great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]

Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]

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Listen to This Episode about the Great Barrier Reef

Dive into the depths of adventure with us in this episode as we explore the breathtaking wonders of the ocean’s crown jewel, the Great Barrier Reef!

I’m your intrepid host, Alexandra, and I’ve gone the extra nautical mile, jetting all the way to Australia to fulfill every scuba diver’s dream.

This isn’t just about checking off a box on my bucket list. It’s about immersing ourselves in an underwater wonderland that’s both awe-inspiring and essential to protect.

From vibrant coral gardens teeming with life to encounters with majestic marine creatures like sea turtles, sharks, and rays, we’ll delve into the unparalleled beauty and biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef. So, grab your fins, adjust your masks, and get ready to embark on an aquatic adventure like no other!

Whether you’re an experienced diver or simply dreaming of dipping your toes into the world of underwater exploration, join us as we uncover the magic of the Great Barrier Reef and why it’s an absolute must for every adventurer’s bucket list. 🌟🐟 Let’s dive in! 🌊✨

great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
One of my favorite pictures ever! Me finally checking off this from my bucket list since I added it as a little girl.

In this Episode…

  • Why the Great Barrier Reef has been on my personal bucket list since I was little
  • Some fun facts about the Great Barrier Reef
  • My experience diving the Great Barrier Reef (including my whale story!)
  • Best times to dive the Great Barrier Reef
  • What ports you can depart out of
  • Best dives sites in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Tips for diving
  • Things to keep in mind before you dive
  • Other options to see the Great Barrier Reef if you don’t like scuba diving
  • Easy ways to protect the reef
  • Who I would recommend this to

Show Resources

Great Barrier Reef Tour Ideas


Where to Stay in Cairns

Budget Hotel

medium Budget Hotel

Luxury Hotel

Travel Resources for Your Great Barrier Reef Adventure

Adventure Bucket List Resources

I am here to help your travel adventures go as smoothly as possible! That way you can check off that bucket list with minimal complications and spending!

AIRFARE – It is no surprise that like many travelers, I have found that Hopper is one of the best resources to use when finding cheap flights. 

ACCOMMODATION – My two favorites are Booking.Com for hotels and VRBO for rentals. 

GUIDED TOURS –  If you are looking for quick and easy tours, check out GetYourGuide and Viator

MULTI-DAY TOURS –  For more in-depth tours that span several days, TourHub has many great options with reputable travel companies. Use my code (ALEXANDRA1GURU) for up to 5% off your next bucket list adventure. 

TRANSPORTATION –  You can either rent a car yourself with Discover Cars or do a guided bus tours like Big Bus Tours

CREDIT CARD –  I always use my Chase Freedom Unlimited card for all of my purchases. There is no annual fee and you get 1.5% cash back and 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel. 

SIM CARDS –  Avoid expensive roaming charges with an eSim card with Airalo.

TRAVELER’S INSURANCE –  Check out VisitorsCoverage for affordable insurance plans.

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great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]

Full Podcast Transcript (Episode 2: The Great Barrier Reef)

Hello! And welcome to “Tick It Before You Kick It” – a podcast about helping you conquer your adventure bucket list.

I’m Alexandra, your favorite traveling mermaid adventure blogger and this episode is “Swimming with the Fishes”, talking all about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Don’t forget to read more and sign up for the newsletter at the for more bucket list inspiration and travel resources.

Let’s get bucketlisting the Great Barrier Reef! This is a mermaid’s dream and I cannot wait! Let’s go!

Why the Great Barrier Reef Was on my Bucket LIst

I don’t know why because I always had the heart of a mermaid and my parents got married underwater…so I was kind of forced into this diving life (oh, poor me😝), but I always thought that the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was the crème de la crème of scuba diving.

Funny story: I was actually in high school and I told one of my teachers that I wanted to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and they told me that I was crazy and I was gonna get eaten by great white sharks.

Now spoiler alert: I did scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef eventually and I did not eaten by great white sharks…so take that high school teacher!

Now, this is one of the seven wonders of the [natural] world and it is actually the world’s largest reef system. So, it’s no surprise that this was hyped up in my mind from a very young age and I knew about it at a very young age.

