“Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills… When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming.” – Dory the Fish from Disney’s Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is one of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies, and this past week I have had endless Finding Nemo moments and quotes running through my head. Being
in Australia and finally snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, my thoughts have wandered to the
adventures of that movie and I have smiled to myself underwater and thought “Just keep swimming.”
Although going out on a snorkel trip on The Great Barrier Reef took us way over our Grand Adventure daily budget (actually everything in Australia is
taking us over budget), we could not come here to beautiful Cairns and not see the reef. It’s another one of those “I don’t have a bucket list” bucket list items. I love snorkeling and I wanted to have that once in a lifetime opportunity.
The weather on the day we went wasn’t great – grey and overcast and we even saw some rain. I am in constant worry about my motion sickness
problem, so I stood outside and watched the horizon the entire hour and half boat trip out to the reef, even when the rain started to come down. Hey I was gonna get wet anyway right? Luckily, thanks to massive amounts of drugs, my sea sickness problem did not materialize while on the boat. That was a good sign!
“You got a problem, buddy? Huh? Huh? Do ya, do ya, do ya?” Dory
We booked our reef tour with Reef Magic out of
Cairns which took us to the outer reef and a pontoon platform stationed there called Marine World. We disembarked the boat to the pontoon and here we were outfitted with our snorkels, fins, masks and Lycra “stinger” suits to protect us from
“I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy.” Dory
Reef Magic offers many options from the pontoon, all at an additional charge including snorkel safari, snuba, scuba, glass bottom boat, semi-submersible boat and helicopter rides. But since
we had already exceeded our budget (for two of us we paid $426 Australian about $330 US), we were just interested in snorkeling. We were dressed and ready to go pretty quickly and one of the first people in the water.
We immediately encountered “Wally”, one of the biggest fish on the reef. Luckily Reef Magic’s professional photographer was on hand as we entered the water and she got some amazing shots of us with Wally. All the photos in this blog are from Reef Magic’s professional photographer. Since we don’t have an underwater camera we have never gotten underwater photos on any of our snorkel trips on the Grand Adventure. So, despite the fact my husband almost wet his pants when I told him the price, we bit the bullet and bought the photos for an additional $75 (about
“Ahh you guys made me ink.” Pearl
Wally is a resident fish of this part of the reef. He is an amazing species called Maori Wrasse. This fish is a female for the first eight years of its life. And then poof. It’s a male. I know – what the heck? Isn’t that nuts? Some times I think Mother Nature is menopausal!
After our encounter with Wally we began to explore the reef. Marine World has a cordoned off section of the reef for its guests to enjoy. Within this area there was a huge variety of corals; big, small, blue, green, orange, white. Some are soft and rounded, others spikey and dangerous looking. In all the
snorkeling I have done, I had never seen coral that waved in the current like it did here. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. Most of the coral we see in our lives is dead. And while its pretty even when it is dead and dry, the beauty of live coral is spectacular. Yes this is an incredible living
creature and we surely must protect it.
“Righteous! Righteous! ” Crush
So I loved the corals and kept going back for more of that but of course there were the fish. Many, many fish. I don’t know all their names, but they really are beautiful to watch. Some of the fish are very solitary, just going along and doing their
business, feeding and swimming and doing what fish do. Other fish keep in groups, large schools that move together almost as one, weaving above and around the coral mountains. There are some fish that are so tiny you don’t even see them until you are swimming right through them, while others
are so big that they freak you out a bit. Many fish are shy and you need to look inside the coral to find them. There are also beautiful giant clams, sea slugs, squid, eels and rays. And no we did not see any sharks.
“From this moment on, you shall now be known as Sharkbait.” Gill
We swam to the outer edge of the roped off area and we were alone in this section just as a beautiful turtle swam by on the surface. We
almost missed him because we were looking down and he was swimming right next to us on the surface. But then he dived and we watched him swim to the bottom looking for a snack. I believe this was a loggerhead turtle. We had seen this kind in Sri Lanka. Beautiful brown bodies and not too large. We watched him swim away beyond the area we were confined to and into the great wide ocean.
“Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like “whoa”, and we were like “whoa”, and you were like “whoa…” Crush
After about an hour we went back to the pontoon to have a rest. Reef Magic served a buffet lunch
that included salads and fruit, bread, chicken, sushi, lasagna, curry and roast beef. But I only ate a little cause I continued to worry about my motion sickness. Arne ate my share. It all looked good. Coffee, tea and water was also available and a bar on the boat was open when we weren’t underway. Clearly they have had motion sensitive passengers before and they were well stocked with ginger beer (like ginger ale, non-alcoholic). My beverage of choice.
“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.” Bruce the Great White Shark
We headed back out to snorkel more after lunch. The water seemed a bit calmer but it was also more cloudy so not as easy to see – but that was okay. We tried to swim to all the areas and to the far-reaching parts of the swimming area. We noticed most snorkelers stayed very close to the boat. Understandably if you are an inexperienced snorkeler or not comfortable in the water. Reef Magic had life jackets as well as float noodles and other devices for anyone looking for a little more reassurance.
We snorkeled for about 30 minutes and then decided to call it a day. We went back on the pontoon and stretched out on a lounge chair for the next hour and a half. Surprisingly, despite the overcast sky, it was warm and we both got a bit of a sunburn.
Finally it was time to turn in our gear and make our way off the pontoon and back to the vessel for the hour and half ride back. Once again I stood and watched the horizon the entire way, including during a deluge about half way home.
But I did it. I did not get sick. I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef. I can check that off the “I don’t have a bucket list”
bucket list. And remembered to just keep swimming.
“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.” Dory
Thanks goes to the wonderful photography of Reef Magic!
Read more of our Australia adventure here
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