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A review of Padi Learn to Dive course on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns.
I was lucky enough to spend a week up in Cairns recently – this is probably the best time of year to be up there! Wonderful weather, clear skies, warmth, whales, just magic.
You’ve seen the crystal clear waters, heard of its colorful marine life, and determined it’s an experience you can’t pass up. So you start saving. Diving is no longer just for the rich and famous. And luckily for us, Cairns offers one of the best dive experiences on the planet.
I’ve always wanted to try scuba diving, and I thought that the best place to do it would be Cairns. I found a few courses in the area including PADI Open Water course which was right up my alley as a complete beginner.
“5 star PADI Learn to Dive expereince.“
Real Adventure Group
Review of the 4 Day Learn to Dive Course in Cairns.
I did the 4 day PADI Open Water Course and had the most amazing experience.
Like a typical PADI course in Cairns, I had 2 days of pool/theory, then 2 days out on the water.
Day 1 on my Learn to Dive Course
I turned up to the shop on day 1 expecting a half and a half-day of pool and theory – but it turns out I was the only student booked to begin that day and I ended up doing a full day theory. Had my instructor Dave all to myself, and with just the 2 of us we raced through the videos and the mini exams. The info is easy to understand and clearly explained, and if you don’t understand anything the instructors will take the time to spell it out to you. I think I nearly did Dave’s head in when we got to the dive tables and figured out nitrogen saturation levels.
Day 2 on my Learn to Dive Course
The next day I got lovely English pixie, JoJo, as my dive instructor. We got in the pool and whizzed through all our drills – regulators out, masks off and on, etc with no dramas and were done by lunchtime. I had intro-dived before and am very comfortable in the water, but even a nervous first-timer would be happy with an instructor like Jo.
Day 3 on my Learn to Dive Course
Finally out on the water! I headed out with the day trip boat Sea Quest, couldn’t have had better weather for the occasion. One of the trainee dive masters made sure I’d put my gear together correctly, and I was soon in the water with Jo and the only other student diver that day. No dramas, did some underwater drills, had a look at all the pretty fish – it’s a very beautiful dive site. Did 2 dives pretty much consecutively, practicing regulator to snorkel transitions, mask off and on, using your buddies reg, towing your buddy etc. Had lunch on board – a pretty standard smorgasbord of cold cut meat, all types of potato, pasta, green, greek salads, bread and fruit, and hot chicken soup, yummo.
After lunch, I had some free time and went for a snorkel. The reef is still amazing even when snorkeling, and I had my closest encounter so far with a shark… just a little reefie but still! It came within 2 meters of me and definitely gave me an eyeballing, a shame there was no one else with me to verify my story. I and the other overnighters then transferred to the overnight boat Taka. This is a huge boat with 4 levels to spread out over, she sleeps a max of 30 in all different types of cabin from 4 shares to private with ensuite. There’s a massive saloon area with couches and long tables, comfy outdoor seating and the whole top deck is available for sunbaking and stargazing. We were given caramel muffins on arrival, so I’m pretty much sold right there. The boat was not at full capacity with about 6 Japanese guests and around 8 people of varying nationalities – with me being the only uncertified diver! So when everyone else went for their afternoon dive I had to go snorkeling all on my lonesome again. After 5 minutes in the water, I found a turtle and just cruised with him for about 25 minutes! The tide was pushing me over the top of him as he ate seaweed, and he was completely unperturbed by my presence. I know it’s naughty, but he even let me touch him with no more than a slight eye roll to glance back at me. It’s my closest experience with a turtle ever, just magic.
So food on the boat is prepared by a chef, not a host, and it was YUM. And heaps of it. The certified divers got to go on a night dive, while I had to stay behind again. There were dozens of little sharks and huge trevalis attracted to the lights on the back of the boat so it would have been an exhilarating experience to get in the water.
Day 4 on my Learn to Dive Course
The second day on the boat – time to finally get that certification, following an awesome hot breakfast of course. Jo and I took a nice relaxed dive, did some buoyancy drills, practiced the CESA ascent, and checked out the crazy cuttlefish that were hanging around, they look like aliens! Starting to feel like a mermaid now. The second dive I polished off all the skills I needed to practice, and during our safety stop a beautiful Maori wrasse cruised up for a pat. Seriously, he kept doing laps so we could rub the sand off him! At one stage Jo actually wrapped her arms around him and strummed him like a guitar! And he still followed us back to the boat.
I am a certified diver!
SO yay, now I’m a fully-fledged diver! I get one more dive that afternoon after lunch, my first unsupervised excursion. Feels pretty wonderful. Then we all transferred back to Seaquest and made our way back to Cairns, arriving about 4:30 pm. This 4-day Padi Course might be more of a budget option than some, but it’s in no way a budget operation, I really enjoyed the whole thing and got a certification that I’ve wanted for a long time. Welcome to the other two-thirds of the world!
Overall, the course was everything I expected it to be. It was intense, fast paced, and the time seemed to fly by. I look forward to getting underwater and putting everything I’ve learned in the course into practice.
If you are thinking of doing a PADI Open Water course, that you should consider doing it on the Great Barrier Reef. You will not regret it and there is nothing quite like diving with the wildlife on one of the seven natural wonders of the world!
Check out all our Learn to Dive trips on the Great Barrier Reef.
Check out our Best tours from Cairns if you have time to do more whilst you are up Cairns after your dive course.
Real Aussie Recommendations
- Do your Learn to Dive Padi course in the best place possible in the world- the Great Barrier Reef
- Make sure you have the ability to pass a 200m swim and 10 minute treading water test before your Learn to Dive Course