A Panicky First Dive in Botany Bay, Australia

Through our drive from Cairns to Sydney,

we had stopped in various places known for good diving and had been frustrated in our desire because of the weather. We had booked to dive upon arrival in Sydney, but these had been cancelled because the seas were too rough. Today is our last chance in Australia, and we have booked to dive in Botany Bay with our friend Lynne.

To do this, we need to be on the train at 7:03, and 6:50 sees us sitting there reading the paper. An hour later and Lynne’s smiling face greets us at the station – she lives in Caringbah, near where we will dive. We head to the dive centre and gear up – this is a very different experience than up north. The water here is only 22 degrees, so thick wetsuits, hoods, and gloves are the routine.

Panic Attack!

Then out to the boat for the short ride to the first site. We get there, and our captain, Don, decides it is too rough, so we go off to a more sheltered location. In we jump, and I immediately get claustrophobic – I hate the feel of the hood and the gloves and the wetsuit. I fight the feeling while I wait for the others to swim to the anchor line, and by the time they get there, had decided to bail and, swimming back to the boat,  lost one of my fins – different technology than I’d used before, and I hadn’t tightened it properly.

Greg and the others do their dive, and Don tries to cheer me up – tells me that you should never dive unless you are feeling totally right about it. He also tells me not to worry about the fin – that with today’s currents, it will wash up in front of the dive shop in the next day or so.

The other divers come back and tell me what I missed – cuttlefish tucked under one of the ledges, and huge groupers that swam with them and were rewarded by Dermot, the divemaster, who fed them urchin, a delicacy they can’t usually eat because they can’t manoeuvre past the spines.

We go out on the 2nd dive, which I’ve decided I’m doing but without hood and gloves. In we go, and it feels great. No anxiety or worry – the incredible sense of freedom that comes floating underwater. This dive is at the man-made breakwater protecting Sydney’s massive container port, which houses an incredible diversity of aquatic life in its small caves.

We get back to the dive shop and are cleaning our gear when I hear from the staff that my lost fin has already made its way home – someone found it on the beach and brought it back just after we headed out for the 2nd dive.

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