All The Dumb Things

A cautionary tale in development

Skin diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland, Australia

Posted by razzbuffnik on December 28th, 2008

My wife (Engogirl) and I went both scuba diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier reef last month.

I learnt how to scuba dive years ago and to tell the truth, I never really thought it was any better than snorkelling. Scuba is interesting in that it’s a bit like flying. You aren’t restricted by gravity to the ground. When you want to go down, you merely swim down and when you want to go up, all you have to do is swim up. all very effortless and it’s a bit like being like a bird except the medium which you pass through is much denser and you can’t breathe it.

Engogirl wanted to try scuba diving so when we went out to the reef, we both did an introductory course (I hadn’t done any scuba diving since the mid 1980s). 

Engogirl and the razzbuffnik go scuba diving

My wife was very underwhelmed by the experience as not only did she think that there wasn’t as much to look at the bottom (the reef is mainly in about 10 metre, which is about 31 ft, deep water), she also felt that the noise of the breathing apparatus and the bubbles it made, detracted from the experience. In short she felt it wasn’t worth the hassle of dealing with all the equipment and she’d rather just jump in the water to snorkel.

Engogirl and pineapple sea cucumber

Before we left on our trip we bought a very cheap and consequently low quality underwater camera (a Vivitar 6200W). It’s fixed focus and it can make little low-res movie files. We were a bit disappointed with the lack of sharpness and poor colour rendering. The digital screen was next to useless and basically we pointed the thing and just hoped for the best. The only good thing about the camera was that it was waterproof to 10 meters (which we took it down to).

The nice thing about snorkelling is that it’s very simple and far less dangerous. No hassles with having to be careful with surfacing to avoid the bends and no time limits. Another plus is the gear is way cheaper and far more simpler.

clown fish

Scuba gear isn’t that necessary on the reef because most of it is in shallow water and the colours look better closer to the surface. 

There were some very keen scuba divers on the boat we went on and I scared one while I was snorkelling by diving down to her depth (about 8 meters or about 26 feet) and swimming under her. She sure didn’t expect to see someone without scuba gear at that depth.

surgeon fish

The only advantage of scuba, that I could see, in the area we dived in was that one could take their time taking photos. Trouble was that the further down you go, the duller the colours become. If you use a flash to bring back the colour, you’ll illuminate the particles in the water and you’ll get lots of lightly coloured, out of focus dots in your shot. Unfortunately for us the coral had spawned a few days before we arrived and there were lots of small particles in the water. The crew on the boat seemed to enjoy telling us that we’d be swimming in coral spooge.

There’s no doubt it, the Great Barrier Reef has plenty of fish to see and it’s quite easy to get fairly close to them.

surgeon fish

 We saw some quite large fish such as a 1.5 metre (about 4′ 6″) shark and a very large Maori wrasse (almost 2 metres or about 6′6″). Both fish were big enough to make me think twice about getting closer and I didn’t get any pictures of them.

By the second day Engogirl had found the perfect snorkelling combination; a stinger suit and a noodle.

Engogirl and the latest in snorkelling fashion

Stinger suits are designed to protect the wearer from stings of the irukandji jellyfish and sunburn. The noodles are a long closed cell foam cylinder that provide floatation. I stuck with my lightweight wetsuit.

Engogirl spent most of her time taking little movies with our camera while floating on the surface. I’ve cobbled a little movie together of Engogirl’s first efforts at filming. If you’d like to see the movie, click here.

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13 Responses to “Skin diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland, Australia”

  1. Robert Says:

    Gee, I need to try this in a tropical sea once. The Adriatic coast is emptied out – all the European snorkellers, millions of them, each taking stuff out just to throw it away a couple of weeks after they return home. So it gets really boring, all you see bellow the surface is sand and rocks. And some grey fish.
    On the other hand I hear tropical seas are really a show. My wife, never ever before into snorkelling, last year went to Yemen and spent a week on Socotra, a remote island with almost no tourism, borrowed equipment from some place and almost drowned soon after because she got so much into this colourful world that she forgot about the heavy currents and needed to fight for her life really hard to gather enough strength to come back to the shore.
    Anyway, reading this, I really got inspired to do it some place out of the Adriatic.

  2. Pat Coakley Says:

    Oh, this is visual mango sorbet to me!! What is that rust-colored thing engogirl is holding? It’s not an eel is it? Kelp? Coral?