I mean, you can like see it from space! That’s crazy!

Fun Facts About the Great Barrier Reef

Now, just some fun facts – the Great Barrier Reef has almost 3,000 individual reefs and 980 islands and it stretches over 2,600 km.

This means that there are a wide variety of fish and marine life there for you to go live out your best mermaid dreams like I did.

The Great Barrier Reef is huge!

Let’s just continue on with some fun facts about the Great Barrier Reef because when you think about it, it is so impressive what it actually is. In fact, it could fit the size of 70 million football fields. Yup…I said that right…70 million football fields.

There are way too many species to count. In fact, there are more than 1,625 species of fish and there are 10% of the world fish species that do inhabit this reef. That includes 30 species of whale, dolphin, and porpoise, six species of turtle, and over 600 species of soft and hard coral.

Where Does the Coral Come From in the Great Barrier Reef?

If you’re wondering where the coral actually comes from…it actually comes from polyps, which I didn’t actually know, and they have a symbiotic relationship with algae, which means they absorb light from the sun and then they feed coral and they give them their bright colors.

So they’re actually nocturnal and during the night the polyps come out of their casing and then catch any small creatures passing by. They only spawn once a year when the polyp releases its genetic material into the water and a single polyp can start an entire reef.

Most popular Attraction in Australia

Another fact, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most popular attractions in Australia. Judging from the fact that I knew about the Great Barrier Reef from the moment I could talk? This tracks.

great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
Looking over the coral in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

My Experience Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Let me just talk about my experience with diving the Great Barrier Reef. I wanted to cross this off of my bucket list so much that I flew to Australia specifically to cross this off of my bucket list. Actually, I flew into Cairns.

I think that’s how you pronounce that. If you’re in Aussie, I’m so sorry if I’m butchering that. But, it was a great little town and I ended up staying at a party hostel which was hilarious because I was so exhausted from traveling and I wanted to dive.

Divers Den Review for Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef

It was great but anyway, I ended up going with a company called Divers Den and they picked me up from the hostel, they took me out to the boat. The boat ride was nice. It was, like, 2 to 3 hours long and there were so many people there.

Previously when I had gone on dives it was a pretty small ship. It was a pretty small boat and then you just basically went out with your group. With this, they had multiple groups going at a single time.

They split us up. Since I was traveling solo at the time I did get paired with a buddy and another married couple. There were just so many things going on it once they were talking to each group individually and then you would go off and then they would pair you for your wetsuit and all of your gear.

My First Time Diving with Freedom

It was a little chaotic, but I kinda loved it. Another thing that I really liked about this company was they kinda just let us go. We got to come up with our own dive plans. We got to go wherever we wanted to go, so it was definitely less of a guided experience than I was expecting.

I had actually been previously training to be a rescue diver equivalent through BSAC which is the UK version of PADI. So, I was kind of hyped to create my own dive plans and plan my own decompression stops.

This freedom was really really fun for me and it kind of made me feel like I was taking this bucket list activity into my own hands. Obviously, they were keeping us safe.

They had photographers and all that jazz but it was really cool to be able to take control like that. I ended up going on a two tank dive.

And “funny” story…this was actually the first time I had gotten my ear wet in, like, three months because I actually had gotten surgery on it three months before in Vietnam. That’s gonna have to be its own episode of travel story because WOW🫣

Sharks, whales, and fish. OH, My!

I saw so many species of marine life. I saw a parrot fish, I saw whales, and I saw sharks. There were so many species of fish and marine life that I saw on these dives.

If you are a diver, you know that there’s a little section in your dive book where you can write where you saw. I actually ran out of room to write everything that I saw.

My Great Barrier Reef Whale Story

And now for my great story: so I was diving, I was just doing my own thing. I was looking at all the fish, I was taking some photos, and then all of a sudden, my dive buddy (who as I said I had no clue who she was previous to this because I was traveling solo at this point) grabbed my arm really tight and I just immediately thought, “Oh, no. What’s wrong? What happened? Who do I need to save?”

My mind automatically went there. Then, she looked out ahead and there was a whale. Like an actual whale.

