Dancing Under the Sea: A Great Barrier Reef Romance

I sat across of Deedee in the ultra-hip café, Brew, in downtown Brisbane. My gaze vacillated between my new friend and my sandwich. I was hesitant to eat it. It looked so enticing it could have been a work of art. Plus I had something I was dying to talk about.

“Deedee,” I started slowly, “Can I tell you something?”

She cocked her head to the side and smiled. “Of course, Hilary! Tell me anything.” I returned her smile. Gosh, I had lucked out with my meet-ups so far on this trip.

One of my Australian followers had put me in touch with Deedee after hearing I was headed to Brisbane. She had so graciously offered to show me around her city and we had become fast friends. But what I wanted to share was pretty personal given the amount of time we’d spent together. And here I was, about to verbally vomit up some intimate stories in this very public venue.

I closed my eyes, feeling the words overflow onto my tongue. “Okay. So something happened to me in Cairns that I haven’t shared with anyone yet. I mean, it’s kind of a ridiculous story and I’m not even sure what to make of it, but I’m itching to talk about it. And as much as I want to divulge in one of my girlfriend’s back home, I don’t have the energy to write it out via e-mail. So I hope you don’t mind being the stand-in best friend for the moment? Because I really have to tell this to someone.”

She stared at me wide-eyed and put down her coffee. “Dude, this sounds intense! Let’s hear it!” She folded her hands and leaned over the table, ready to drink in my tale. I sat back and took a breath, trying to figure out where to start.

I sat on at a bench on the catamaran, filling out my release forms. I had never been so happy to sign my life away. Today was the day I was finally going diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I still couldn’t get over it: My first dive experience was going to be at The Great Barrier Freaking Reef. And even though my ankle was sore and swollen, I didn’t care. I was doing this regardless of the consequences. I only had a few days left in Cairns and wasn’t going to waste anymore time. I completed the paperwork happily.

One of the Reef Magic dive instructors came over and sat across from me, introducing himself as Rick* (*names have been changed to protect those unaware that I’m a blogger). He pulled up a chair to review the release forms with me. About halfway through I did a double take. Was this cute Aussie boy flirting with me? I shrugged and decided to enjoy it.

Halfway out to the pontoon, Rick gave us a run-down on what to expect for our dive experience. Because we were going out in small groups, we only had to worry about breathing and enjoying the view; the instructors would watch our gauges and help non-swimmers get around. He then gave the time breakdowns for when each group would dive. I was in the first group with three other guys.

The instructors ushered us to the diver area the minute we got off the pontoon. A knot formed in my stomach as one of the other instructors fit me for a weight belt. Was I seriously going to do this? Was this safe? I shook my head, willing the thoughts out of my mind. I had come too far to go back now. Rick led us down to the take-off point. He was going to take the first group out.

We stood on the platform and practiced our breathing underwater. It took awhile for me to adjust to breathing solely through my mouth. He brought us up to the surface and asked if anyone was feeling nervous. I shot my hand up, still not having quelled my jitters. Rick smiled and said that he would hold my hand through the dive. Everyone would link arms and we’d stay that way for the majority of the experience. Rick took my hand and we pushed off from the platform.

My fears dissipated as I stared wide-eyed at the colorful fish in front of me. My jaw dropped so fast I almost lost my mouthpiece. Who knew there were so many fish and colors in the ocean? A school of fusiliers encircled my body, seemingly finding me as fascinating as I found him. I squealed with delight. All that was missing was the Disney soundtrack.

I looked at Rick, my eyes alight with excitement. He winked at me and squeezed my hand. We descended deeper to the sea floor.

Rick guided us to a sea anemone. I almost lost my shit when I saw the little clownfish family swimming inside. Did I seriously just find Nemo? Rick pulled back the lycra suit so that my hand was fully exposed. He gave me the signal that it was okay to touch the anemone and I ran my fingers through it gingerly. The velvet feel and bright colors put me in sensory overload orgasmic happiness. I decided that if I died down here I would be completely satisfied with my life.

We continued our adventure by exploring the coral and coming face-to-face with a baby Napoleon Wrasse. It was hard to imagine that in a few years he would be three times his size. I marveled at his coloring wondering how such beautiful patterns occur.

I could not whip my head around fast enough. I wanted to see it all, and there was so much to see! And was it in my imagination or was Rick giving me extra attention? I didn’t care. If it enhanced my experience I was all for it. But before I knew it Rick was tapping at his watch. I made an, “I don’t want to,” whining noise and gave him a thumbs down. He laughed and tucked one of my stray hairs behind my face mask. The entire concept of the act made me laugh.

