Attraction,Travel ian 1/7/2014

The Great Barrier Reef is the drawcard for many visitors to Cairns and Tropical North Queensland and while you can explore the reef by snorkelling, in a glass-bottom boat or a submersible, an introductory scuba dive makes you feel part of the reef. Rather than finding Nemo, Nemo might find you!

Cod Cairns Great Barrier ReefIntroductory scuba dives are available to pretty much anyone over 12. There are some medical conditions that can prevent you from diving – things like asthma, epilepsy or a heart condition. Anyone taking an intro dive has to complete a medical questionnaire and it is important to be open and honest when you do this.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking prescription medicine, you can visit your GP for a dive medical. Diving should not be undertaken while pregnant. Having said that, diving is extremely safe and it doesn’t take long to feel totally comfortable under water. Your humble blogger became addicted very quickly and continued on to be a PADI accredited open water diver. I took our two children for their intro dive at age 12 and they also loved it. Our son is now an Advanced Open Water diver while daughter is more a keen snorkeller.

So, what’s involved in taking your first intro dive? Because you can’t talk underwater you need to learn a few basic hand signals to communicate with your instructor while under water – just things like letting him/her know you are okay. Then it is into the wetsuit and some basic training with the gear. Once your mask is fitted properly it is into the water to practice breathing through your regulator. This can be a strange sensation for some people – just being able to breathe normally without heading to the surface. There are a couple of other basic skills to learn, like how to easily retrieve your regulator in the unlikely event of it being bumped out of your mouth. In 20 years of diving this is not a skill I have had to use!

Depending on your air consumption, your intro dive will last around 20 to 30 minutes and you may want to take additional dives. If you do these on separate days, you will need to do the basic skills test each time. If you find yourself taking lots of ‘intro’ dives it might be time to look at becoming accredited! You will need to set aside four to five days to become accredited as there is theory as well as the required compulsory dives – but where better to do this than on one the natural wonders of the world.

There are a number of dive operators offering intro dives and the cost will depend on where you go and whether things like lunch and snorkelling are included. Discover Scuba dives start around $180 with a second dive around $40. Some of the operators that access the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns are Passions of Paradise, Silverswift, Tusa Dive T6, Reef Experience, Reef Kist, Reef Quest, Osprey V and Ocean Freedom.

You can book direct with the operators or get advice and book through Cairns Dive Adventures. Richard, Julie and the team work out of an office in The Conservatory (turn left onto Abbott Street from Rydges Tradewinds and go through the CBD).

You can base yourself in Cairns at Rydges Esplanade Resort, Rydges Tradewinds or Rydges Plaza,