Now for those of you who have dived and have seen a whale…I don’t know why it was just so magnificent in my brain. I lost it. It was huge. I had gone whale watching before in Boston and Fiji and all of these places around the world.

But to see a whale so close to me underneath the water? It was such an emotional experience and I actually started crying in my goggles. Who does that?!

So there I was…in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef…crying…underneath the water. It was just the coolest experience ever! I did talk to the dive master afterwards and his best guest to what kind of whale it was was a minke whale (M-I-N-K-E).

Whatever it was, it was beautiful and I just thank it for giving me that experience. It was so emotional. It was so amazing! And bucket list adventures are just coming true here!

After the Dive

Then after that, we went up. I actually ended up cutting my finger pretty bad on coral which I still have a tiny little scar from…opps.

But yeah, I just chilled on the boat. They had this really nice relaxing front area where I could see everything and it was so fun watching all the divers go down and seeing all the snorkelers. Ah! 10 out of 10 was just my dream come true from the moment that I was little. Scratched it off – finally!

great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
My new dive buddies and I swimming with the fishies.

Best Times to Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Now, the fact that I did see a minke (again hopefully I’m saying that right) whale tracks because I was there kind of in late summer. Well, you know, my version of summer, so August-September (ish) area. And this tracks because from June to November…this is the best time for seeing the minke and the humpback whale spotting as well as that coral spawning that we were talking about.

Now, if you go in April to September this is going to be for manta rays and hammerhead spotting From December to February, this is going to be the best visibility in the warmest water and then from August to December, that is going to be less rain and wind and pretty good visibility.

I think when I go next time, I would like to hit that April to September area because I would love to swim with a manta ray while scuba diving. I’ve done it while snorkeling, but I have not done it while scuba diving. That’s on my list next. Also, keep in mind that if you do go during summer (this is backwards in Australia, so this is going to be November to May) this is also stinger season.

I did talk to a dive master. He said that it wasn’t a huge deal because of where they go and it’s pretty touristy and they do provide stinger suits. However, they’re quite nasty if you do get one, so maybe avoid that if you don’t want a stinger encounter. But it’s also like a catch 22 because December to February is the best weather and the warmest water.

So…wait? When’s the Best Time?

So, you kind of have to pick and choose what you’re willing to risk in order to get the best experience. Generally, it’s kind of nice because the Great Barrier Reef is good for all year. It’s great!

So, I ended up going in September area and I thought it was great! I thought the water was warm. I didn’t run into any singers. Obviously, I really had no complaints with the visibility. I thought the visibility was great and I thought that the weather was warm.

I think no matter what you choose just be aware of the risks as with all diving and marine life (when you are interacting with marine life) and you’ll be good to go.

What Port To Leave from to Go Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Another thing I do have to mention that I did not learn until I got there is that you can actually get to the Great Barrier Reef from several towns on the Eastern coast.

I ended up going from Cairns. Oh, please help American out. This is painful.


I ended up going from Cairns, which is honestly probably the most popular port to embark from on your Great Barrier Reef Adventure and I thought it was great. I also thought that there was a lot to do within Cairns itself.

For example, when I wasn’t diving, I ended up going to this really cool waterfall. I saw platypus, I swam in a lake with alligators in it, I rafted Tully River!

There’s a lot of good things to do that are a distance from Cairns and it is a pretty good port! I had no complaints with going to that one.

Lesser Known Ports

If you want to go to someplace a little bit less crowded, you could also leave from Port Douglas and Townsville. I did talk to a diver on the boat there and he said that the reefs from Port Douglas had a little bit less coral bleaching and they were a little bit more alive.

Which I do believe because I think that if you are going from Cairns it is going to be very popular and maybe since it’s more popular, there’s a lot more people in the water at all the reefs that are accessible from Cairns.

But if you go towards Port Douglas or Townsville, you might get to go to those reefs that are not accessible from Cairns and you might get less crowds and less crowds, unfortunately, mean that the coral might be a little bit more alive.

P.S. I am going to link a bunch of tours from these different locations in the show notes [see show resources above] on my blog at the and then I also have them in my main Great Barrier Reef post. So, definitely head over there if you wanna check out your options for all of the tours.

