Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

day zero project, Queensland 6 Replies

Going to the Great Barrier Reef, I could not shake this silly song, “Barrier Reef,” by the Old 97s about a cynical drunken guy in a bar that goes:

What’s so great about the barrier reef?
What’s so fine about art? … and so forth
Being neither drunken nor cynical (much), I hummed the song, but truly had a sense of “greatness.” I was taken by a sense of how lucky I was to be able to take this trip. What a special place on this earth. How many people have “see the Great Barrier Reef” on their life’s to do list? You don’t always know when you are entering into a lifetime memory, but this time I did.

The trip that we took was a day-long expedition with Wavelength out of Port Douglas. I would imagine that it would make quite a difference in your experience what company you chose, so I’m glad that we ended up with these guys.

We arrived at their site early in the morning, and they outfitted us with lycra suits that a. protect us from the intense sun and b. protect the reef from being harmed by the chemicals in our sunscreen. There were about 30 people in our group, which was a full boat, but intimate enough that you got any attention necessary from the guides. We were given a thorough but non-scary safety brief, and then departed. We’d visit three sites that day, and the trip out took about an hour and a half. They had motion sickness pills and plenty of coffee/tea on board, both of which I was happy to partake in.

On our way out, our sweet snorkel guide, Eric, took the time to give special instructions to anyone who had never snorkeled before, and then followed that by a group lesson, so that everyone was very comfortable.


Also onboard and snorkeling with us was Chris, a marine biologist who gave us a talk on what exactly coral is, how the ecosystem works, and so forth. He was also the resident photographer, which was so fantastic because we could get the pictures at the end of the trip and didn’t have to fiddle around with one of those disposable underwater cameras. Also, Chris fancied himself our resident Superman, which was funny and endearing.


All of our snorkel sites were at different points on Opal Reef, one of many reefs that make up the chain known as “The Reef.” They picked different locations for our day to highlight different experiences in terms of coral life and wildlife.

Once we were all briefed and outfitted, we were instructed that “the pool is open” and to enter at our leisure. Chris snapped quick photos before we got in:


I have to admit that I had about two minutes of discomfort and, actually, a little bit of panic when I first got in. I had to adjust myself to breathing through the snorkel. It had been many years since I’d worn one, and then it was just in a little lake, not in the middle of the ocean. Then, when the reef emerged underneath us, it was just … so … huge and colorful, and close at about two feet below.
Panic subsided pretty quickly, and for the rest of the day, I simply could not take in enough of the fish and the wild, beautiful coral formations. I’ll let them speak for themselves for a bit, with some of my favorites of the hundreds of photos that Chris took:





This fish, that was probably about the same length as me, was our friendly visitor right under the boat:


I found Nemo!:

Nemos up close. They’re actually quite territorial to their home turf anemone. By the way, did you know that clown fish are hermaphrodites? They’re all born male and one lucky fish per group gets to turn into a lady (fish … da dum dum dum … you’ll be a woman soon …)

On the way home, Chris showed us the pictures he’d taken and ominously told us that he tried to take as many photos as he could of living coral so that we could show our grandchildren. It is humbling to be told by a scientist the the living coral in the Great Barrier Reef could literally be gone in two generations or less.
We actually got a first-hand reminder of how seriously people have polluted the waters when our crew stopped the boat to fish out a piece of trash that they saw. Nearly two hours from shore, floating in the ocean, was a plastic Playskool toddler car. How it got there and how much more waste is just floating in the sea, destroying plant and animal life is anyone’s guess.


Sorry to get so serious at the end of this fun post, but now that I’ve seen how vibrant, stunning, and unique these coral reefs are, it is hard not to become impassioned by its cause. What a joy it was to spend the day submerged and in the presence of greatness.

6 thoughts on “Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

  1. mandy

    Those are beautiful pictures! It sounds like you had a really good time! It makes me want to hop on a plane and jump right in the water! I’m thinking of visiting in April or May … what’s the weather like??


  2. C. In Oz

    Mandy – April/May are Fall here. I don’t think it ever gets too cold in Queensland (think Miami weather). It will be a bit cooler in the rest of the country, but should actually be pretty nice. Hope that you can come over – it is a beautiful country!

  3. Melody

    Your writing just sucked me in, making it very easy to imagine being there with you. Not to mention the great photos! And what a great sentence, AND sentiment: “You don’t always know when you are entering into a lifetime memory, but this time I did.”

    Thanks for saying hello earlier, and good luck with the rest of your NaBloPoMo challenge!

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