Words can barely describe how fantastic the Great Barrier Reef is. Think of any coral exhibit you’ve seen at an aquarium. Now increase the diversity ten fold, and think about swimming in this underwater world, in the quiet and filtered sunlight. It just blows you away.
Last Thursday I went out on the Reef with Passions of Paradise. The day was hot and sunny, the ocean pretty calm. It was a perfect day to be out on the Reef.
We went to the deeper site first (Paradise Reef), where I had my intro dive. I’ve done a Discover Scuba/intro dive a couple of times before, so I was really surprised when I panicked putting my face underwater and trying to breathe through the regulator. Maybe it was because it was a deep dive site – the other two trained us in shallow water first. Or maybe I was just nervous about diving on the Reef. Regardless, my dive instructor, Geordie, was amazingly patient. You’d think that was a prerequisite for the job, but believe me, it’s not. (The instructor I had when I started getting an open water certification was not, part of why I never completed it.) I got my breathing under control and went underwater. I didn’t even have as much trouble equalizing as I previously had.
This intro dive had us all link arms, which was good because I was rolling (my weights may have been unbalanced) and panicking a bit that I was going to touch and harm the coral. Again, Geordie was great, and towed me around for most of the dive. I’m not sure why I had so much trouble on this dive, but the instructor was just amazing and I trust he kept me from destroying anything with my flippers!
There were so many different shapes of hard coral, and it seemed like every fish we saw was a different species! Apparently there was even a shark, though I wasn’t fast enough to see it. Some of the snorkellers saw it, though. (And while it is important to respect reef sharks, it’s also important to remember that they generally eat small fish and leave humans alone.) I was wearing a prescription mask I had rented and I could see everything so clearly! There was this one formation that looked like a tethered hot air balloon!
The second location was Michaelmas Cay, a sand island that is 95% a bird sanctuary (and smelled like one too!) You can walk into the water from the Cay and swim back to the ship. Instead of the hard coral of Paradise Reef, this area had an array of soft corals, like spaghetti coral.
I passed on another dive and instead snorkelled for the first time. I was nervous as my only prior experience with a snorkel was during the certification training, and ended in my swallowing a ton of water. I decided to stay close to the staff member taking a few of us on a coral tour, not least because he dragged a floaty around that I could grab on to. (I have never really swum in the ocean and while I am swim, I’m not a very strong swimmer.)
The non-coral sea life was also different – there were several turtles around, one of which I saw resting down in the coral. These Green Turtles are beautiful, multi-colored and majestic. We saw sting rays (well under us). There were even giant clams!
The whole experience was absolutely incredible. And I worked up quite an appetite, so I decided on a roo burger for dinner!
My pictures are pretty terrible, but here are a few. (It’s not easy learning to dive/snorkel and take pictures!)