Day 27/72: the best day ever!November 23
We woke up early and walked down to Airlie Port to board our boat out onto the Great Barrier Reef. The reefsleep guests (people spending the night on the reef) had their own tables reserved, and we spent some time filling in forms and getting our itinerary from a guide. During the beautiful 3 hour boat journey to the reef there were lots of presentations by the photography team (telling us how to order both the above water and underwater photos they would be taking through the day) and the diving team (giving us a demonstration on how to dive...) which we ended up booking straight away.
Once we got to the reef, all the day guests and us scrambled onto the huge pontoon sat on the edge of the reef and we quickly put on our stinger suits and flippers and went for a snorkel. The reef was incredible, so many fish we couldn't count, and so many different types of coral.
After morning tea and a buffet lunch, we were feeling sufficiently like we wouldn't float any more, and headed to the diving team for our dive. They set us up with weight belts, oxygen tanks and all the gear, and explained that we would go down into the moon pool (!) and practice kneeling underwater and breathing. Because it was an introductory dive, our guide explained she would be holding our hands, taught us some hand signals, and how to clear our ears every 1/2meter we went down. They also taught us how to inflate our life jackets if we ever found ourselves on our own or anything.
The sensation of breathing underwater is absolutely bizarre, and concentrating on your breathing that much just feels weird. After a few minutes we ended up getting used to the feeling, and she grabbed both our hands and led us under the ledge out of the moon pool. After 5 minutes or so she asked if we were okay to let go of our hands, and we swam along side her, staring around in awe of all the coral and fish we were seeing. It was surprisingly hard to control whether we were sinking or floating, and more than once she ended up pulling us up or down to keep us at the right depth.
We came back up absolutely buzzing, it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life. She congratulated us on being quick to stop panicking, and spoke to us while we took off our tanks about how she'd ended up moving from London to Aus to become a scuba diving instructor.
We snorkeled again until we had to get out to wave the 158 day passengers off on the boat back to the mainland, and the 14 of us reefsleep passengers had the pontoon to ourselves! We met the team who would be there over night, and quickly found a turtle nibbling at the seaweed growing on the edge of the pontoon. When the boat had safely got away we went snorkeling again with the turtle, who was completely unphased by us being there.
We had to stop snorkeling by 5pm because it started to get dark, and the staff could no longer be on look out and rescue because they had jobs to do to prepare dinner. The staff always have one person out on look out and if the helicopter (that was doing trips all day) sees a shark on the reef (a scary one, not a reef shark) then they radio to the staff and they get in tenders and scare away the shark. They also have huge fish (about 2-3m long) living around the pontoon which are very territorial and gang up on any shark that comes into their territory. (or that's what they tell us to make us feel better, still slightly scary swimming over the 50m depth around the pontoon to the reef).
The sunset was absolutely beautiful, we all had showers and had our antipasti platter and drinks while watching the sunset over the sea. The moon was very nearly full and the tides were quite big, the reef was really out the water. One of the boat guys took us on a trip up to where rivers run through the sea when the tide gets that low: a phenomenon that only happens every 6 months or so for one night. They seemed to think that a tide drop from 3.2m to 1m was big, I told them they hadn't seen Guernsey tides.
Dinner was served, huge fillet steaks and a butter bay bug (some big shrimpy thing). Dessert was lovely; chocolate cake and lemon tart. One of the staff them took us down into the underwater observatory and helped us identify coral, sea snakes, crabs, and all kinds of fish floating past the windows.
We headed up to our swag quite early, it had a clear panel where we could see the stars while lying on the comfy mattress, although it did get warm without any ac.Read more