Friday, October 26, 2007

Great Barrier Reef… Amazing.

We have just got back from a 4 day live-aboard, learn to dive experience, in one of the most amazing places in the world… the Great Barrier Reef. Both of us are now are qualified specialist divers. Let us take you through our last seven days of our hard life… LOL.

Day One..
We started our basic dive training in a pool learning how to snorkel and use diving equipment… we were shocked to discover that we would be given homework and have our written exam the following afternoon… Yikes no partying for us tonight..

Not quite as hard a a classroom.

Day Two..
Back at the pool (fully swotted up on our dive procedures) we were taught the safety aspects of diving, shared breathing, manual inflating of our jackets, and all the nasty things that live in the sea that will either eat us or give you a life threatening sting, in which case you wouldn’t even have time to surface…Arghhh
We pass our written exam with flying colors..
We were supposed to just be doing our open water course (Qualified to dive 18m) but after much review we decided to add one more day on and become Specialist Divers (Qualified to dive 30m, Night dive and a whole load of other things)
That night we attended a course called 'reef teach' which described all the things we were going to see on the reef. Many of these things had large teeth, or spines, or both, and a great many fall into the 100 deadliest species...... At least we know not to touch anything....

Day Three
The adventure begins. We are shipped out to the Barrier reef and transferred to the Kangaroo explorer, a huge 3 storey catamaran / hotel / dive platform. Within the first hour we were kitted up in diving gear and off on our first training dive, and our first look at the Barrier Reef.
12m down was a whole different world, but we didn’t get chance to look too much, as we had training to do, practicing our skills that we had learned in the pool.
With a short Surface break on board our boat we were back in the water training again. This time our training area was already occupied, by a blue spotted lagoon ray, basking himself in the sandy bottom. On our ascent to the surface we were graced with the presence of a beautiful Green turtle, they are so cute!!

Believe it or not, theres lots of coral on the Great Barrier reef!

Not so giant clam (we did see some about 1 meter lenght)

Day Four
The big test for our open water certification. We were woken at the ridiculous ungodly hour of 5.30am! By 6am we are in the water watching the sunrise above us. We descended to the depth of 18m where to our horror two White tip reef sharks were poised watching.
We began to go through the final stages of our test all the while being filmed by Ronaldo the on board camera man. We got to feed this fish, which made Cheryl giggle incessantly while being engulfed in a feeding frenzy of fish. We also had little message boards.. sorry folks but you will have to wait to see our video to see what ours said.. (Sandra its in the post to you). Unfortunately due to some air gulpers our dive test was cut short and we returned to surface.
By 8am we were back in the water donning Christmas hats. Ronaldo filmed the whole dive again. Thankfully this time we completed all the required training and we surfaced as fully qualified open water divers… YEAH!!
Our next dive was our first unguided dive. Just us, the fish and whatever else lurks in the depths. We did a fantastic job of navigating the reef seeing another shark and a trumpet fish.
However our training wasn’t over, we where going to be qualified as specialist divers.
Our first special dive was a night dive…all I can say is its pretty weird and eerie down there at night, the only light being your torch, and whatever moonlight makes it down there. The fish tend to follow you more because they are interested in the light.

Theres also a lot of fish on the Great Barrier reef!

The brightly coloured parrot fish was amongst our favorites. They have a hard beak, and eat coral....

Nemo's cousin (or something)

Day Five
Another 5.30 wake up call and another training dive. We were diving to 30m. It is pretty barren down there at the 30m, most of the life is at 20m and above. We were just on a sandy bottom we had to sit there for 10 mins and answer questions to see if we were affected by nitrogen levels.
11 am and back in the water for more training, this time navigational skills. We were given five exercises to complete using a compass, and time or kick counting methods. I have to mention we did see the dangerous box fish, a fish that has nasty spikes and another shark.
4pm at last we get to have another fun dive. We descended to 12m and had probably one of our best dives so far. We explored an area called the fish bowl a weird shaped reef with a part called the wall which you can swim through into the fishbowl. Our best finds were a giant clam, a skool of trumpet fish and an upside down jelly fish.
At 7pm we are thrown back into the water for our first unguided night dive, with the specific instructions not to follow any other divers. Totally scary and gives you the weird feeling you’re in a bottomless abyss. We dived a little conservatively, but didn’t get lost and did see a shrimp…they have red eyes at night you know!!

Day Six.
Our last day, but we still had a few more specialist dives to go.
5.30 am, you guessed it we were woken again. This time we were to do a multi-level dive with a max depth of 30m. We were to do it solo and time our stay at each depth. We began 30m for 10mins, 20m for 8 mins 12 m for 5 min and 3m for 3 min. Doesn’t sound hard does it… well trying to enjoy the scenery, watch your air, depth and time all at the same time can be quite challenging. We did fine but this was the one dive we came pretty close to being below the required surface level of air.
Next was a fun dive, I think this was my favorite dive. We were diving in the fish bowl again, at around 18m, and we saw a huge amount of the reef, including another shark, a nudiebranch (a very dangerous wormy type thing) a snot bubble (a sleeping bag used by parrot fish), Nemo and his family and lots of jellyfish.
And so we come to the mention of jelly fish. The worlds most venomous animal is a jellyfish the iracangie and the barrier reef is home to these, as well as box jellyfish and bluebottles, during the summer months. We were warned in the morning about the presence of jellyfish and to spend as little time on the surface as possible.
Our final dive and someone forgot to mention to Paul (our instructor) about the jellyfish.. He had us swim out to our descent point. Unfortunately for Cheryl, she became a jellyfish target and was stung a few times before we hurriedly descended below the surface for our final training (and one of the most fun) dives. We each had to tie three knots, rescue a weight belt using an list bag, search for an ‘o’ ring in a 10 metre square area, then as a team, find and retrieve the weight belt back to the boat, using the lift bag. We succeeded even though our instructor run out of air and had to leave us (he forgot we were diving on large tanks). Both of us are now fully qualified specialist divers.. Yippee.

