Following my quick run-round the Cairns Esplanade, I caught the van transfer to Port Douglas at 10.30am last Friday. The drive takes about 1 hour and a bit, but you don’t really notice the time because this route, along the Captain Cook Highway, is one of the world’s top 10 coastal drives (be sure to sit on the right side of the vehicle to catch the best views!).
After settling into my room, I decided to take advantage of the tropical weather and headed to the beach. I have now been spoiled rotten by the pure white, soft sands of Fraser Island and Whitehaven Beach so the Four Mile Beach of Port Douglas didn’t seem much to look at. It also didn’t help that my arrival seemed to have brought on some spring showers.
Nevertheless, the beach sand was soft and the water an extremely warm 29°C. Rain or no rain, the weather was so hot and humid that I jumped into the sea anyway and spent some time floating on the water, looking up at the sky and watching the rain clouds drift slowly away.
After having my fill of lazing around in the sea, I went for a short walk along the beach and headed up to the Four Mile Beach lookout, located at the end of Island Point Road. The lookout was surprisingly quiet, and I had the entire place to myself – just me, the sea, the sky and the trees.
The sun had come out again by this time, so I decided to sunbathe on some warm rocks nearer to sea level. Apart from a couple of fisherman, I again had the fantastic weather and views to myself. Part of this trip was for me to spend some time alone with my thoughts, and that’s what I did for the better part of 2 hours. I could really get used to this!
As the sun started to set, I reluctantly left my spot on the rocks and took the long way back to my hostel, passing by the mangrove trees lining the Port Douglas marina. It was a beautiful time of day to snap some photos of the boats in the harbour against the rain clouds and setting sun.
But I digress, because visiting Port Douglas for me was not about the town, the beach, the lookout point or even the marina. In fact, the number one reason why I had even decided to visit Australia was really just to dive the world wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef. As this has been one of my dreams since I first obtained my PADI dive license, I wanted to do this properly, so it had to be Port Douglas (beautiful in its own right) and the outer reef (access to which is easily obtained from the Port Douglas marina).
I ended up doing 2 consecutive days of diving, with 3 dives on each day…but it was nowhere near enough. There’s just so much to see! There were beautiful, healthy looking corals everywhere with a good diversity of fish and corals alike. Rather excitingly, we also managed to do 3 drift dives based on the current which was a break from the norm and a good fun bonus.
Also quite spectacularly, my chosen days of diving coincided with the once in a year coral spawning event, which meant a lot more activity than usual on the reefs (unfortunately no night dives for me which would have been REALLY amazing).
I rented a GoPro camera on my first day of diving to try to capture some of the beautiful things I saw and have consequently ended up with the embedded video. As you may know, it’s quite difficult to get the right colours underwater and everything tends to look really blue. After a bit of editing, I’ve managed to even it out a little, but there’s (unfortunately!) not much I could do with my, at times, shaky hands. 😛 Enjoy!
Diving the Great Barrier Reef
- 0-0:17: Corals
- 0:18-0:33: Squid
- 0:34-0:58: lots of different types of colourful fishes
- 0:59- 1:13: a school of fish hiding in a large coral
- 1:14-1:23: Interesting looking white coral which just went on and on and on…
- 1:24-1:30: My one and only sighting of a reef shark
- 1:31-1:44: Lots of fishies swimming about a huge coral
- 1:45-1:52: Tiny baby fishes playing hide-and-seek in a coral
- 1:53-end: Fishes, fishes, fishes, EVERYWHERE!
- I went with Poseidon, one of the smaller diving outfits but extremely good
- A one day all-inclusive dive tour costed me about AU$295, with a 10% discount on subsequent days booked with them (but don’t think about the cost, just do it!)
- The dive sites are not determined until the boat is out at sea and the captain understands fully what the weather and sea conditions are. If you are lucky (like I was) and the water is calm, you get to see special dive sites that are not normally accessible.
- GoPro cameras and point and shoot underwater cameras are available for hire (AU$ 65 for a normal camera, AU$85 for a GoPro)
- Whilst it is not wholly necessary to do a dive refresher course if you haven’t dived in a while, it may be a good idea to do so. The dive master does run through the basics with the group, and all dive equipment is set up for you, so it’s really just about remembering what to do underwater if your mask floods or you don’t have air, or your regulator pops out of your mouth, etc.