New Cert Diver – Learn How To Guide Yourself on The Reef

Certified Diver - How to Guide Yourself around The Great Barrier Reef

Certified Diver – Learn How to Guide Yourself Around The Great Barrier Reef


New Cert Diver – Learn How To Guide Yourself on The Reef


Welcome to our latest article, all about the New Cert Diver – Learn How To Guide Yourself on The Reef!


So you have completed your basic open water dive course and you are now a certified open water scuba diver. Hooray and congratulations! Welcome to the World of Scuba Diving.


You are now allowed to dive to a depth of 18 meters. You can put your dive gear together, complete your buddy check, manage your own air and read a dive computer!


Struth that’s allot!


But now it’s time to take it to the next level, guide yourself around the reef in your own buddy pair without a guide!


It’s usually at about this point in time I can hear you cringe! The thought of going off and diving by yourself in a buddy pair without an instructor to tell you where to go and what to do!


It’s the end of the World!!!!!


Well maybe not the end of the World, but definitely a big step and another big challenge in your dive training.


Luckily, learning to dive unguided around the reefs it’s actually not that hard!


The thought of guiding yourself around under water by yourself might seem a little daunting, but with these few lessons and tips, you will be a pro in no time at all.


So lets get started!


How to Guide Yourself around the Reef in your own Buddy Pair!


Take it easy, relax, take your time there is no rush. The first thing I do is have a good chat with the boat crew or the dive manager on the boat. The crew on all the dive boats in Cairns are absolutely fantastic. Some boats won’t let you dive by yourself but some do!


Have a chat with the dive manager or chief instructor, they will be only to happy to draw a map and show you the layout of the dive site. They will always show you where the boat is moored and in which direction the wind and current is coming from.


In general, you drop into the water, complete your checks with your buddy and then slowly descend down to you arrive at the reefs. In general always swim into the current, this is so if later on in the dive you feel tired, all you have to do is turn around and drift with the current back to the boat!


Pending the direction of the current keep the reef on your right or left-hand side. Continue diving at a suitable, comfortable depth. You will find most diving on the Great Barrier Reef is around 16 meters. Usually not very deep, all the bright colorful coral is in the top 12 meters of water.


Keeping the reef on your left-hand side until you reach 100 BAR (Half a Tank of Air).


At 100 BAR (Half  Tank) turn around and start to make your way back to the boat with the reef now on your right-hand side. By doing this should take you straight back under the boat.


As you get closer to the boat keep your ears open, most boats will always have a generator running to supply the electricity on the boat while it is moored. Sound travels along way underwater so this is usually the first thing you will hear.


Once you hear the noise from the generator, you know you are not far away from the boat.


The next thing to do is to start looking up at the surface. First look for a giant black shadow, scan your vision across the surface of the water and look for a large black shadow, also keep an eye out for people snorkeling. If you can see people snorkeling on the surface this also means you are not far away from the boat.


Most snorkelers do not travel to far away from the boat.


Once you get a feel of where the boat is, to keep on eye out for the mooring line. Usually, you will see other divers bubbles, use this as an indicator and look hard for the large black shadow of the boat and eventually you will see the mooring line extending from the boat all the way down to the concrete moorings.


It’s at this time everything will come into view and you can see the back steps of the boat where you would have first jumped into the water at the beginning of your dive.


You have now completed your first self-guided dive on the Great Barrier Reef! Wahoo! Congratulations!


Now there are a few scenarios that can change this and that is, what if you get lost?


What do you do if you get lost diving by yourself in your own buddy pair?


The Answer: Make your way to the surface, take your time, remember to accent to the surface slower than the tiniest bubbles that are floating to the surface.


Once at the surface have a little look around get your bearing and sure enough, you will see the boat. Have a look at the compass on your dive console, face it towards the boat. Read the measurement on the compass and remember the setting.


Start to descend again and keep an eye on your compass. If you follow the setting your made while you were on the surface facing the boat. You should arrive straight back at the boat with no problems.


As you get closer to the boat continue with the steps above as mentioned before. Listen out for the engines of the boat or generator, look for the dark shadow cast from the boat, keep an eye out for snorkelers and other divers bubbles and look for the mooring line.


Using these steps you will nearly always find the boat.


The more you practice the better you will get at navigating yourself around the reef without a guide in your own buddy pair.




Scuba Diving is a beautiful relaxed sport and practiced in a safe professional manner as explained in the PADI Diver training manuals. You can expect to have hundreds or thousands of pleasurable dives.


If you are coming to Cairns and would like to try diving without a guide so you can guide yourself around the reefs have a look at TUSA Dive & Snorkel Cairns.


If you are still a little bit nervous and would like a guide or instructor to guide you around the reefs then have a look at Silverswift Dive & Snorkel Cairns.





Clint Carroll

Clint Carroll - Chief Travel writer and Scuba Diving enthusiast at Cairns Tour Info. Follow him on Twitter.

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