Mother Nature offers few things more remarkable and awe-inducing than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As one of the seven wonders of the natural world, it is the only living thing on Earth visible from space. So, it was no great mystery when a few travel buddies and I booked a Cairnsadventure to check it out.

The day started out wonderfully enough: the sun was out, the water was a clear blue and everyone was in a great mood, eager to tick this adventure off our bucket list by the end of the day.

A few hours into our relaxing sunbathing session on top of the boat, crewmembers directed our gaze to a small sandy island off to our right. We were here! We quickly squeezed into our skin-tight wetsuits, took the obligatory goggle-face pictures and climbed into a smaller boat to make our way over to the reef. I couldn’t believe I was here – how jealous my sisters back home would be.

The reef was everything I imagined, or at least everything Finding Nemo taught me to expect. Below me was brilliant, vivid coral, swaying and shrinking as I got closer to inspect. From their protective coral sponges, Nemo and his friends warily glared at me, ready to sprint away if I dared get close enough to touch them.

After a half hour or so of marvelling at the wonder and beauty of it all, I joined my friends on the boat. Excited to see how the day could get even better, we headed to the front deck for an instructional on diving and, to our delight, our teacher was hot! We absently nodded our heads as he talked about the importance of “equalising our ear pressure” and “breathing at the right intervals”. But who could concentrate with his sparkling blue eyes and sexy London accent?

Before we knew it, we were geared up with massive oxygen tanks on our backs and masks on our faces resembling the likes of Darth Vader. It couldn’t be that hard, right? Wrong. Plunging into the clear water off the back of the boat, I suddenly came to the scary realisation that I had no idea what to do next.

I looked over at my friends and saw in their eyes the same look of fright they must have seen behind my own claustrophobia-inducing oxygen mask/goggle contraption.

Our instructor was impatiently awaiting our next move. So, as not to disappoint him, we hesitantly made our way down, practicing on metal rungs below the boat before embarking on the inevitable underwater adventure. Or not. Only one minute after putting in a good show of effort underwater, a sneaking pain in my ears sent me sputtering up to the water’s surface, where my friends joined me in frightened complaining.

“Why do my ears hurt so badly?”
“Is that the way it’s supposed to feel?!” 
“I need help!”

To our dismay, our beautiful British man rolled his eyes and began berating us. “This is what happens when you don’t listen! I explained all of the steps up on deck. You should remember what to do next!”

Well, this was just uncalled for. Okay, so maybe we didn’t pay the closest attention to his mere five minutes on scuba diving, but we certainly didn’t deserve THIS treatment!

“We’re only asking for some clarification,” I calmly tried to explain. But to no avail. Ten minutes later we stood dripping on deck, nursing both our pride and a couple of sore eardrums.

The day ended soon enough, after a few more hours of sunbathing on deck. As we walked offthe boat, our instructor handed us our “scuba-diving certificates” with a smirk on his face.

Get yelled at by British scuba diving instructor on the Great Barrier Reef: tick!

January 31st, 2011