    That movie is amazing, too. Listen, I know you’d like to have a higher quality but this cheap camera gave you some amazing shots, don’t you think? The ending was great and I like the music in the movie, too. How long can you hold your breath, for god’s sake??

    This was fun.

  3. razzbuffnik Says:

    Robert

    It’s a pity about what you say about the Adriatic. It’s illegal to take coral from the Great Barrier Reef and to be honest, I think that most people don’t need to be told. One can’t help but be respectful of such places and it saddens me that global warming is having such a serious effect on the reef.

    Yemen is one of those exotic places I’d like to visit and I’ve heard that the diving in the red sea is amazing. Glad to hear your wife came to no harm.

    Pat

    The animal in Engogirl’s hands is a pineapple sea cucumber that was placed in her hands by our diving instructor.

    I’m happy you liked the movie. It’s the first time my wife has used a movie camera, let alone a movie camera in the ocean. It was such a pain in the rear to use. So badly designed, but you’re right, it was better than nothing.

    I can hold my breath for just over a minute (which is nothing in comparison to those record holding deep divers who can hold their breath for over 15 minutes) but I usually only stay down for about 30 seconds which doesn’t sound like a long time but it seems like a while when your doing it.

  4. tysdaddy Says:

    “My wife was very underwhelmed by the experience”

    I would have wet myself with excitement. Such is the life of the perpetually landlocked . . .

  5. S.Le Says:

    Beautiful photos! Wow!

  6. Pomeroy! Says:

    The pictures are gorgeous, Razz. Excellent work.

    Meanwhile, can you explain why it seems that every deadly creature on the planet is from the land down under? Sharks, spiders, snakes, jellyfish. Even Olivia Newton-John! (Um, that is only if you’re an 8 year old Jeff Pomeroy seeing Grease for the first time… she killed me).

    The concept of potentially getting stung by jellyfish is just enough to keep me out of the water.

    You’re both braver than me my friend. Kudos.

  7. razzbuffnik Says:

    Tysdaddy

    Actually, if you had have been there, you would’ve wet yourself with salt water. Time to spread you wings and fly.

    S.Le

    Thanks

    Pomeroy

    Thanks.

    We have so many of the most venomous creatures(the top 14 most deadly snakes for instance)to make sure that the total population of the United Kingdom and New Zealand don’t emigrate here.

    As for Olivia Newton John, I could tell you some sad stories about her, but I won’t, so I don’t get sued.

  8. grasswire Says:

    Red sea diving does look amazing – we just got back from visiting a friend who is a very eager diver and there were pics that would almost convince my wife to dive in :)

    Anyway, what’s with the shark fear? I thought (read) that hunting small sharks with almost bare hands was your specialty? :) )

  9. planetross Says:

    I’ve tried scubadiving, but I’ll stick to snorkelling.
    I thought the Ningaloo reef on the West Coast was amazing!! Why don’t more people go there? I have no idea: close to the shore, shallow, and made for snorkelling.

  10. razzbuffnik Says:

    Grasswire

    That small shark you were refering to

    http://blog.allthedumbthings.com/2007/04/19/my-great-shark-hunt/

    totally freaked me out.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m scared of sharks. To be honest any fish over a meter long worries me. Earlier this year I when I was snorkelling with a friend:

    http://blog.allthedumbthings.com/2008/02/26/peters-new-underwater-camera-housing/

    we saw some small Blue Grouper. There were some other people in the water who were feeding the Blue Grouper, shellfish that were still in their shells. The Grouper which have peg like teeth, bit through the shells like they were potato crisps.

    I also know a German guy living in Canada who was bitten on the back of his leg, just below the knee, by a small shark (only about a metre long which is smaller than the one I saw) when he was swimming in waist deep water in Mexico. Very nasty scar.

    Planetross

    I’ve heard of Ningaloo reef but I haven’t travelled very much in Western Australia (actually, I’ve only been to Perth). If the crowds of people going to Great Barrier Reef is anything to go by, I hope not that many people find out about Ningaloo.

  11. Jeff Pomeroy Says:

    Oh no! You have bad stuff on Olivia!

    Whatever you do… don’t e-mail me at my easily found e-mail address and tell me about it. That would be awful.

  12. S.Le Says:

    Happy New Year!

  13. razzbuffnik Says:

    Pomeroy

    Not really bad stuff but more … like… um, nah! Let’s not go there.

    S.Le

    Thanks and right back at ya!

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