Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Aussie 3: Scuba Dive on The Great Barrier Reef and Townsville

In continuation from: Aussie 2: Melbourne and The Boxing Day Ashes Test

Beautiful Sunset over Townsville
Having enjoyed the first session of Boxing Day Cricket test at MCG, we immediately drove to the Melbourne Airport to catch our flight to Townsville. The reason we wanted to go to Townsville was to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Most people go to the city of Cairns for Great Barrier Reef. However I decided to go to Townsville as the flights to and from here were relatively cheaper and we hardly had time to explore a huge city like Cairns. 
The Great Barrier Reef
We spent the 3 hour flight to Townsville completing our quota of sleep. Townsville airport was pretty small and we were told to walk to the terminal building upon leaving the plane. 
Friend ready to jump into the water
When the taxi dropped us in front of our hotel, I couldn't help but admire the location of our hotel Aquarius on the Beach. Located right on the Strand, the hotel offered great views of the beach and the waterfront. Thankfully, we were allotted ocean facing rooms on the 11th floor providing beautiful panoramic views from the balcony. Even though we had a pretty early day and were slightly tired, we decided to go down and have a short walk on the Strand. There is a nice walkway here hugging the beach with a number of lawns on the sides. Even though Townsville is only a small town, it has a good number of restaurants, even India restaurants, and a Casino as well. 
Dive guide pointing out a Sea Slug to me!!
Beautifully coloured fish all around
After the walk, we went to an Indian restaurant for early dinner as we wanted to sleep early today. While we were having dinner there, a number of non-Indian customers came in to get themselves Indian food. It was clear that in this part of the world, Indian food is quite popular. 
A Boring Clam is called so 'cause its so so boring
Back at hotel, we spent some time playing cards in the balcony before hitting the bed. However, I was unsure whether to sleep immediately or watch Manchester United play Hull city in the English Premier League. Finally I decided to remain awake for a couple more hours to watch my favourite football club play. It was well worth it as the match was quite interesting and resulted in a Manchester United victory. 
A Jellyfish just below the surface
Next morning, we woke up early, picked our swim wear and went to Townsville Breakwater Marina from where our ferry to the the Barrier reef was to depart. Here, we were provided with our diving gear and once everyone has the gear of their required size, we boarded the ferry and settled in for a 2.5 hour ride into the ocean. 
Its a different world down here
I had always wondered what Great Barrier Reef would look like but I never thought it would be like it was when I actually saw it. In the middle of the ocean with no islands around, the depth of the ocean came down to just about 10-30 meters. And we could see a number of beautifully colored corals with some equally vibrantly colored fishes swimming among them. 
The fish that threatened me!!
So perfectly camouflaged
Once the ferry stopped, we squeezed into our diving gear, put on our scuba tanks and jumped into the water. The first time divers went with a instructor in pairs while four of us, certified divers, went in with one dive guide only. The dive site had perfect diving conditions with great visibility and optimum water temperature. Also, thanks to the corals, there was a good amount of fish life in the area. We saw fishes like parrot fish, butterfly fish, a solitary lionfish and a couple of Barracudas. Other than these, we saw some Boring Clams and some Jellyfish right beneath the surface. Jellyfish look beautiful and harmless but their sting can be enough to ruin your diving pleasure for a while. However, this is just like most of the creatures under water or even above it, who don't really intend to harm us humans. They harm only when we try to hurt them or surprise them leading to a panic attack.
Me posing underwater
Butterfly Fish
The first dive was followed by a quick lunch on the boat. For the second dive, the dive guide just took us in a different direction. This was unlike my previous experiences when the boat was moved to a different point for the second dive. This 2nd dive was slightly more interesting than the first one as we moved close to a wall in this one and there were number of fishes hanging around the plants there. There was one particular gray colored fish about a feet long that came towards my face a number of times. I felt as if it was threatening me to move away so I obeyed its orders and moved quickly. After this dive, we came up, washed ourselves with a fresh water shower and took a seat on the top to move back to Townsville. While we were moving back, a group of Dolphins accompanied us for sometime.
When your oxygen ends, you can use your partner's oxygen like this

We reached Townsville by 5 in the evening. The sandwiches we had for lunch on the boat weren't filling enough, so we decided to grab a meal at an Indian restaurant. After the meal, we took a taxi that drove us 2.6 kms to the top of Castle Hill. Castle Hill is a 286 m high pink granite monolith that towers above the town of Townsville. This offers numerous vantage points offering views to as far as Magnetic Island. This hill was used as a communications and observation post during World War II. Nowadays, many locals walk up the Castle Hill for regular exercise. While we were roaming around the Hynes Lookout clicking pictures of the panoramic views, a number of locals were running along the stairs working on their fitness.

There are a couple more places worth visiting in Townsville namely Reef HQ and Billabong Sanctuary. We couldn't visit these because of a lack of time. Hence, I would recommend visiting Townsville for a minimum of 3-4 days so that you don't miss out on these sites. For Indian food, the best Indian restaurant was Alishaan, just near The Strand. This night, we had a long sleep and woke up late in the morning. After a quick breakfast, we hopped in to a taxi to the airport to catch our flight to SYDNEY!!
Panoramic view from the Castle Hill

Read the next part here: Sydney and the SKYDIVE


Anonymous said...

Beautiful place with amazing photography.Wish we could have spend some more time in townsville.

sachin dixit said...

Yea...As I said, this place is worth a minimum of 4 days!!

Renuka said...

Really pretty! Sounds like you had a great time.

sachin dixit said...

yes Renuka, I actually had a great time here!! said...

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