December 18th, 2006 – by: roamingduck
Snorkelling with a sea cucumber
Today we were going to find Nemo - we were going snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. We arrived at the marina just before 8.30am, and after some initial confusion over where to check in, we boarded our boat, the 'Reef Quest.' It seemed like an organised boat; we signed disclaimers (which in effect made us responsible for anything which might happen to us, which included drowning, being hit by another boat, or by being eaten alive by anything which happened to be swimming by) and then went to get our snorkelling gear. Pam and Dave waved us off, and we set sail for the 50km journey to the GBR.
During the safety talk we were told that we would probably be going to Norman Reef and that it would take about 90 mins to get there.
In the wet suit
It was a choppy 90 mins and there were a few sea-sickness casualties. It wasn't surprising as the boat was rocking to a great extent. We were watching the opposite side of the boat go well below and then well above the horizon - it was quite sickening to watch - so we didn't. Upon arrival, we quickly donned our wet suits, hired an underwater digital camera for the day, and made our way to the back of the boat. Most of the divers were already in the water, preparing to submerge. Once flippers were on and masks adjusted, all that was left to do was jump in, which was a bit worrying but we did it without much hesitation. The next milestone was actually putting our heads in the water and looking down - it sounds strange, but it was quite scary! The first thing we saw was a bit of coral but quite a way below us, we were in water about thirty feet deep.
We swam away from the boat and got closer to coral that was nearer to the surface, and we realised why we had made the journey. We began to see more and more fish, including some that were quite large and amazingly blue. After we had been out there for about 30 mins, we saw a shark. It was quite a way below us but we reckon it must have been 5-6 feet long; it soon disappeared beneath the rocks.
We got back on the boat for a rest and lunch. During lunch we had our first tropical downpour. It came without warning and lasted 2 minutes, and then it was sunny again. Just like home really. After lunch we moved to a different part of the reef called Turtle Bay. Once again into our wetsuits and back into the water, again seeing some fantastic coral and fish.
It was quite amazing that on top of the water it was very choppy and noisy, but once you put your head in the water, it was like entering a different world - a bit like being in a fish tank, but bigger. It was like being in an underwater garden full of different colours and shapes of coral, and interesting fish floating about like underwater butterflies. At times it felt like we were flying, looking down on mountains of coral that rose from the seabed; the peaks almost touching the surface of the sea and then suddenly dropping off into the deep dark sea below. Shafts of sunlight pierced the sea's surface, dropping down to form light ripples on the patches of sandy seabed. It was a magical experience.