We made our way back to the deck, but I took my sweet time. I swam off a ways, circling around the anchor chain. I wanted to drink in all that I could.

But when I turned to find the other divers, I saw nothing but blue ocean.

I spun around in circles. Had I really swam that far away from the group? I was contemplating on what a lost diver was supposed to do when something tugged on my flipper. Oh Jesus Christ, I thought, I’m being eaten by a shark.

I swam against the force, trying to swim to the surface. I was afraid to look at what had me. Is this really how it ends? Hilary’s first dive experience she’s shark bait? Whatever had me had a lot more power and momentum and pulled me fast to the sea floor. I closed my eyes tightly, hoping it would be over quickly.

I screamed into my mouth piece and covered my mask with my hands. But nothing happened. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I opened one eye, and exhaled all my fear. It was Rick. I looked around. Where had the other divers gone?

He did a somersault and I laughed at him. He then pointed at me to try. I clumsily made my way around in a circle. When I managed to right myself, I was suddenly alone again. Crap, how did I keep doing that? I felt a tug on my fin. Rick pulled me further down.

He grabbed both of my hands and stared intently at me, smiling through his mask. I hadn’t realized how blue his eyes were. Without notice he twirled me around and I shrieked with dismay. Holy crap, were we dancing underwater? We spun and spun until we were intertwined.

Rick pulled out his mouthpiece and puckered his lips for a kiss. I hesitated, counting all the ways this was inappropriate. But after a second of deliberating, I said fuck it. I mean, how often to you get to kiss a cute guy underwater at the Great Barrier Reef? I let go of my inhibitions and kissed him. Schools of fish swam around us. I could almost hear them giggle at the sight.

When I came up for air, he winked at me and grabbed my hand. We made our way back to the platform. The other amateur divers were waiting for us. As we made our way up to the main deck my mind raced a million miles an hour. Did I really just dive The Great Barrier Reef? Did I really just dance underwater? And did I really just make out with the dive instructor?

“Are you freaking KIDDING me?” Deedee sat mouth agape, eyes alight with excitement. “That sounds like the best Great Barrier Reef experience EVER! Definitely much more exciting than mine.” I shrugged and sipped my iced coffee, my thoughts miles away. “I mean seriously, Hilary. Who gets stories like that? You were Ariel! All that’s missing are the singing clams and dancing crab and stuff.”

I laughed and bit my lip. “Well, that’s actually only half the first half of the story… I went on a second dive.”

Deedee clapped her hands together and settled back into her chair. “Yes yes yes! This is going to be good, I can tell. Tell me every detail!”

I took another breath and collected my thoughts. Now how was I going to explain this one?

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113 thoughts on “Dancing Under the Sea: A Great Barrier Reef Romance

  1. Hahah I was away for the past few weeks and JUST read this post now!! Thanks for mentioning me. Also, I still think it’s a great story and it will never get old. Epic Great Barrier Reef experience. Where are you now!? Brisbane (and Brew) is calling your name! 🙂

    • You are so amazing, first off.

      Second, I think I will get tired of telling it before people get tired of hearing it. Don’t worry; you’re going to make a few more guest appearances before my posts are done (hope you don’t mind! 😉

      On my way to Fiji shortly! Got a few more last minute stops before then. And yes, I can hear Brew calling =(. Sigh.

      Lots of love to you, my girl! Can’t wait to catch up soon!

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  3. This was a great post Hilary. What an incredible experience! Love the pictures! I originally read this before bed and it made me feel very excited for you. I wanna hear more about this Rick guy and what happend during your second dive. I had to send some link love your way. Thanks for sharing this experience.

    • Thank you so much for the link love! It was quite the experience. I’m so happy to hear you want to know more about it. Follow-up post to come shortly. I hope you’ll check back!

      Happy adventuring!

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  5. This is absolutely fantastic (well maybe not). But I found myself grinning like a fool as I read this and suddenly completely engulfed in the story!

    Well written and (hopefully) some drama free fun.

  6. What a delight it is to have discovered this blog Hilary, to now be following along on your adventures and learn of another soul who listens their heart. I’m looking forward to your next update!

    • Wow, what a sweet comment! Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I am so thankful that you found my blog and find it worth following.

      Have you ever been diving?

