Snorkeling above the biggest living thing on the planet – The Great Barrier Reef
I’m taking you on a trip to The Great Barrier Reef which is stretching over 2300 km on the east coast of Australia. It is listed among 7 natural wonders of the world. It has 2900 reefs and 900 little islands. And it’s the only living creature visible from the space. It sounds unbelievable, right? And me, this little human is going to see this now. Dreams really do become reality, sometimes.
This is the photo of the reefs from the plane. I cannot believe what Mother Nature gave us.
And now, just by watching this photo, I can’t even believe I was here. I see myself sitting by the plane window, head pressed on it and eyes wide opened. Once again I felt alive, really alive. But, enough of daydreaming, let’s get back to the story.
We are getting in the boat and everyone’s presented with their flippers, a mask and a snorkel. That’s it. An official confirmation of us going snorkeling. And not just anywhere, but on the biggest living thing on the planet.
It was a small boat and we immediately started chit chattin. I’ve noticed during my travel through Australia that there are a lot of young Europeans.
After around 50 min of travelling, the first stop where part of the passengers would get of was Fitzroy Island which is also a national park. Covered with rainforest, surrounded with beaches and reefs, also a turtle preservation centre. I wanted to see that as well, but we had to move on towards the Milln reef. One hour of ride through Coral sea and my ultimate goal.
It was a snorkeling trip, because the reef is really close to the surface, barely a meter, depending on the spot. Also, you had an option to pay extra for the introductory dive, which is a proper dive with the oxygen bottles and all, without having to have a diving certificate. And since my motto on this trip was to try things I’ve never tried before, I’ve decided to go for it.
And while we were driving on a boat, we were asked to go on the top of the boat where an instructor had a little course for us. I was unbelievably excited, and that excitement was slowly turning into anxiety, even a fear. Everyone who had dived before, were saying everything will be fine, but I was still under half fear half adrenaline.
So after 2 hours from Cairns, we finally came at the Milln reef.
We parked next to one bigger ship where the other passengers were spending the night.
Us, rookies, ready (or not) for our first dive, were divided into two groups. Since we didn’t have a photographer and since we were beginners we weren’t allowed to have a camera with us, so I managed to negotiate with the instructor to put my rented underwater camera on his suit and record my first dive, because I just had to have a memory of that.
And this is also important, if you’re alone or don’t have a waterproof camera or can’t use it for some reason, when booking a trip you should really ask about the photographer before making a deal, because I’m pretty sure you’ll want to have memories.
After we put the suits on, they put some kind of belt with rocks around our waists so we can sink more easily. And an oxygen tank on our back. We tried inhaling that air and it was disgusting. After that we were ready for the dive. I could barely get up from the bench how heavy that was. I though to myself, when I jump, I’m done. I’ll sink like a stone.
Not to mention I didn’t really get all the things the instructor was saying because we were on a boat, so there were noises around and the instructor had a pretty big French accent.
It was time. We, the modern Robinson Crusoes were ready to face the big blue sea and say goodbye to the oxygen we’re used to. We jumped off the boat. The instructor asked us if we were ready for a dive. ‘I’m not’, I said. ‘I don’t have enough air coming from my tank’. He said: ‘That’s normal, you just have to get use to it’. I tried breathing in again, but there was definitely not enough air. I thought myself, if I cannot breath properly now, imagine what will happen under water. I felt really scared.
‘Let me try’, he said and grabbed my breathing tube and inhaled a couple of times: ‘You’re right, there’s not enough air coming through’. Ya think?! So, they got me back on a boat for a new tank. This time I had more air but it still felt insufficient. Not like breathing through snorkel. Less air. I guess you just have to get use to it.
So I got a new gear and went jump in the sea. We were at around 10 m of depth. And my phobia of sinking showed up to be really unnecessary, because it’s so hard to sink, that hard that our instructor had to drag us down. The whole time going down you have to equalize the pressure of your middle ear with the pressure around you. The way to do that is by swallowing or pinching your nostrils and gently blowing through your nose. Every 30 sec some of us panicked and went up towards the surface. But bit by bit, we gotten used to being down.
And just as we started being comfortable under water and came to about 3 meters of depth, we had to do this test without which you cannot continue diving. You need to let some water in the mask and then throw this water back out while under the water. That was really hard. I saw the guys running up and down. I tried as well and as soon as the mask fills with water I throw that water out and instead of breathing with my mouth, I breath in with my nose and inhale some of it and start choking. Very unpleasant. The guys already decided to back out but I thought to myself Momma didn’t raise no quitter and went back in. But after a few more trials, I just couldn’t do it. My instinct was to breath in through the nose. I was a bit bummed. But that’s why you really need to have a proper course in the pool, not the one where you find yourself in a deep blue sea.
After that torture finished, we climbed up on the boat to take off the gear and go snorkeling. As soon as I took it all off me, I started feeling nausea. I guess after all that stress wore off, I started feeling the consequences of the sea sickness. I couldn’t believe it, I’ve never had it. Why now, that I’m here at this amazing nature wonder, after spending so much money? But I didn’t want to waste time, so I put on the good old mask and snorkel and went off exploring the reef.
The reef was really close to the boat, but not exactly right beside it. So when I swam there, most of the people that were snorkeling already went on the boat to take a break. So I was pretty much alone. And they said we should all snorkel in pairs. And I didn’t feel that comfortable being alone in an unknown sea. I didn’t know what kind of creatures I could see. There were a bit of waves. And also I’ve heard that some girls saw a shark. So, I’m snorkeling and trying to enjoy the sea world, but what I really want to do is to get rid of my breakfast, if you know what I mean.
After 15 min I’ve decided to get back to the boat, get some rest and hopefully feel better. So I went up, the table was full of nice meals, people were having lunch. And me? Well’, I was sitting with the head between my legs and dying. After half an hour, I’ve decided to give it another shot.
The sea world of the reefs is really fascinating. I was so glad I rented an underwater camera.
On the Great Barrier Reef you really have so much to see. There are 30 types of whales, dolphins and porpoises, 6 types of turtles, 215 species of fish, 17 sea snakes (thank god I didn’t know this info when I went there) and over 1500 species of fish.
It’s really hard to determine the age of the reef, but it is considered to be around 20 million years old.
The coral reefs are filled with amazing sea creatures, like this shelf who almost gave me a heart attack. I was passing by it and all of a sudden, she looked at me. And I realized that this whole eco system is one huge living creature.
The biggest danger to the reef is the climate change. Global warming is leading to coral bleach. And there’s also the human factor. So every person that comes to the reef had to pay a few dollars to redeem themselves for coming here and this money is used to protect the reef. Also, it is not recommended to wear much sunscreen because that too destroys the reef.
This time I snorkeled a bit longer, but I still felt nausea. So I went back to the boat to say my goodbyes with my breakfast. And it was time to go. As soon as the boat started moving back home, I felt better. The whole day without the food and water. I remembered my roommate Chantal and how she’s going to stay on the boat for 7 days and thought I wouldn’t make it. And I remembered Tomislav, our Croatian traveller who sailed on a boat in Indian ocean for 3 weeks. Well give me a rope and a ceiling.
So when you go do somthing like this, remember my story and the pill. Take the pill!
You can see in this short video how my day went and how it all looked like.
Despite all this, this one day trip is a beautiful experience which I’ll always remember. And the sea sickness? Well, who cares? After all I snorkeled on the biggest living thing on the planet! And who knows, maybe one day I get to see it from space.