Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How "Great" is the "Great Barrier Reef", Anyway??

Our boat - the "Calypso"
So December 26th was the day... we had a light breakfast and come coffee out by the pool, and sat in the small lobby of our hotel and waited until a van pulled up to take us to the harbor and our boar for a full day of snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. This was something I had been looking forward to since we first planned this vacation and I saw the original itinerary. The itinerary had undergone some changes and minor tweaking, but this snorkeling trip was always going to be the highlight of the trip, for sure! I think there is always some worry when you are traveling to places that you have seen 1,000-times in your mind's-eye - "Is this going to live up to our expectations? Is it going to be a letdown? What if, what if, what if...?"

I think the secret to our traveling success on "this side of the world" has been to try our best to NOT have any expectations. A wise man once told me that expectations are merely disappointments waiting to hatch.  Sure, we look forward to our trips with great anticipation, and hope to have a good time... but if you start to think of only the "destinations" on your itinerary, you are missing the point of the journey.

So I was a little worried about the possibility of a big letdown as we set off to the harbor. Our hotel is actually walking-distance from the harbor (it's a good hike) - but in the tropical heat of North Queensland - the last think you want to do is go for a long walk if you don't have to. We had to stop and make a few other pick-ups on the way.... but we arrived in plenty of time to get down to the boat. The harbor area itself has a cute little "mall" of shops (mostly diving and souvenir shops...imagine that!) and a few places to eat (more about that later!)...and a long set of docks where all of the assorted dive-boats were tied-up.

Our boat was the Calypso (see photo, above left) and it was big. And it was nice. Kind of a split-hull catamaran design. It had a number of places to sit...outside on the main deck (both the bow and stern were open), inside (where most of the seating was located...also where the coffee and food were served) - the bridge-deck and catwalk...and an upper-deck in case you wanted to catch some of the intense summertime Australia sun. We pretty much went up and down the stairs a lot... getting some sun and coming back into the cool...

The trip out to the reef was a long one.... maybe two-hours? I really don't remember because the people-watching opportunities were so incredible !! That's the thing about going to places where everybody wants to go... everybody is there! You hear as many different languages as you might during a tour of the floor at the United Nations building! Very few Americans (on other couple from New Jersey on their honeymoon who were new to scuba-diving).... but there were Germans and Swedes and Japanese and Koreans and Canadians and French and Spanish people... people from all over the world. There was a very large Italian family....maybe six kids and the parents. And we started doing the math about how much their trip must be costing them. I have mentioned before in this blog that Australia is not the cheapest place we have ever traveled.... but - it almost broke-the-bank for the two of us to come for two-weeks...I could not imagine four-times the expense!!

About 45-minutes from the Great Barrier Reef...they start handing out the gear. Obviously those who were going scuba diving had much more gear to collect and assorted preparations to make.... we just needed to get our mask, snorkel and fins...and a new addition for us... the "stinger suit". We did not need one of these tight-fitting black-spandex getup's when we went snorkeling in the Maldives... but here in the waters off Queensland... it was required to protect everybody from the dreaded "stingers" that float with the sea currents. See this link all about the deadly stingers.

You see, Australia’s marine and estuarine environment is home to many interesting animals, including some harmful jellyfish collectively known as marine "stingers'. These marine stingers are easy to avoid but can cause discomfort if you are stung, and some of the tropical species, such as the Irukandji and Chironex fleckeri (the Box Jellyfish) can be lethal. So, to ensure you enjoy your day in the water, always remember be on the lookout....and wear your stinger suit!! They flattering!!! Amy actually liked hers so much, that she actually bought one to take home from the harbor mall dive shop!!

We arrived at the site and got into the water. Here I will let the photos tell the story...with one addendum. Amy was the first one in the water and the last one out on all three dives!!! It was so cool to see her having such a good time. She really deserves it.... she is the reason we are able to do all that we do... With so many people in the water - all dressed in matching black stinger suits, it was hard to tell where whe was a t all times.... the only distinct part of her outfit was the color of her bright neon-yellow snorkel.  We dove together and separately for a total of over three-hours on our various stops to anchor the Calypso and swim off to the best spots. We could see scuba divers below us as we scooted along the surface and took and occasional trip down to the long as one deep breath could take us.

Just a very small sample of the amazing colors we saw!

So.... was the Great Barrier Reef all that Great? You look at the photos and decide for yourself. Here are links to our assorted Facebook Photo Albums:

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

Scott and Amy Suzanne Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef and The Calypso 

Stay tuned for more! Next: The Daintree Rain forest and on to Sydney!!


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  3. Nice blog, I liked the colorful fish

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