      Can’t wait to update you on my future endeavors. Bright blessings and happy adventures to you!

      • I haven’t been diving off of Cairns but from Townsville to Gladstone I have been. And except for one time, I’ve enjoyed the Great Barrier Reef every time.

        I was going to share my favourite experiences, but most of those are either saucy or dangerous.

        So…

        One time (that fits in with this story) in particular, I went on a sail boat to do a an overnight trip around the Whitsundays. I boarded alone, and met the Captain, who happened to be a regular at the bar I worked at. After being informed I arrived about 3 hours to early we talked about the ship and my experience with sailing.. “Good.” he reckoned “You can help with the sails and I’ll give you a few extra rums tonight.”

        As people started to arrive, he introduced the himself and his two deckhands and off we went. We had to tack against the wind to the first destination which was a hidden reef hidden below some cliff faced coves. The water was still and it was murky, a truly crap place that day (though absolutely amazing when the water is flowing well) we headed to Whitehaven and beauty is always breathtaking, especially from the lookout, but that day I prepped my diving bag instead of going to the island and had a snooze on deck.

        I woke to a couple arguing over something in another language and the bloke looked to me apologetically as he and his wife went below deck. As the others come back in dribs and drabs, it was decided that we’d anchor off the coast of Whitehaven with the full moon on the rise and clear skies. As we started to drift to bed it had become apparent that the headcount prior to leaving didn’t include the two deckhands and me (being the only single one) had a double bed and opted for the two young fella’s to bunk in it as I slept on the deck.

        The Captain stretched out the sail across from he mast to a pole and created a makeshift hammock for me. I wrapped myself in the canvas and looked up to the full moon and stars of the night sky and occasionally stole glances of the beach with the rocking motion of the boat and hammock.

        I woke to whispering and the couple had seemed to finish their arguing and were holding hands with their feet over the edge of the boat looking at the shimmering white sanded beach in the moonlight. They were whispering, oblivious to the fact I was attempting to sleep above them, not that it mattered I was asleep in a matter of moments and the Gods of the ocean rocked me to sleep.

        The next day we were heading to the next reef which had just been re-opened to the public after years of restrictions.

        We dove into the water one by one and I followed one of the deckhands as instructed, we were surrounded by life and color and as those that tried to touch a fish found the skittish nature left them at their disappointment. The lady of the couple was opting to go back to the boat, obviously bored or just not in the mood from yesterdays argument.

        I tapped the bloke on the shoulder and when he looked to me I help a finger to let him to know to wait, I pulled the diving knife from my sheath and he shook his head (I have no idea what he thought I was gonna do with the knife, but I sure as hell wasn’t gonna give it to him or use it on anyone… I opened my divers bag and pulled out a loaf of bread and sliced the plastic allowing the bread to surface as I put the plastic bag back in my divers bag. The wife was close now, curious to know why his husband was staring at another bloke underwater…Just as she arrived we were mobbed by thousands of fish blocking the view of the vast ocean to just shimmers of rainbow and sparkling sunlight creating a disco without music. (I think I hummed the 5th Sympathy at this stage, I usually hum something classical underwater).

        It lasted 20 seconds or so before the fish started to disappear and go back to their hiding places and I got four thumbs up.

        When we got back to the boat, the couple thanked me for showing them the romance of the sea (and here I was just thinking it wasn’t romantic but a great way to catch breakfast) and that they both were arguing their whole trip on the boat (even that night I slept above them). I took the disposable camera out of my water tight camera case and handed it to them. Telling them it was just of the last trip.

        The Captain stole the idea of bread underwater and some of us traded email addresses and that afternoon at sunset I was enjoying a rum on deck with the Captain, laughing about the experience, and him thinking he could make a fortune for romantic tours (he still does make a fortune from it).

        Months later I was sent an email asking for my address so the couple could send me copies of my photos and in return I sent them the extra ones I had on my personal camera from the trip.

        The letter arrived another month later and I looked at and the writing on the back (about what type of what and what the moment meant at the time and where) of the pictures but stopped at one… I swear I didn’t take it I looked at the time stamp and it was the same as the rest of them, wright date and approx the right time. It was of the couple on the side of the boat holding hands and dangling their feet over the edge of the boat, but the beach now looked silver, bordering their silhouettes. I read the back of the photo; “This is when you stuck your head over the side of the sail and told us to “Shut the fuck up” than said to wait a moment, leaned back over again as we were looking the other way, took a photo, than said “Okay, proceed” and started snoring instantly.

