Harry R. Schwartz

Code writer, sometime Internet enthusiast, attractive nuisance.

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British Columbia



Diving the Great Barrier Reef


Published .
Tags: diving, outdoors, personal.

Jenny, Brian, and I just got back from a three-night scuba diving liveaboard in the Great Barrier Reef.

I got into diving last year while we were still living in the Bay Area.1 We’ve done quite a bit of traveling since then, and I’ve been lucky enough to squeeze in a few dives in Maui, Cozumel, and Roatan. We decided to get a little more ambitious with this trip, though, and spend a few days on a boat. Jenny even got certified so she could join in on this one.

Jenny and I spent a few days tourist-ing around in Sydney, going to a symphony at the Opera House and being comically charmed by all the ibises2 and cockatoos on the streets. Then we flew up to Cairns, met Brian, and took a single-engine plane for a low flight over the reef up to Lizard Island, where we boarded the Spoilsport.

The whole liveaboard experience was just perfect. The food was great (with plenty of veggie options), the accommodations were comfortable, and the crew were really friendly and helpful. If you’re looking for a good liveaboard on the GBR, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions is a great outfit.3

Mid-August is an in-between season for diving the GBR: it’s just after the minke whale migration, but before the “real” dive season gets started in the Australian summer. That meant that the ship was underbooked, so we had plenty of room and a bit of extra attention from the crew and divemasters.

And, unsurprisingly, the diving was superb.


We saw all kinds of great stuff: lots of whitetip and grey reef sharks, a bunch of tiny nudibranchs, a moray eel, some bioluminescent diatoms on one of our night dives, a couple stonefish, some cuttlefish, a few huge potato cod, lots of lionfish, parrotfish, and pipefish, a few different species of anemonefish, and Jenny even saw a dwarf minke whale. And, of course, we saw a turtle eating a jellyfish:

Turtle eating a jellyfish

(Terrific photos courtesy of Laurence Buckingham.)

Jenny wrote a post full of doodles about the liveaboard, too!

So, in summary: liveaboard diving’s just the best! We’re gonna have to do some more of that in the future.

After arriving back in Cairns we visited the art museum and viewed the thoroughly unsettling exhibit Life Clings Closest.

Life Clings Closest

Luckily, we didn’t see this beast on our dives.

Less hauntingly, downtown Cairns hosts a few trees full of flying foxes! I’m sure they’re a bit of a nuisance if you live there, and I imagine they could be a disease vector, but coming from a place without any megabats I sure was impressed with ‘em.

Flying foxes in a tree in Cairns

  1. If you’re in the Bay Area and want to get started, check out Diver Dan’s. It’s a great shop with some terrific instructors! If you’re in Colorado, I did my Rescue cert (and Jenny did her Open Water) at Flatirons Scuba in Broomfield, CO, which is also excellent—though of course the diving in Monterey Bay is just a wee bit better than in the Rockies. 

  2. Also known as the “bin chicken” for its habit of rummaging through rubbish. Still, pretty novel for us! 

  3. Rest assured that no one has ever paid me to write anything on this blog. I genuinely really liked ‘em! Though, to be fair, it’s my first liveaboard, so I don’t have any points of comparison. 

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