Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Great Barrier Reef - Hallelujah! :-)

After many years of snorkeling here in Australia, I finally made it to the Great Barrier Reef - the most famous diving and snorkeling destination in Australia - if not in the world?..! Not bad at all! :-) There is really no way around going to the reef while being in Cairns, every single street down town Cairns will have a good collection of (dive) shops advertising the possibility of taking you out to the reef on more or less anything that can float. From super fast luxury ships that will do the trip out to the reef so fast that you will hardly have time to get your stinger suit on and find a matching pair of flippers, to equally expensive wooden sailboats that will make the travel a part of the experience.

We went for the cost efficient compromise, about $100 per person (including $15 reef tax). That gave us medium travel speed, the trip took about 1h30m each way - excellent opportunity to see a few new pelagic species - and snorkeling at two destinations on Moore Reef. In between dives the trip even included a decent attempt of serving up lunch, all in all clocking up nearly a full day at the reef.

Finally we managed to have a bit of luck with the weather, it was not raining! Apparently we were also lucky with the amount of wind and surf, chatting a bit to some of the more experienced looking members of our fellow participants revealed that we had chosen the best day of the week for going to the reef. The last 3 days in particular had been quite rough, apparently culminating in nearly 100% of participants from the trip the day before having to "feed the fish" .. we quickly decided to buy the motion Sickness tablets.

The Great Barrier Reef is indeed quite "great" i.e. big, so when the ship stopped and it was announced that we had reach our first destination, I could not help having a funny feeling of is this really it? Yeah, well you could see a few boats in the distance, but otherwise there was nothing except water and eagerly gazing into the water revealed non of all the excitement that had given the reefs its reputation.

Before getting into the water we had to sit through a briefing with the captain of the ship, his first question surprised me a bit, but the reaction was even more confusing. He asked, "is there anyone that cannot swim?" and a couple of fellow snorkelers raised their hands!!..??

Such is the attractive powers of the Great Barrier Reef! Even tourists without swimming capabilities will volunteer, even pay money, to be ferried 1h30m away from the safety of solid land and be dumped into 20-30m deep water to see "the largest structure in the world to have been built by living creatures". Fantastic stuff and I take my hat off for those who decided that they needed a float, it takes a lot of courage to swim in deep waters, even for experienced (pool-)swimmers.

Getting into the water it all started to make sense. We were given direction to an underwater Atoll a good stone throw away from the ship. While swimming there there was nothing to see, but as we got closer you suddenly saw this enormous structure rise from deep below, a large nearly perfectly cylindrical reef probably 50m diameter with the top at a perfect 1m below the surface - perfect for just floating around in the surface looking at the thousands of fish darting around between the corals.

To be continued ..


Aleisha and Simon Iremonger said...

Great photos Allan! Looks like you had an incredible time.

AGL said...

Yeah .. there is no doubt, that it is some good snorkeling up there :-) A bit more complicated than Gordon's bay though, 2 times 1h30m of sailing every day, unless you chose to stay out there on a boat .. but I would definitely do it again!

Cheers Allan

Jarrod said...

That certainly looks a lot better than Gordon's bay. Not so keen on the stingers though.