        The letter included was lovely and I even managed to catch up with them when they came back to Queensland for a tour of the Daintree Forest (one hell of a camping trip!!)… But the letter was to say that last photograph helped them through the rest of their trip down under as much to say (paraphrased) “The photo was truly delivered by God through the hands and heart of a young man of a rogue nature and a sharp tongue”

  7. What an awesome story! I can’t say mine was as exciting as that, but I loved it none the less! Such an amazing world down there – aren’t you glad you did it!!!! Love it!

    • As always, miss Anita, I love to see your comments! And I’m sure yours was just as exciting, regardless of romance. Did you have a favorite part about your dive?

      And yes, I am ABSOLUTELY glad I did it! No regrets. Dying to go back and dreaming of it as we speak. =)

  8. Ahh! So good! I can’t imagine how your dive could have gone any better! It sounds completely worth all the trouble it took to get there. 🙂

      • Oohh have I ever! And I’ve been snorkling too. Travel romances turn out to be rather expensive if they last longer than the duration of your trip. Bloody England. It’s well worth every second though. 😀

    • Haha! Do tell me your underwater kissing stories!

      Have you had a favorite dive thus far? And no worries; I’m sure you’ll get the chance to snog in front of a starfish soon enough. =)

      • My favourite dives are those that involve big fish/marine animals. Watching them move around you is just awesome. And since they are likely to be found in stronger currents,there’s the added kick of adrenaline rush and exhilaration of trying not to get washed away haha!

        And having done many dives, I still get the dropping the mouthpiece thing when my jaw drops literally. I’ve also been known to yell “wow” completely forgetting I got something in my mouth haha!

        The kissing bit, hmm… first attempt was, we’re too busy trying not to get entangled haha! The second time I got a case of giggles. Romantic. Not. We’ll see how the third attempt goes 😉

        Kissing or not be warned, diving is addictive.

        • Wow, it sounds like some amazing memories to be sure!

          And I’m glad I’m not the only one who tries to talk while breathing underwater. =) Diving is totally addictive! And yes, I feel like the underwater kissing is one of those acquired art forms, haha.

          Do you have a favorite diving locale?

          • If you have a great tropical diving country like the Philippines, the favourite spots change from time to time 😉 I think we’ve talked about Fiji before. That one too is amazing. On my bucket list: Tubbattaha Reefs, Sipadan, Palau and GBR! I can die happy after that.

            • Haha, or so you say now! I’m sure you’ll hear of more amazing dive spots and amend that list.

              I’ve heard great things about Palau as well. Can’t wait to get out there one day. Gosh, this world is just so vast sometimes!

  9. I can’t decide which is the crescendo pint of the whole article- the fat ‘lip’ fish and divers photo, the next photo of the reef and sunlight… or the kiss, of course! The best post I have read ‘about scuba diving’. *wink* And thanks for the like back at the post- ‘The Bucket List’.

    • Wow, Ruchika, your comment is so beautiful! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. =) I really am so appreciative and SO happy to hear you enjoyed it. The follow-up post is soon to come!

      Have you ever been scuba diving?

      And you’re very welcome! I am always happy to support fellow bloggers. =)

      Happy adventuring!

    • Thank you so much! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it! I seriously contemplated not posting this because I didn’t know if anyone else would find it enjoyable, but I’m glad to hear that it’s been well received! =)

      Have you ever been diving?

  10. Hello, biggest tease ever. Seriously? You’re going to share that first amazing story and then not the second one? (though I don’t blame you, I’m not brave enough to put my travel romances on the inter webs 🙂 ) Thanks for sharing yours! Such a good way to start the day 🙂

    • Haha, oh Erica, you always know how to make me laugh.

      The second blog IS coming. It’s just a little more difficult to describe, haha. And thanks for the kudos on bravery. I was actually less concerned about being judged by you guys and more concerned with what my grandparents would think (they read the blog ;).

      You’ve been diving before, yes?

      • That is the best news EVER. and good timing on the reply. I was just having the most depressing conversation about Japanese politics and needed something to cheer me up!

        The main reason I keep anything of a romantic nature off my blog is because I know my parents read it and I really don’t need anymore “why didn’t it work out with so-and-so? are you sure you’re not dating?!”s in my life 🙂

        No! I was going to try giving it a go this summer, but plans fell through. I need to work it into the near future! Especially after this story 😉

        • Oh I’m so happy to hear my reply had great timing! I love good timing. =)

          And I totally understand. I shy away from it myself. But sometimes it’s unavoidable, so it seems, haha.