I also have some budget friendly hotels, some medium budget hotels, and some luxury hotels that I’ve put in there so that you can decide where to lay your head after or before your dive.

Best Dive Sites in the Great Barrier Reef

There are several popular dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef that you can go to – depending on which port you are leaving out of. I’m just going to list a few just so you get some inspirational ideas of where to dive in the Great Barrier Reef:

Examples of Dive Sites

You can go to Agincourt Reef: this is on the northern ends near Cairns and is perfect for beginners. You can see the Wonder wall or where the coral drops 40 m or 131 feet! So cool!

Another popular location is the Whitsunday islands. [These] are 74 islands that are basically a paradise for divers. There is diving of every single level there.

There is also another one which I thought was really super cool – MOUA which is the museum of underwater arts. It’s known for its underwater greenhouse at the John Brewer reef, which is super cool that you could just go to a museum underwater. How’s that for a bucket list! Super cool!

Some other ones – the Capricorn and Bunker Reefs. There are 22 that offer a plethora of incredible bucket list experience it’s for all divers. One of the most popular amongst snorkelers and divers is the Fitzroy reef. I’ve even heard that one! Super popular, super famous.

Another one looking for wrecks [sunken ships], I would definitely check out the Tangalooma Wrecks, which is a cluster of ships off of the Moreton island. The ships are now home to a wide variety of marine life..and some of them that I’ve never even heard of! Like (and I’m gonna butcher this…I’m sorry Aussies) wobbegongs and dugongs. Oh, man. Rough.

Or the SS Yongala Shipwreck. This one is for more advanced divers because of the currents but it actually sank back in 1911 due to a cyclone.

And next, the Wonder Reef which is just off the Gold Coast. It has nine underwater sculptures and it’s actually the worlds first buoyant dive site!

great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
Getting our scuba gear ready to go diving.

Tips for Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Now let’s talk about some tips for actually diving the Great Barrier Reef.

Seasickness Pills

I would definitely remember some seasickness pills. The one that I went with was a pretty large boat. As I said, there was a lot of divers that were congregating on this boat. However, it was a little choppy at some points and it might be a couple hours outside of the town that you depart from.

So, the last thing you wanna do is to be worried about getting seasick. Just don’t do it. Just take some Dramamine.

Consider a Liveaboard

Behold my own bucket list: consider a liveaboard! I did not get to do this but if you have…please contact me! I wanna talk to you because if you do a liveaboard, you can sleep on a boat and do 2 to 3 tank dives a day. Ooooooo it just sounds so nice!

Learn about Potential Hazards Beforehand

Definitely talk to the dive guide about any potential hazards that you’re gonna run into. Maybe wear a stinger suit if you are there from October/November until May. Or just ask your dive master about any concerns that you have.

One of my favorite stories is the first time I went scuba diving I talked to the dive master and he was talking about a fire urchin or something like that. And he was like, “Oh, you wanna guess why we call it a fire urchin?!” and I was like, “No thank you😯”

So just make sure that you know exactly what you’re gonna get into and not mess with any of the wildlife. But definitely don’t mess with the ones that will mess with you back if you provoke them.

Underwater Camera rentals in the Great Barrier Reef

Think about renting an underwater camera. My company was super cool and I actually bought a package with them where they gave me sort of all the photos that they had taken throughout their dives and then they also had the opportunity to rent an underwater camera.

I didn’t really think it was gonna be that big of a deal, but man! There were so many photo opportunities and if you have any interest in underwater photography, then you definitely need to bring an underwater camera.

If you’re just there for the experience then don’t worry about it. It’s not gonna be a huge deal if you don’t have one. It’s just if you are interested in it I would definitely go with a company that can provide you with one or just bring your own.

Things to Keep in Mind Before You Dive

Now just some things to keep in mind that I would advise you to do:

Again, Learn about Risks

Just see what seasons bring what: if stingers are there or certain species are there etc. I go into more detail about stingers and the type of stingers that they have in the blog post if you are interested.

