that they always anchored up the exact some point and NOWHERE else.

That's the gist of it, I can elaborate more, but I think that's enough for a posting here.

One last thing I would like to say about the Assies, is that they are really friendly and are easy to meet and talk to. Instead of staying home and watching the TV, the Aussie seem to prefer going to a tavern and having a few pints and a chat. So as a traveller there, you should find it really easy to get to meet others. Lots of "backpackers" travel the region, trying to travel as cheaply as possible (easy enough as Australia has a decent bus and railroad system in some parts), so it is easy to meet up with interesting characters.

And finally, mugs of beer were between $2 and $4 AU, which boils down to $1.50 and $3 US, a LOT cheaper than the common $5+ for a drink at most US restraunts and bars.

So go and enjoy, Australia is fun.

Contact me directly if you have more questions.


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