Before I even booked my flight out here a couple of mates from England said they intended to spend Christmas 2013 in Australia, and it was they who suggested the Whitsundays as the destination. Well, don't mind if I do!!
They didn't fancy one of the classic 'boat trips' that most people do so I traveled up a few days earlier and got on board the Kiana - a proper dive boat, and with only 14 passengers on board, it was pretty small in comparison to most boats. It's also one of the few that sail to the Great Barrier Reef from here. Most just stick around the Whitsunday Islands themselves, which are a lot closer to the mainland.
The funny thing about gorgeous Whitehaven Beach, and the area in general, is that at this time of year you can't swim without the full protection of a 'stinger suit'. It's so odd to see a group of people dressed head to toe in black just to go for a simple swim! But a brush with a Box or Irukandji jellyfish is a brush with death so the gear is pretty essential.
I quite like it because it means I can be a bit lazy when it comes to the application of sunscreen!
At first the size of the dorms made my breath feel rather shallow and I honestly didn't know how I would cope with a bed where I couldn't even lean up on my elbow, never mind sit up! I'm lucky to only be 5'6 because any taller and I wouldn't have been able to stretch out. But it was fine in the end. It's amazing what you can adapt to if you have no choice!
But there was no need. The stuff under the water in the tropics is just SO awesome. I ended up doing the maximum of four dives during the trip.
What I love about scuba diving is the same as what I love about skydiving...the ability to put your body into any position you like, and that feeling of being a spaceman! I also, of course, love the exposure to the different environments, and diving seems even more worthwhile because there are animals to look at!
We saw loads of lovely things, including a type of nudibranch (top left), which I'm told is pretty rare. I spotted Mr Lobster, for which Cindy gave me an underwater high five! We saw a few turtles, lots of nemos and completely bizarrely coloured and patterned fish. These leopard print fish were quite common, but my favourite sea creature of all (bottom left) so far is the totally weird sea cucumber.
I got up at about 4am to see the sunrise. I was joined by most of the people on the boat, and I was in the water on my final dive before 7am. I love how everything happens early on these adventure trips. Sunrise is my favourite time of day.