I'm holding a starfish
Best Fourth of July ever! Today we went to the Great Barrier Reef. It was more amazing than I could have ever imagined. We rode a three decker catamaran out to a Reefworld. Reefworld is a giant platform on the edge of the reef with tons of activities. Apparently there are a lot of these out there for different companies to take tourists to the reef. Our guide, Remmy, was very funny. He nicknamed our group, “shark bait”. When we first arrived at Reefworld we went to an underwater viewing area. It was windows down in the bottom of the platform. We learned that the part of the reef we were at was called Hardy Reef.
It was named this because of the type of fish that live there. The room was really neat and looked like an aquarium except instead of a tank, it was the ocean! After the viewing room we went to the back of Reefworld to look down a hole cut out in the platform where a giant Grouper lives. This fish was huge. It looked like a small whale. After that we took a ride on an underwater submersible. It took us around the edge of the reef while our guide pointed out the different coral and animals. I learned that during low tide some of the coral is exposed and gets sun burnt. The white coral is dead and the brown coral is alive. The plan after lunch was to go snorkeling but during the boat ride out, Jill and I realized that we could try scuba diving. We went and listened to the lecture about breathing and underwater signals.
I was so excited and a little nervous about the breathing part. We paid the extra money and were signed up. When we showed up for our dive time we once again had to squeeze into wetsuits. Ugg! They strapped a weight belt around my waist along with a very heavy tank. We trudged down a set of stairs that went underneath the platform. There was about 4 feet of water on a grate. There, we met out instructor, Heath, and practiced our breathing and hand signals. He showed us what to do if you get water in your mask or loose your breathing tube. He showed us how to read our oxygen and depth gage. It was very weird breathing at first. It took a while to get used to it. With me were Jill and another man. While we were practicing they both had minor freak outs and went up to the surface. I sat there for a while underwater wondering what was going on up there.
The Giant Grouper
I was worried that Jill wouldn’t do it but Heath calmed her down. Finally they all came back down. There was a rope that led us down to the reef. I didn’t like holding onto it because it was hard to balance. I kept letting go and swimming on my own while the instructor wasn’t looking. When we got to the ridge the other man we were with started freaking out and swam back up. Heath made some weird buzzer noise and told us to stay there. He brought the man back up to the top. Jill and I were giving each other signals. Jill gave me the “I am not doing so well” signal. I was feeling better about the breathing at this point and was more interested in all the fish and coral. Heath came back alone. I guess the man chickened out. Now it was time to really start looking at the reef. First he took Jill away from the rope and tried to show her an anemone.
Apparently she didn’t understand because she started to frantically swim away. Then he took us down a little farther. He picked up a giant clam and handed it to me. It was really heavy. The outside was white and the inside was blue and speckled. When I put my hand near the opening it quickly closed up then slowly opened. When he tried handing the clam to Jill it almost caused me to drown because I was laughing so hard. She was trying to hang onto the rope with one hand so when he put the clam in her other hand she started to tip over. It was so funny looking because the whole thing was in slow motion. She really couldn’t balance enough to stay upright and hold the clam. It took about three tries for her to get it. Finally he made her use two hands. I had to look away because I kept laughing and getting water in my mouth.
After the whole clam fiasco Heath swam down and got a sea cucumber. Jill held it first and then he threw it to me like football. He pointed out its mouth and its bum. That also made me laugh. We swam on and found a small red star fish. He placed it on my hand. When I went to give it back it was suctioned to my hand. I had to shake it off and it left a few legs behind. Next he swam me down to an anemone. There were little orange fish in it. When I touched it, it felt like rubber. From there we were able to let go of the rope and swim on our own. This was much nicer. I took a lot of pictures. We saw a lot of different kinds of fish. The only ones I really knew were the Hardy fish and the Parrot fish. You could hear them scraping the algae off the reef. We even got pretty close to the giant Grouper. It was the most amazing experience.
That's me holding the clam
On our way back to the top he brought us into the open water, held our hands and pulled us along. When we climbed back out of the water our tanks seemed to weigh a ton. I had to pull myself up the stairs trying very hard not to fall over. We were freezing and it was time to get back on the boat to go home. Jill and I got a certificate. Now I have scuba fever and I can’t wait to go again.
Looking out the viewing window at the GBR
When we got back to the hotel they had decorated our dinning area with red, white and blue balloons that we bought. After dinner we brought the kids by the pool and played Independence Day trivia. Then we all lit sparklers and sang the national anthem. I think all of the kids enjoyed it. Some of them thanked us. I know I had fun. It was my favorite day of the trip by far!