Our delightful accomodation - The Kangaroo Explorer (we didn't see any Kangaroos out there though)

Before we leave.. We have to mention the live-aboard boat. The accommodation was fantastic, as good as any hotel, the food was plentiful and really good. The instructors, Todd and Paul for us were really good. The crew themselves had our gear ready to go foe every dive.
The boat itself was spacious, although many times the sun deck was full capacity with everyone enjoying the beautiful weather… both of us have really good tans…factor 30 SPF is a must out there even on cloudy days which we didn’t have!! Each day we moved to a new location, so that we always dived at least in two locations each day.
It’s a shame we aren’t around for a longer period as the company offer a free 7 day, or 2/3 month live-aboard, where you work in exchange for free accommodation, food and dives.. how good would that be! It’s a shame we didn’t hear about that before we arrived. Although I can see us coming back to do it..

So a free plug to the company who made the experience one of the best Cairns Dive Centre.

We have enjoyed diving so much we are now planning to do some in New Zealand (our instructor lives there) and South America. Cheryl even said she prefers it to kayaking…but that’s because she got to see Nemo and Turtles!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Australia Part 1 – Sydney

First stop in Australia was Sydney. We’ve spent about a week here now, staying with Cheryl’s friend Christina, who she met on a paddling trip to Mexico. First day was spent exploring the sights. Sydney Opera house, Botanical Gardens, and the Harbor bridge. Sydney has an excellent public transport system, that really works! Lots of scenic ferry rides link the sights.

We then headed to the Penrith Olympic Whitewater park for some paddling. After renting playboats (I wish I had my Crazy 88!), we hit the water. Unfortunately this is the only paddling around, and it doesn’t really have any truly wonderful playspots, but it was great to be boating again. The course is fairly powerful and shallow…. With lots of removable obstacles to get pushed against. This was the site of the 2000 world Freestyle. I think they got it right moving to features like Buseater…

After that we had a couple more days seeing the sights. At Taronga zoo, we got aquainted with all Down under wildlife, as well as creatures from further afield. Of particular interest were the 11 species of snake that are in the worlds 15 most poisonous, all of which live around here somewhere….. The Koalas were very cute though….

A day at the beach was most welcome. Need to do more of that…. Luckily we’re on our way to Cairns where its even hotter for a 5 day dive trip on the Great Barrier reef!!
Christina's cat 'Willy' is miffed his facebook account was removed!

Bye for now!

Just for Dad (or anyone else interested in cars...)

Dad this post is just for you!! Si and I hit the Sydney International Car show. To make you proud I drooled and sat in as many cars as possible... especially the Porsche's and my fav small car the Smart car.
Si and I got some good ideas for future Kayak mobiles a favorite being the Skoda...yes Skoda Yeti and the Toyota Tarago (not pictured here)

This one is a nice model, Si liked this one...
Daddy Pleeease can I have one????

Dad this one is for you... no not the Ferrai above the nice truck below!!

MMM A pink car.

Lamborghini or Smart Car??

Si and Cheryls maybe future Car - The Skoda Yeti..

Si and I got to go on a 4WD test course which was a lot of fun, Here is video footage of us going over a See-Saw.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Heading out again - Singapore

After a couple of weeks relaxing back in the UK, visiting parents and friends, we packed up all out gear – definitely less than we had in Astro, and headed for the airport. As usual BA didn’t flinch at the sight of a kayak approaching the check in desk, and we were soon on our way!

First stop was Singapore. No kayaking, but plenty to see for a few days. One thing about Singapore…. Its hot. Very hot. We were able to dump kayak, paddle bag and an extra rucksack in excess luggage so we didn’t have to lug extra gear round town, for which we were very grateful in the heat.

Most days were spent exploring using the underground to get around. The town has very distinct districts, Bustling Little India and China town (with many fascinating temples), Towering cityblocks in the business district, Riverside bars and restaurants in quayside etc.

One of the main reasons for visiting Singapore was to taste the food. We ate great Chinese and Indian food, as well as many tasty fried items from roadside vendors.

It wasn’t all eating though. We stopping in at the Tea Chapter. The Queen and Prince Philip stopped off here for a brew, so we through we should also.

We also visited Sentosa island, one of the main tourist attractions via the cable car, and took in Underwater world, with their pink dolphins, and the beach, staying away from the 5 star hotels and resorts. You can certainly do a luxury trip to Singapore, and this is one of the main locations to stay if you have that kind of budget…. We didn’t this time.. Maybe next time.

After three days we had had enough sightseeing, and we were pretty glad to be heading on. Next stop Australia, and Sydney!