After a long weekend of paper writing, we were dropped off in Cairns for our five day Spring Break… Australian style! This was the first time that our group of twenty six would go separate ways for more than one day. We (Tori and Anthony) stayed with a group of 10 other students for an adventure that we will never forget. The first two days were spent hanging out by the pool, exploring Cairns, and preparing for our last three days which would be spent on a 65 foot sailboat, the Rum Runner, on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site.

Of the twelve only four were SCUBA certified, including us. The rest were only expecting to snorkel but everyone got the experience of an introduction SCUBA dive. We ended up doing a total of twelve dives including two night dives… yes, NIGHT dives! Thinking about diving into the dark, open ocean with only a small flashlight giving us three meters of visibility made us a little apprehensive, but after experiencing bioluminescent plankton, sleeping turtles, and sharks, we realized it was well worth it.

Day dives were a much different experience than the night dives because the reefs were like bustling cities of fish. Our most common quote of the trip was “That was my favorite reef!” because each dive got better and better. We saw all kinds of organisms — giant clams, neighborhoods of clown fish (Nemo!), sting rays, and of course our friends from the night dives — sea turtles and sharks.

 In between dives we would sometimes squeeze in snorkeling, which was a nice way to spend time with everyone. With such busy days, we were exhausted by nightfall. Each evening we watched the sunset, prepared for our night dive (physically and emotionally), had tea, watched the moon rise, and got ready for bed. To enhance our experience even more, as if it wasn’t already unbelievable, a bunch of us decided to sleep on deck under the moon and stars. We would wake to the sunrise and, of course, a morning dive before brekkie (Australian term for breakfast).

This dive trip was nothing short of amazing. Cameras cannot justly capture the beauty of what we saw. We now truly understand why the Great Barrier Reef is listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and feel so fortunate to have experienced it in person. On our way back to our home in the rainforest we looked at the pictures we had taken and reflected on how lucky we are to be living in an area where reef and rainforest, two World Heritage areas, meet.