When I thought about what it would be like going to see the Great Barrier Reef for the very first time, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined it would be via a submarine diving under the ocean.
I was extremely lucky to be able to experience the ScUber Uber sub during it’s inaugural and limited time run in Queensland, and it was truly a mind-blowing experience that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
This is what happened when we tried the ScUber
Queensland Australia and Uber banded together to launch the world’s first rideshare submarine, on the Great Barrier Reef.
It was available for a very limited time, from May 27 until June 18, and you could literally log into your Uber app and book yourself on an hour-long underwater ride.
Once you successfully requested the trip, you get picked up via Uber, then flown out to the reef via Helicopter - also a spectacular experience - before jumping on board the Pacific Conquest (normally a ship used for research).
The ScUber submarine was launched off the back of the ship and can reach a maximum depth of 30 metres. The glass-encased battery-operated submarine then gives you 180-degree views of the deep blue sea, without any of the hassles of being in the open water yourself.
I thought I would be more nervous before heading underwater but the experienced pilot talked us through what we had to do - which was very little other than keep our jaws off the ground - before jumping on board, barefoot, through the small manhole at the top.
The submarine has room for two people plus the pilot, and while it’s a little tight, there is definitely ample room to turn and see everything unfolding before you. It took us mere minutes to reach the sand floor of the Agincourt Reef we were visiting and then we were literally just sitting in a beautiful serene bubble watching the fish swim by.
If you’ve ever seen David Attenborough’s time in a submarine on the Great Barrier Reef from 2015 - that’s literally what it was like!
One thing, if anything, that I could fault would be the fact that even though the submarine is fitted with air conditioning, after about 30 minutes underwater I was sweating bullets. It heats up fast, especially when you want to turn the air con off for a moment to enjoy the peacefulness under the sea.
The cost is also something that would need to be considered if the opportunity arises to do this again in the future. At $1500 per person, and at least two people required, it’s not cheap. But it did include Uber pickup from your location, the scenic helicopter transfer, and an hour ScUber ride, so you did get a lot for you money.
Overall, it was one of the most incredible things I have ever done.
How does ScUber compare to scuba diving?
ScUber is an amazing idea for people who might not be able to do something like scuba diving due to medical reasons or disability.
In order to compare the two however, I headed out on a reef day trip on Quicksilver’s Ocean Spirit cruise that leaves from Cairns to do an Intro dive.
After a briefing on the boat which I will admit had me much more nervous than I was before heading down in the ScUber, we headed out to the beach at Michaelmas Cay to begin the dive.
There was some time beforehand to so some snorkelling off the beach and I was not very good at that it turns out - take the lifejacket people, it makes things much, much easier - which made me even more nervous before heading even deeper underwater.
But let me tell you for some reason the scuba diving just worked - and the second we headed off the nerves were gone. Replaced by a sense of absolute wonder at what was happening around me.
You honestly didn’t even realise you were getting deeper (aside from having to equalise your ears) and next minute we saw Nemo, kneeled down on the sand beside a giant clam, and floated underneath the ship surrounded by huge fish.
Because I was so completely surrounded by the ocean I will say that the actual scuba diving left me feeling even more in awe of the Great Barrier Reef than the ScUber did. And at just a few hundred dollars the day trip and dive were much more affordable. But like I said earlier - going down in a submarine is something else. And not everyone can scuba dive.
Is it still worth visiting the Great Barrier Reef?
Yes, yes, 100 per cent yes it’s worth visiting the Great Barrier Reef. I will admit my own thoughts before visiting were very much centred around ‘I need to get to the reef before it’s gone’.
And plenty of others have an even more dire outlook, with many going so far as to tell me ‘it’s too late, the reef is dead’.
That is exactly the kind of attitude that initiatives like the ScUber Uber experience are trying to combat. Speaking to Dr Glen Burns, the senior marine biologist for Quicksilver (who help with the ScUber transfers), he was hopeful people would come away from the reef with a more positive mindset.
“I really hope it hits home that it’s not dead,” Glen tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “There is this impression around the world at the moment that the Great Barrier Reef is dead. But it’s far from it. So we want people to understand that, and that it doesn’t have to die.”
“This reef is an icon, Australian’s love the Great Barrier Reef. If you do something like this ScUber you will fall in love with the reef. And people will protect what they love. We want people to go home with that in mind.”
The reef went through two serious coral bleaching events in 2016 and then 2017, Glen explains, and his team were able to document that 30 per cent of the coral in one area had died.
“But that means that 70 per cent of our coral survived two serious bleaching events,” he says. “Coral is very resilient and adaptive, but it needs time. So we need to give it that time.”
After two days exploring the reef, I certainly left tropical North Queensland with a renewed drive to try and reduce my environmental footprint. I’ve got my glass water bottle on my desk at work and my reusable straws in my draw. Because ever little bit counts right?
Uber partnered with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to help support their conservation initiatives, donating $100,000 to support their research programs, as well as the equivalent value of each ScUber ride.
The submarine also provided data to go towards research for Citizens’ Reef Tracks program.
Yahoo Lifestyle was a guest of Tourism Events Queensland and Uber Australia.
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