Diving with sharks

Today was the day for Majella’s birthday gift adventure. We needed to be in Cairns in time to drop bags at our hotel, return the van, and be at the aquarium in good time without feeling rushed. 

I had set an alarm for 5:30 am to ensure an early start but I was awake a bit before that and headed for the shower. By 6:30 am we had eaten breakfast, tidied up the van, and were on our way. There were places we might have been tempted to stop on the way to Cairns but we were on a mission and not to be distracted. 

We both thought we had heard gentle rain during the night and there was some evidence of that when we woke. There was more gentle rain at intervals on the way north and a couple of times we drove through brief stronger showers. They were no problem and, after the browns of the past week, we were glad to see the greens that result from rain in the wet tropics.

We filled up with diesel on the way into Cairns and then headed for Rydges hoping they would let us leave our bags there for the day and check in later. Surprisingly before 10:00 am, our room was ready so I was able to check in and we took our bags upstairs.

Dropping the van back was a little slower than expected because there were people picking up vans ahead of us. In the end it went smoothly if slowly and we were soon in a taxi to the aquarium.

At 10:30 am it was too early to arrive for Majella’s high noon event so we walked a block down to the esplanade and had coffee. By the time we had done that and walked around the block to get back to the aquarium it was 11:15 am. That gave us time to walk through the exhibits before meeting the diving instructor, Shane, out front.

Shane led us back into the oceanarium section the way we had come out, explaining the setup and how things would work. Then he took Majella up to the briefing area while I waited downstairs to watch.

A bit more than an hour later there was movement in the opening through which the divers would enter the water. It was about another 30 minutes before they appeared, first Bec the instructor and then Majella. It took a few minutes before Majella began to look confident as they swam around in the enclosure. Sharks and rays swam by and sometimes circled as Majella and her escort moved the length of the space to get a view further up the oceanarium. Other viewers who happened to be there were curious about what was happening and somewhat in awe of Majella being in there diving with sharks.

The dive lasted about 20 minutes before Majella and her instructor exited the tank. A few minutes later Majella was down to see me, damp and a bit puffed but otherwise doing well. We walked the couple of blocks to Rydges where we relaxed until it was time to look for dinner.

A little before 6:00 pm we walked out to look for dinner and ate at Villa Romana, an Italian restaurant on the esplanade where we had breakfast with the family when we were all here in April 2019. Majella had an octopus entree as main and pronounced it very good. The octopus was sliced very thin, barely cooked, and accompanied by a dressing. I had pasta with amatriciana sauce, spicy but not overwhelming. Afterward we had drinks in the bar at our hotel before retiring for the night to enjoy a real bed after all those nights in the van.