The Great Barrier Reef Experience
I Yesterday we woke at 6am to get ourselves ready for the bus pickup at 7:10 in front of the Best Western. We had booked a Great Barrier Reef tour the night before and today was that (drum roll, please) exciting day! A day we got to do something that most people have on their bucket lists!
We arrived at the peir in Cairns boarding the catamaran around 8am with about 40 other adventure seekers.
For $185 I received transportation to and from the hotel, breakfast, lunch and a late afternoon snack on the boat, choices of snorkeling, an intro scuba dive, certified scuba dives and a glass bottom boat ride. There was a professional photographer in the water with us taking photos to sell at $15 each or we could rent an underwater camera from him for $49 and have all the pictures we took put in CD. There was a marine biologist on board to give talks to us as well.
I never anticipated that to see the GBR one would have to go out with an organized group and pay a fair amount of money in doing so. I'm actually not sure what I expected.
Alicia and I rented a camera and split the $49 charge. By the end of the day we had taken around 300 photos that were put on to a CD for us. We gave the CD to Sam since he was with us and took photos for us. He's taking it back to Sydney with him to load onto his computer and share the photos with us.
So I don't have any colorful underwater photos to share with you just yet. Stay tuned...
I'm a strong swimmer thanks to my parents, putting my siblings and I in swimming lessons every year.
However when it comes to competitive lap swimming and snorkeling I have a problem breathing properly.
In the last 2 years I took an intro to scuba class in a pool in Portland and found my breathing was difficult to control with scuba too. Eventually I got it under control.
I wasn't really excited to snorkel or scuba but I was excited to see the reef. I informed Alicia and Sam of my breathing issue before hand and Sam stayed with me for quite a bit in the water giving me pointers until I pretty much got it down. At the end of the day I still struggled a bit holding my breath with the snorkel and going down deep but I was getting better.
I snorkeled the majority of the day and took the intro scuba dive. The intro dive was AWESOME! Words can't describe how great of an experience that was or how beautiful this underwater world was!
I think that all the snorkeling I did before the dive helped get my breathing in check.
I scuba dived like a boss, in other words!
I saw a turtle but never saw the reef sharks that a few others caught sight of. By the end of our second reef location my jaw was tired of having the snorkel in my mouth so I climbed aboard the boat. We only had 15min left in ocean before we were to head back to land.
To give you a bit if a visual of the are:
The reef is off the shore far enough that when we were out at our dive locations we couldn't see land. From the boat, looking into the water you saw the beautiful blue of the ocean and then where the reef was you could see a color change. The color I remember seeing the most when looking at it from above was more of a mustard yellow with the oceans transparent blue washing over it.
The underwater life: the variety of different coral was incredible. Just the coral alone was captivating. It wasn't as colorful as I thought it would be, the coral was more muted with bursts of purple, green and orange here and there. The fish is what was really colorful. We found Nimo, the clown fish and saw lots of parrot fish among others.
I found myself floating above areas of the reef several times, lost in thought. Many times I thought of the paintings that this experience is going to create for me. Color and texture was all around me and that's what my paintings crave.
We met Matt on the boat, a guy from Missouri who is in the Army and currently stationed in Hawaii. He was alone in a 9 day holiday. So we did what we always do and pulled him into our circle of friends. The 4 of us went out for dinner, drinks and 2 LONG games of pool that evening. We called it a night around 9:30 and headed back to the hotel, running into 2 backpackers on the way.
In their 20's one backpacker girl was from Norway and the other from Germany. They looked lost with their oversized packs and rolling suitcases and exhausted! We asked if we could help and they accepted. They were lost looking for their hostel. I looked at the German girls phone and we pulled up google maps and plugged in their hostel. They were a block away.
Excited to hear they were so close they still didn't look eager to walk so I offered for the 3 of us to carry their bags for them and walk with them to their hostel. And so we did... Paying it forward and helping out fellow backpackers.