August 20, 2015, from Cairns
Early in the morning I took my bag and got out of the hostel. I walked for about 20 minutes to the Fleet Reef Terminal down the Spence Street and paid for my boarding pass to the Silverswift Cruise. I was to snorkel on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, Australia, for the first time in my life.
As the vessel started going 29 knots/hour and the waves got really nasty, more than half of the people on the boat ended up holding bags full of vomit between their hands. Luckily, I had decided to sit on the upper level, where there were barely any people. I had a nice time, even if I had to watch the crew running all over the boat to help the others who were suffering from seasickness.
At the first stop, our Japanese tour guy gave us the snorkel equipment and told us a few rules and things before jumping into the water. And there I was, wearing an extremely thin wetsuit and safety checking if the mask and breathing tube were okay before getting into the water. Jump Aja.
I got excited over all the colorful, majestic and weird sea creatures. I couldn’t stop observing the interactions – smaller fish were hiding between the corals, parrotfish were eating them and making a scratchy noise, stingrays were slowly moving in the sand.. My eyes were just drifting from one place to another, until I had gone a bit too far and noticed a crew guy on a gum boat approaching me. He asked me if I was alright, I replied “of course! I’m great actually, thanks” and he suggested me to go to the deeper waters to “see more.” What more was there to see? I realised it when I saw a whitetip reef shark of around 1.5 m in length passing by. S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R-!!!
Now, I have been in the water from the time I can remember but I have never actually seen such big fish from that close, and I had always thought that these sorts of moments would freak me out. To my surprise, however, I have never felt that comfortable as I had felt in the moment when the shark slowed down and remained there. I sensed such tranquillity despite the fact that we were both so exposed to each other. And even if I interrupted our communication to get more air and dove again and again, my friend stayed and kept observing me as I kept observing him. After 15 minutes of socialising with the whitetippy, I could hear the calling from the boat. It was time to say goodbye and move on.
The snorkel on the second site was quick. I stayed more in the deep water and looked for sea turtles under plate shaped corals because they normally rest there. I couldn’t see them underwater. I dove down to the bottom of the sea and waved to a few groups of people who instead of snorkelling had chosen to scuba dive. The water was crystal clear, I didn’t realise until that moment that I had actually dove beyond my limits, to 13 m depth. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any problems, except when I stayed down for too long and realised I was getting on short with air to return back. The power of mind did the trick so I got up safely, anyway.
On the third site, however, the Japanese guy had a tour around the “Coral garden”. There were too many snorkelers at one time so I watched him from far away and when nobody was near, I went down and looked for the organisms and communities he had shown to the others. The water was just the right temperature but my body was becoming quite weak, so I happily said “bye” to all the fish and finished my day of snorkeling on the Outer Great Barrier Reef.
The piece you have just finished reading is a part of my adventure from Australia. I visited the land of Down Under soon after my high school final exams, with the intent to connect with my relatives, grow as a solo traveller and find out more about Australia’s wonders. Going out to the Great Barrier Reef wasn’t planned at all, but at the end, the rest of the savings did allowed me to go up North and eventually see the Barrier.
*I apologise for the quality of the photos but due to intense currents and a low quality disposable underwater camera, that was the best I had got.*
Have a good one!