Snorkeling and Diving at the Great Barrier Reef

November 5, 2017

We’re back in Cairns, the main outpost for trips going to the Great Barrier Reef! When we were here about 2 weeks ago, it was raining so much and the weather forecast for the next days was so bad, that we decided to leave without having seen the Great Barrier Reef. But, of course, being on Australia’s east coast and not seeing the reef at all would have been a big disappointment, so now that the weather’s better, we flew back to Cairns and booked ourselves on a diving course, which includes 2 trips to the reef.

Pretty much all ships go to the outer reef, as the inner one is already quite damaged. From Cairns, that takes around 90 minutes, depending on the speed of the boat you’re on. You can go both snorkeling and diving at the reef. You can go on a day trip, or you can spend the night on one of the boats that stays out at the reef for several days.

Daniel and I were lucky enough to be the only 2 participants in our diving course (the maximum would have been 8). The first day was only theory, followed by an exam at the end of the day, which we both passed. On the second day, we had to do various exercises in the pool, focused mostly on knowing how to react in emergency situations under water. It was a lot to practice and learn, most of it very difficult for someone like me, who is not really comfortable under water. Our instructor kept saying that we were way behind and we would never finish by the end of the day as planned. After the first half of this second day, I decided to quit and not finish the course. I completely hated the exercises we were doing in the pool and I didn’t have enough time to get comfortable breathing under water. I got a refund for the rest of the course, and Daniel had the luxury of private training. For him doing the course was no problem at all, he’s very comfortable free diving, so scuba diving came very natural to him.

The next 2 days of the diving course for Daniel consisted of practice dives at the Reef and a final certification dive. Although I had cancelled my course, I could still go along on the same ship as him – I just went snorkeling at the Reef, while he was diving.

It was an amazing experience seeing the corals and the fish of all shapes, sizes, colors and patterns. There are just sooooo many fish, some of them in beautiful colors, most of them not at all afraid of snorkelers and divers, many of them coming towards you instead of swimming away. The corals were also very impressive, but unfortunately already showing signs of decay, even at the 2 remote outer reef locations where we were.

Unfortunately I didn’t have equipment to take any underwater photos, but here are some impressions from our ship and of Daniel getting ready for one of his practice dives.

Highs and Lows


  • Obviously, snorkeling at the reef and seeing the huge variety of marine life that exists there.
  • Daniel is now a certified diver!


  • Not finishing the diving course. I knew already at the start that I was out of my comfort zone, but I hoped I could get over it. That didn’t happen unfortunately. Maybe I would have been able to, in a slower paced course. But in the one we had booked, there was no time planned in for people like me, who have to get used to being under water in the first place.
  • Not seeing any turtles while snorkeling. I know that is a luxury problem to have, with all the amazing fish and corals that I did see. But I was almost sure I would see turtles and was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, they decided to not show up on that day and nobody (none of the snorkelers and none of the divers) saw any.

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