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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BadDiverBill bares all about Australian diving

BadDiverBill is on top of the world over his dive trip Down Under.

Diving the famed Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s Queensland coast is on most divers “bucket list” and he is no exception. But it had a different twist than a more conservative diver would take. BadDiverBill’s first dive to the reef was in his birthday suit. Appropriately, it was on his birthday.

People thought he was crazy diving nude when there were sharks around, but BadDiverBill (his real name is Bill Hill) was more concerned that a nude dive would offend someone. That’s why he was the last to leave the boat, took off his trunks once he was discreetly underwater and a few minutes later put them on again.

He made his first nude dive on a much earlier Florida trip, which would influence the evolution of his “BadDiver” perception of diving. He went on two different dive boats on consecutive days in Florida. He likened the first one to a “military operation,” a good dive but something was lacking. On the second trip the diving was also fun and safe but the after-dive socializing was a big plus. The tipoff of party time was the boat captain’s shirt, which announced “rehab is for quitters.”

It was then that BadDiverBill realized that the after-dive libations and conversations were the icing on the cake of the scuba experience. That’s when he started his website and its short online shows (www.BadDiversTV.com), illustrating dive spots around the world and the “adult beverages” consumed when the dive is overBadDivers is not a club with members but a vehicle to promote a lifestyle for scuba enthusiasts. Having fun after the diving is over for the day does not affect safety in the water, he argues.

Given that Australia has great dive sites and its citizens are known for their lust for adventure, the trip was natural for a free spirit like Bill.

He found Aussies interesting and a lot of fun. But native Australians were not alone on the Great Barrier Reef. “It’s interesting that people from all over the world were working on those dive boats. It’s a very touristy type of place. There were people from Europe, South Africa, The Netherlands, Germany, all over.”

On separate days, BadDiverBill took the 90-minute trip to the reef from the town of Cairns on two different boats – the Tusa (known as one of the best dive boats there) and the Silver Swift . Each trip offered three separate dives to the reef – two in the morning, then lunch and a third dive in the afternoon. He took all three dives each day, although some divers only took two.

It cost him about $300 a day for the dive boats, which he called “very commercial,” but it’s the only way to get to the reef. While most things tend to be expensive in Australia, including “adult beverages,” there is no tipping, he discovered, because bartenders are paid well. That was interesting news to BadDiverBill, who is a bartender by trade. Still, a kiwi drink featured in one of BadDiverTV’s first shows on Australia, cost $12.

The Great Barrier Reef dives involve a descent of about 20 metres. Divers were grouped according to their experience levels, but regardless of your ability BadDiverBill said it was worth paying an extra $10 for a guide who could take you to the sharks, turtles and wrasse (a pear-shaped fish).

The guides, who would take a maximum of six divers each, would also lead them through a tunnel under the coral. “Don’t ever touch a reef. It takes so long for it to grow back.”

Most of BadDiverBill’s dives were to the outer reefs, which are in good shape, but he was sad to see that the inner reefs were bleached out. Because of Bill’s love for the ocean and all waters, Bill and Ron Lynne wrote a BadDiversTV theme song called Weightless, for which they will shoot a video later this year. It is now available on iTunes and part of the proceeds will go to ocean conservancy.

“I dove Saxon reef and I dove a few different sites at the Great Barrier Reef . . . there was also Flynn reef. It was great. Along with chalking up three naked dives, I saw eight sharks in six dives over two days. One was a two-foot baby. They were white-tip reef sharks, one of few sharks in the world that can sit on the bottom. They don’t have to keep swimming to get water through their gills. They’re not aggressive at all. It’s nice to swim with the sharks. I’m more nervous about sharks when I’m surfing,” he says, explaining that when you’re under the surface in scuba gear, sharks and divers can see each other and they are less likely to mistake a human for food.

BadDiverBill says if he went to Australia again he would go to Port Douglas (north of Cairns) for a liveaboard night dive. Also to the north, he recommends a place called Cape Tribulation for its beautiful beaches.

When he wasn’t diving, Bill fed kangaroos, saw a crocodile come up to the boat he was riding in during a river cruise, and, on a sad note, at a lookout point along a river trip guides pointed out the spot where Steve Irwin, of television’s The Crocodile Hunter, was killed by a sting ray.

BadDiverBill did not see any snakes, but in Cairns he saw thousands of huge bats flying overhead at dusk and blackbirds that fly low and fast right around humans.

He also saw two cassowaries – the third tallest birds in the world that can grow up to six-feet tall and the second heaviest, weighing up to 130 pounds. They crossed the road right in front of a bus he was touring on.

Cassowaries don’t fly but they can be aggressive and inflict injuries on dogs and humans if they are provoked.

Fortunately, BadDiverBill had the cover of the bus – and his clothes – when he met them.

Kathy Dowsett
www.kirkscubagear.com

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