Day 58 - The ReefApril 7, 2017 in Australia
Today is Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling Day! We met the Wavelength and its crew at 8am ready to head out to the Opal Reef about 90 minutes from the marina. Luckily after we enquired about the weather a couple of days ago they had advised us to take sea sickness tablets in advance and I'm so glad that we did. It was a very choppy ride and a lot of people had to stand outside and make 'paper piñatas' as Steve, the guy who ran through the emergency procedures, described them. Grim, but apparently good for the fish.....
As we managed to stay inside we got to listen to Paul, a marine biologist, talk about the reef and the creatures which live in it, especially the importance of making eye contact, or not making eye contact. If you want to get close to a turtle you need to approach side on and not look it straight in the eye - an important life lesson. We learnt that sharks are actually not dangerous and very risk adverse so won't attack a human unless you're on a surf board looking like a seal or if you're spear fishing and have a load of bleeding fish tied to your waist band - we didn't fit into either category thankfully.
Once we arrived at the Opal Reef we got kitted up in wet suits and snorkels and got into the water. It took a bit of coaxing to get my calm snorkel mode on again but once I got going it was fine though the current is a lot stronger here than where we did it in Thailand (though not that strong due to the protection of the reef) so the swimming around was more tiring. At this stop we just swam around left to our own devices for about 45 minutes. The reef is beautiful, though we later learnt the brightly coloured coral are actually under stress and at risk of full bleaching/death. Bleaching is caused when the ocean temperature gets above 31°. There's been 6 mass bleaching events in the last 25 years but they're getting closer together and the last two were over consecutive years. It's a really worry.
After we finished at Opal Reef we had a much needed sugar injection via brownies and it wasn't long before we reached our next stop. I can't remember the name of that one but it was characterised by a wall of coral. At this stop we could go on a guide led snorkel so we went off with Paul. He showed us mushroom coral which you (well he) could pick up off the reef floor and handle without damaging it. He brought it up for us. It was very solid rather than spongy like I expected. He also brought up the head half of a large cray fish. It was an interesting tour and he showed us examples of the different health levels of coral. It could be hard to swim around as you were supposed to try very hard not to kick the reef but when it's shallow that's tricky.
We had a buffet lunch back on the boat and listened to a talk with Paul on how important the reefs were and how they linked with the rainforest and mangrove ecosystems. And basically how humans are destroying everything.... After that we had another free snorkel at the Snow Reef. This one was shaped a bit like a fish bowl and the current was strong so by the time the hour came to an ended we were exhausted. No shark or turtle sightings but lots of colourful fish and beautiful (albeit bleached) coral.
We had a 90 minute ride back which was even choppier than the way out but luckily we'd had more sea sick tablets. It was amazing to see how good sleepers some people are with the guy next to me sleeping upright through all the choppy conditions. The tour was amazing and my words won't do it justice. We got a ton of go pro pics but even they aren't as good as the real deal.
By the time we got back to camp we were pooped but dragged ourselves out to go and attempt to find the Port Douglas look out point (I blame tiredness for us not being sure if we found it) and to eat dinner. An excellent but exhausting day.Read more