The horizon curved around us, stretching in azure blue with not another boat in sight. Looking overboard, the surface of the water was made of transparent crystal, the bottom of the ocean clearly visible 25 metres below, such was the stillness. Our dive boat, a small white speck on an endless blue, had moored up at Flynn Reef, on the outer rim of the Great Barrier Reef, and we were decompressing, waiting eagerly to get back into the 29 degree celcius water. The divemaster was mapping out the coming dive on the whiteboard, giving us bearings, fin-kicks to measure distance, turning circles. He promised a great dive if we could maintain enough air to allow us to get amongst the farther corals. That shouldn’t be a problem, we agreed.
It was time to dive – we undertook our equipment checks which by this point are second nature, and took a giant stride out into the unknown. The noise of entry and the fizz of bubbles that accompany it are always the only chaotic part of any dive, and as soon as we had followed the mooring down just one meter the familiar, peaceful silence of the warm ocean had engulfed us, and life and colour was everywhere. Brilliant streaks of sunlight led us down to the sandy ocean floor 20 metres below, we checked our compasses and set off on the route unguided, just the two of us, surrounded everywhere by beauty. Bommies, small underwater islands of life, scattered across the seabed each one covered in a different aray of greens, yellows and reds. Hard coral stood like miniature fortresses guarded by their faithful fish, soft coral stretched out as though awakening from a deep sleep. Turquoise parrotfish pecked at rocks, batfish floated by with their signature shape, a giant trevally soared past the size of a small shark. We followed the coral to shallower water, gliding along a solid wall of colour for what felt like eternity, the tiny creatures watching us intently from within. The underwater world was welcoming us, with unspeakable splendour.
As we got lost gliding through endless swim-throughs and along the reef wall at 10 metres, several ‘nemo’ fish ushered us away from their anemone homes, a blue spotted stingray shovelled its nose into the sand in defiance, several green turtles slowly swept within inches of us, unconcerned by our presence, each shell a distinct pattern of pentagonal greens and browns. Utterly lost in the brilliance of the moment, only our diminishing air could drag us back to the surface; we signalled to the boat that all was well, and snorkelled across the glass-like surface back to the boat. “I said an hour,” said the divemaster. I looked down at my computer – 73 minutes flashed back at me. Looking sheepishly up, I met his stare as I removed my mask, and what did he say? “To be honest mate, I don’t blame you. Beautiful, isn’t it?”. I sit here now and think yes, it truly is, beautiful