Realize Some Reefs Might be Crowded

Some reef are very crowded. Again, I mentioned that this is Australia’s biggest attraction. So you’re gonna have to compete with a lot of crowds, especially if you are going on one of those more favorable seasons.

Again, you can also depart for one of the lesser known port such as Townsville to gain access to the less traffic dive sites if this is a huge problem for you. I’m gonna be honest, again I was there in September, I didn’t really notice it when I was in the water (I didn’t see a lot of divers).

Maybe we just kinda went off the beaten track a little bit because we were a little bit more advanced. However, on the boat there [were] a lot of divers there.

It was crazy but kind of cool cause I got to meet so many people and I don’t know about you but divers are just fun! I’ve never met a mean diver. Shoot – I’m gonna jinx it. Ok, you’re a diver just don’t be mean, we have a reputation to uphold here. We need to be the cool laid-back type.

great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
My first time scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef.

Ways to See the Great Barrier Reef if You don’t LIke scuba Diving

Also, another thing. If diving is not your thing, and you are not certified to dive…there are other ways to see the Great Barrier Reef.


For example, you can go snorkeling. Although you might not be as immersed in the Great Barrier Reef as I would personally like to be…I think that it is definitely a good alternative if you do not feel comfortable scuba diving. Some people don’t. It’s a little little claustrophobic. I get it. I do get it.

Flying Over It

If you don’t wanna get wet at all, I would highly recommend looking at the flying tours. There are several tours, again that I’ve linked in there for you, but you can take a helicopter over the Great Barrier Reef. You can take a plane, too.

[Rembemer], you can see from space! So, seeing it from up above and it is going to be an amazing experience!

Reef Suites

Or, if you wanna get super luxurious, which I actually tried to do, but it was all booked at the time. There are Reef Suites where you can actually go into your own underwater suite and you can just look at it while you’re falling asleep.

Like the whole hotel room has a view of the Great Barrier Reef. If that’s not bucket list inspiration, I don’t know what is.

How to Protect the Great Barrier Reef

Another thing that I do have to touch on is how you can protect the Great Barrier Reef because, unfortunately, at one of the dives that we were at…there is a lot of coral bleaching and a lot of people that are ruining it, unfortunately.

So, here the Bucket List Mermaid and Tick It Before You Kick we’re all about sustainable travel and letting future generations have the opportunity to go on these adventures just like us.

Some of the things that you can do…

Definitely make sure to only use [sunscreens] that are reef and coral friendly and shower before you go into the water and don’t use any beauty products. I promise that the fishes will not judge you for not wearing make up.

Try not to touch the coral. As I said, I did cut my thumb on the coral. So, sometimes it is unavoidable. However, it is your responsibility to be trained enough so that you can leave as little trace as possible. Again, sometimes you can’t really control it but you have to do your best.

Who would I recommend the great Barrier Reef to?

Who would I recommend this too? I would recommend this to avid divers and also people who love marine life and wildlife because this is going to be some of the most diverse wildlife you are going to come across.

Also, there are a lot of rumors that it is kind of….dying. However, I didn’t notice this ton. I thought it was booming. I thought it was vibrant. There were some spots that were dead, but this is still a really really an incredible reef to go [to].

I think the only reef that I saw that was in better health was one that I did in Fiji but if you are interested in diving one of the biggest reef systems on Earth…then this is definitely something you gotta do.

Again, I have put a bunch of tours and a bunch of resources in the show notes [see above] and in the main blog post, which I will link. Some of these links are affiliates so that I can get a small commission to keep bringing you free content, but definitely check it out if you are interested in checking this off your bucket list.

Let’s connect!

And as always if you do this, I love these pictures, especially if you get underwater pictures so please let me look at them! Indulge this mermaid!

Connect with me on social media @thebucketlitmermaid and so that I can cheer you on and all your adventures!

Thank you guys so much for listening to this bucket list episode about the Great Barrier Reef.

Thank you again so much for watching and we will see you next time! Go forward! Go forward to the Great Barrier Reef! Swim with those fishes and keep adventuring!

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great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
The Bucket List Mermaid
great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]
great barrier reef, Great Barrier Reef: Swimming with the Fishies [Podcast Ep. 3]

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