          And please let me know when you get a plan underway! Would love to hear about your underwater adventures =).

          Hope you are in good spirits!

          • Well that’s also why I need people like you who are willing to write about it so I can live vicariously through you 😉

            I’m actually heading back to Okinawa for a bit, but I don’t think I’ll get any diving time in. It’s more of a place for me to chill and relax before my next “big” trip, which is ON the water, if that counts at all! 🙂 Details here: http://ericakjordan.com/travel-plans-fall-2012 (sorry, I’m just being lazy about typing it all out again…)

            Thanks! As long as I stay away from thinking too much about politics in Japan, I should be fine 😉

            Are you back in Vegas taming lions?

            • Whoohoo Okinawa! How fun! I can’t wait to check out the details of your next adventure! (And I totally understand the laziness 🙂

              And not just yet… but soon enough I will be! It’ll be nice to be home.

              • We’ll see how awesome it is… the place I stay doesn’t have air conditioning… you may just see a picture of melted me instead of a post. You’ve been warned!

                Hope your ankle gets better and you enjoy the rest of your trip! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of it!

  11. Your descriptions and pictures of what you saw under the sea are amazing. I was already in awe of your post without even getting to the cute dive instructor part but when I got there I couldn’t stop grinning for you. Girl, you are so lucky! Your experience sounds so magical. I can only imagine what happened on that second dive. You’ll tell us, won’t you? 🙂

    • Thank you so so much for writing this comment! I could not stop smiling when I read it. I know I keep saying the same thing to everyone, but I had no idea how this was going to be received so I’m so happy to hear that it was enjoyable!

      And yes, the second half IS coming. I promise I’m not that much of a tease. =)

      Have you ever been scuba diving?

      • You know, I’ve never been scuba diving, but I live in a country where tourists come to scuba dive among other things. You’ve convinced me that I should definitely try it now and hopefully it will be soon. I can’t wait to read the second half of your adventure!

        • Oh wonderful! I can’t wait to hear all about your underwater journeys!

          Yes, second blog is coming shortly. I appreciate your patience! =)

          Looking forward to staying in touch!

    • Haha, it’s definitely a nice moment for sure. =) But all the same, I think the experience would have been just as magical without the boy.

      Do you have any favorite romantic travels adventure stories?

      • So true! And yes, when I was in Ireland I met a great guy also from the US (but sadly from the opposite side of where I am) and we shared a couple movie-moment moments 🙂 We still keep in touch here and there which is nice, but I miss him more than I’d like to admit 😛

  12. Oh my goodness! This is such a great story! I am giggling in here like a 16 year old girl, listening to her best friend tell her stories while having a girls night out/sleepover. I try to act like I’m not a romantic, but this is just pure gold! I can’t wait to read the next story. As for diving, it’s so cool you were able to do it, but I know that is something that will never be on my list of things to do (I can’t swim!) LOL!

    • Oh miss Ruby, I am so happy to hear you liked it! And yes, I do feel like a silly schoolgirl sharing this story with all of you over the internet. But I’m so glad it came off that way because that’s how I intended it to be read. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to post this (I didn’t think anyone else would find this interesting) but I’m so happy to hear that’s not the case!

      And you could absolutely do this! Some of the companies off of the Great Barrier Reef actually advertise being able to help non-swimmers on their scuba dives. They have you link arms with them and then guide you around. All you have to do is brreeaaattthe. Which actually is quite a task when surrounded by such beauty. 😉

      So let me know when you’re ready and I’ll provide you the info!

      Lots of love to you, my dear!

  13. I knew I could count on you for a great story about the Great Barrier Reef!
    When I go, I’ll just hit the dive spots, that’s what most interests me but your story IS GOOD!
    I want to know what happened next and if you enjoyed the following dive as well! 😉
    Keep smiling!
    Jul’

    • Hey there!

      The company offered underwater digital cameras rentals so you could take photos. They also had a photographer on staff to take photos of us who gave us her best shots at the end of the day.

      Have you ever been diving?

  14. love it! love it! love it! especially the idea of dancing under water..and one of the questions that comes to my mind is…’what is Rick like?’..haha:) enjoy!

  15. Wow Hilary,that sounds like an exciting, romantic adventure for you. Made me smile to imagine your experience. Keep living life like you do. Take care of yourself, girl.

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