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Don't smile, she said! It might be the best advice I ever received, at least here.

While the Great Barrier Reef and the Rainforests of Queensland share a space on earth, here I will be talking about them separately. It seems only fair.

In Northern Queensland, two UNESCO World Heritage sites sit side by side (the only place in the world for this to do so). The Daintree Rainforest is thought to be 165 Million years old. The other is young by comparison (around 8,000 years old), and hugs the coast for 2300km. The Great Barrier Reef has been one of planet earths valued treasures since we began exploring it. It has been the topic of many studies, reports or documentaries and we are all aware that this natural wonder - and many like it- are under extreme stress, in our modern world.

"People say to me ‘what was the most magical thing you ever saw in your life?’ And I always say, without a word of exaggeration, the first time I was lucky enough to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef." David Attenborough

I was about to wrap my head around the idea that I would soon be breathing under-water. At the exact same time, I was going to witness one of natures finest spectacles. Even more challenging, I was going to have to do it all by “only smiling with your eyes” my dive master Jess couldn’t help but grin, as she said this at our pre dive briefing. To smile in the traditional sense would break your seal with the regulator, an this would end poorly. I never listened to anyone so intently in my life as I did to Jess, my scuba instructor and life support system for the next few hours.

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back to where we came. John F Kennedy

How can one prepare for an experience like visiting the Great Barrier Reef? Can expectations ever possibly be matched? With an experience like snorkeling or diving you have various locations to experience it from. So many different operators, offering so many different variations. It is literally my profession to understand these differences, and it still makes my head spin at times.

Fortunately, at a recent tourism conference it put many of these Great Barrier Reef tour providers in one room, side by side. Allowing me exclusive access to learn about the (sometimes subtle) differences between them all. Selecting partners to work with in this area is not a task I take lightly, no second chances with clients time and money here. Divers Den has been operating out of Cairns for over 40 years. Port Douglas is a relatively new location for them, but that was only going to work to my benefit. The Divers Den Sales Manager, a magnetic personality called Katherine, was about as passionate about her job as I've experienced. She introduced me to their new vessel Aqua Quest that went to the outer reef, far away from the larger boats and the quick fixing, bucket-list ticking crowd. The ship itself was designed by the owner from the ‘ocean’ up. He himself an avid diver, and every fine detail was catered to. Right down to locally sourced produce for lunch and the ability to have a hot shower onboard!. The extensively trained staff and support boat in the water also help put your mind at ease as you dip down into an unknown world.

This set of photos were all taken by Divers Den and used with permission.

That first dive experience is exactly the type of experience I encourage people to do while traveling. Yes, it was a little terrifying at first. New experiences like this tend be a little daunting. Fear and excitement occupy the same sacred space. The body often can’t tell the difference. That’s the gold. These are such precious moments in life and it's truly when we feel most alive. It’s you and your thoughts, alone and together. The experience is about feeling that struggle between fear and excitement. Travel should alter your reality. It should bend, buckle and break your beliefs. It should leave you hungry for more. Your next adventure should be your Raison D’etre. #goexploremore

Huge thanks to Kath @ Divers Den for this experience. Also to Jess and Nacho for your top class instruction. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I'm counting the days till I return once more to the blue abyss.

Created By
Evan McElligott
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Credits:

Evan McElligott and Divers Den

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