2nd Apr 2012 - 8th Apr 2012 -
And so it was back to Byron to do our diving with SSI (scuba school international) (which is similar to a PADI) and to do a 4 day course on 'Open Water Scuba Diving' which would then make us qualified divers after we completed 4 dives.
We had already completed and passed our online theory exams for day 1. On day 2 we had classroom training then in-pool training where we got all our gear ready- oxygen bottles, BC's (like a life jacket), regulators and wetsuits and practised lots of safety operations like inflating/deflating our BC's, using our 'buddies' air supply in case our own ran out and removing snorkel masks. The 3rd day we organised our gear and headed to Clarke's Beach for 6.30am, then got the boat out 3km to Julian Rocks Aquatic Reserve- which is in the top 10 dive sites in Australia. Once we were checked by our buddy (each other) and our dive instructor Dave, we jumped out the boat and started heading the 12 metres down the safety rope to 'the nursery' where we practised our safety operations again. I was a little stressed and panicky about taking off the mask and also taking the regulator out and breathing without any oxygen (which would only be for a few seconds). Then it was time to go back to the boat. We were doing a double dive so had minimal time on the surface to change O2 bottles then back down for more practising. We also got a swim around the nursery and seen woobegongs which are a shark but are lazy and lie at the bottom of the seabed (also known as carpet sharks). Then checking when our oxygen were low we headed back up to the surface and that was our first 2 dives completed. We filled out our dive log books and were finished for the day.
The next day we arrived eager only to find out the sea conditions were really bad and it'd been cancelled. But thankfully our instructor Dave was really good and let us practise in the pool and that time made me so much more confident in the water. I learned how to go under water without pinching my nose- something I didn't believe was possible! The next day, and still no luck, the swell was too big and sea conditions bad so another day in Byron (we had hoped to leave Byron as soon as course was over but now it was getting longer). We were told, like the rest of our group who left, that we could finish diving elsewhere but we wouldn't get a refund for the course we won at Cheeky Monkeys so we stayed. And we were in luck the next day when we got our 3rd dive, we had a new instructor Pete, who was very helpful in equalising my sore ears which wouldn't pop. We practised a few more operations before having lots of time to swim around looking at the sea life. We were lucky to see a huge manta ray, some more woobegongs and 2 leopard sharks- which also don't have sharp teeth or want to eat you (thankfully). But when the dive was over we were told we wouldn't be able to come back out for our last dive because of sea conditions yet again.
So it was now Easter Sunday and we turned up for our last dive, only to be told we were getting an extra dive for free because it would be a double dive, so it made all the waiting worthwhile. We were out at Julian Rocks for 8am and went down to the bottom of the sea and hung out with the fish. We went deeper to over 16 metres and swam around the coral and seen moray eels, crayfish, and thousands of fish, tiny bright blue glowing ones, fish bigger in size than my arm, we seen sea urchins and more leopard sharks and woobegongs. We heard there were grey nurse sharks around but we didn't spot any.
And now that's us certified open water scuba divers!!! We will go diving again when we get to the barrier reef and take lots of photos, unfortunately we had a mishap whilst diving, our underwater camera broke as we were deeper than recommended and the buttons got sucked in and couldn't use it again. During our days waiting and our afternoons off we went to the beach as it was gorgeous weather. We went to Main Beach, Clarke's beach where we watched the surfers at 'the pass' and we climbed a little island to look out to Julian rocks and Byron.
We went to Tallow beach and watched a surfing championship. We also took a walk around Broken Head Nature Reserve before locating Kings Beach which happens to be a nudist beach. Shannon hadn't came across a nudist beach before and what a site it was. We also went to Cape Byron to see the views from the lighthouse.
We cooked a lot in the van but as it was Easter we had a few meals at Cheeky Monkeys (but didn't go in for any of the competitions). We also had an Easter egg each but had to eat it quickly so it didn't melt in the van. I was forced into watching Lord of the Rings which Darren lent us and it wasn't as bad as I expected and it was great to see lots of New Zealand scenery.
We spoke to a nude guy on the beach who told us that something great was going to happen after the sun set, so we went to the lighthouse and waited and watched. As the sun set and the sky was glowing you then looked and coming from the sea it looked like a sunrise, but it was the huge oversized full moon rising from the horizon, big round and glowing orange/ red from the sun. It was wonderful to watch as it made its way up the sky turning yellow then it's normal white, but glowing more. We heard from others that it is rare, and we are so glad we managed to find out about it!