The reef is called the 'Barrier' Reef because it is an outer reef, situated along the Australian continental shelf with the channel between the coastline and the reef reaching a depth of about 60m. The other type of reef is a 'Fringe' reef, which is situated along the coastline of land and islands.
The reef is home to a few dangerous creatures, although you may see reef sharks there are no noted attacks on visitors. The most dangerous things in the Barrier Reef is the coral itself (if you touch them you can cut yourself as well as damage the coral), Jellyfish and Scorpion Fish.
Peter D, my little brother, was due to fly up from Sydney on the Monday to join us in Cairns while we busied ourselves getting excited about the prospect of diving on the most famous Reef in the world. Pete R and myself had been diving quite recently in Thailand where Pete successfully completed his Advanced Open water course and I stepped onto the first rung of professional diving by completing my Padi Divemaster course. So we had both blown away the cobwebs and were ready for some exciting diving. My Bro hadn't dived for a matter of years and was quite eager to remember what gear he would need, and after a little research, turned up with some sleek new Fins, Mask, Snorkel and Knife. Very Keen. Sarah in her new found condition was unable to dive but after some quizzing of the local dive operations, we settled on a boat and crew that promised some excellent Snorkelling to boot.
The "Spirit of Freedom" is a 40 metre luxury vessel capable of catering for 20 guests. I say luxury because after diving in the Irish sea from a converted 18M fishing trawler that smells of fish with 15 Male divers all sharing the same bunkroom and head (toilet) , virtually anything would seem luxurious in comparison. To be honest though when we all arrived at the Dock it soon became apparent that this was a truly professional operation. When you are quite used to arriving at a tiny Scottish fishing port to find your boat at the end of a row of about five others. Climbing down a wet and cold, steel ladder in the dark whilst wearing a 20kg Scuba kit, 5kg weightbelt and carrying two bags, then making your way accross five boats that move apart with every wave, and negotiating with a drunken, scowling, crew member aboard each one.....being greeted at your vehicle and told to leave your bags for the crew to take below while you are welcomed aboard by the boat "Director of operations" and his crew seemed indulgent if not a little alien!
After a brief tour of the boat and the arrival of the the rest of the divers, we got underway at around 11am on day 1. After a short steam north east from Cairns harbour we anchored up for our first dive. After a lot of fumbling and trial and error, I got all my gear on whilst taking excited glances at the clear blue water. Stepping to the back of the boat, as the two petes finished kitting up, with a beaming grin, leapt from the boat. And as my bubbles cleared around me, it became quite obvious this was going to be some very special diving!