The Great Barrier Reef
 
The morning we got up to leave for the Barrier Reef we thought we had plenty of time to get ready. At 7am sharp (with plenty of time to go before leaving with the bus) we was stumbling down the stairs to the entrance of the hostel, the Nomads/ Serpent and to our astonishment there was quite many standing there already waiting for the buss to take us to the harbor front. We got a bit stressed out since the bus only take ten people and there was more of us there already and thought that we would miss the boat. The bus was standing there already but there was no driverů We was supposed to leave soon to make it to the boat and no driver did show up. Just 15 minutes before we was supposed to be at the harbor front the driver showed up and with sharpened elbows we made our way on to that buss. We got to the harbor just in time to catch the boat. The heart was racing a bit after this, but we made it.

The weather was nice, sunshine and quite hot already. This was going to be a great trip! But first things first, paper-work. Page after page had to be filled in and signed, stating that we are healthy and that we are doing this snorkeling tour on our own responsibility, when done we got a safety briefing. When all the boring have-to's had been addressed the fun could began. The crew on board was just as peppy and positive as one can imagine the true Aussie-travel agent to be. They where a happy and fun bunch who were sharing their passion for the sea, diving and their country's pride the Great Barrier reef. From a marine-biologist we learned some about the reef, the corals in it, fish and other critters lurking about. We would meet Nemo for sure and other clownfishes/Anemone fishes, see some brain corals, plate corals and perhaps a turtle or a shark too. We were so exited and couldn't wait! But first we were transferred from the boat for the daily cruises onto another boat for the overnight stay, got introduced to more merry crew members and got our room for the night. They had one rule on this boat, "no dripping wet clothes inside the cabin", if anyone was encountered as such he or she would be punished to eat a spoonful with Vegemite or have to buy the crew member that found them so a beer in the evening. This shouldn't be hard to follow I thought.
Then the time was there, we could finally jump into our swimwear and jump into the great-blue. Beautiful colors on fishes and corals surrounded us in every direction we turned, it was mesmerizing! At the end of our first snorkeling experience when we were swimming back to the boat we noticed a group of divers below us, what were they casing after? Happy days, it was a shark! A white-tip reef shark that was gracefully swimming between the corals near the bottom of the sea. An amazing creature but somewhat frightening at the same time, for the second time today our hearts were now racing a bit.

We got waved in by the crew on watch and headed to the cabin for the nice lunch that was to be served soon, I almost made it to the cabin door, took the door handle and was about to open when I remembered the rule. I pulled my hand back from the door handle like I gotten a shock. Easy to follow maybe but as easy to forget. After drying myself off we were served a proper lunch with pasta, sauce and salad, I munched happily away on it glad to have escaped from a big spoon of Vegemite.

In Swedish we have a saying "Sjön-suger", which means something similar to "the sea is taking a lot energy" and that we all felt something off when we after the lunch all half-dozed off on the comfortable sofas or on the beds in our rooms. But when they called out on the speakers that the second diving/ snorkeling time was starting all quickly showed up on deck again, ready to dive in. If someone would have told me this would happened before when we saw all being "out-cold" I wouldn't have believed it. After the first time in the water we were all eager to "hit the reef" again, and surely again we were not disappointed. Two times at the same spot and we was moved to another location which turned out to be even better then the first one, especially for us snorkelers. The reef was closer to the water-surface and so also all the fish twirling around it. Anemone fish, red snapper, unicorn fish, a school of fishes practiced synchronized swimming and parrot fishes in many sizes and colors eating away on the reef. An amazing underwater-world it is! They say that everything becomes 25% bigger in the water which also means that the fish looks bigger that they are and that they look like they are much closer to you than they really are, this can be both fascinating since you get a better look and also sometime a bit scary when it feels like some scary-looking old fish comes to close. Was so fascinated of a fish that looked someway like a sword that I almost swam into a Trigger-fish. Gaaah!

The last time I met one of them was around Mabul Island, east coast of Malaysia. I was swimming along watching the colorful fishes in fairly shallow waters around the island when I felt something at one of my fins. When I had a look I found a trigger-fish swimming away, then eight meters away it turned around and came back towards me again, attacking me. I put the fins between me and him and kicked, he swam away again and repeated his former act. This time he took a bit into one of my flippers and teared off a bit. My heart was racing like crazy since the Trigger-fish is quite big and unfriendly looking with his set of sharp teeth and starring eyes. He kept this up for a good 5 minutes and had another 3 bites off my fins before he gave up and swam away. I never made it so quickly up out if the waters as that time. Now when I saw the trigger-fish in the Barrier Reef my heart started to race again and I quickly took another direction and made sure that he did not follow me. The crew later on told a few stories about other divers and snorkelers bad encounters with this little beast of the ocean. It is apparently quite aggressive and is known to go to attack especially when it watches his nest with little ones. Happy to not get another close-encounter I continued.

We slept quite well, getting rocked into sleep by the ocean that night and around 5:30 am we were up to watch the sun rise over the ocean. It was unfortunately quite some clouds around at this time since a storm just passed by but it was quite a scene to witness anyway. 6:30 we were already in the ocean for our first dip that day although it was still quite cold in the air, in the water it was nice though. The visibility was good, the colors were really clear and a lot of fish was around. The crew claimed that this spot was great for turtles, but we did not see any. Neither did we see one at our second dip after a really delicious breakfast. I encountered some jelly-fish that gave me a rip on the back and on the side. I guess that I would miss out on the turtles then! A little disappointed and hurting from the jelly-fish stinging I went to get some vinegar-spray from one of the crew members and again I almost went into the cabin all dripping-wet. I remembered in the last moment and got a towel to quickly dry myself off with before getting treated with the vinegar. It actually helped! After just 20 minutes the pain had disappeared. We had some lunch and were then transported onto the daily-cruise boat again that would take us back to the shore.

Two more snorkelings we got on this boat before heading back. By the second and last one we had already given up, we would not see any turtle this time. Too bad! They are so cool! About half-time in the water Andreas pointed out a sting-ray to me, it was beautiful as it "licked" the bottom when swimming by. Pleased we turned around and there she was! At the bottom of the ocean nibbling on some sea-grass. With hearts beating just a little bit faster we watched her swim up to the surface to get some air just 2 meters away from us. Is was like in Finding Nemo, the turtle was softly moving through the water. I almost expected her to say "how's it going mate" before she went back to the bottom again to get some more sea-grass to chew on. We couldn't tear ourselves away from her and after 20 minutes she swam up again to fetch some air and this time we were just a meter away from her. So mellow, cool and beautiful! Mission accomplished! Moving closer to the boat we found ourselves surrounded by jelly-fish and remembering the last encounter made my heart race and we swam back to the boat. Resting a bit we were told that it was 10 more minutes left before we had to leave. Andreas took a break and I decided to jump in again to spend the last few minutes properly, maybe I could see the turtle again. When swimming back in the same direction where we saw her I suddenly saw the oceans perfect predator gracefully swimming towards me. It was a black-tip reef shark! It swam directly underneath me and I turned and followed it for about 500 meters. Yet again my heartbeat was racing, it was exciting and scary at the same time. The shark´s eyes were black and dead somehow but still it managed to be a beautiful creature.
Sitting in the sun to relax and dry off we were quite pleased the both of us (although Andreas was jealous about my second shark encounter :))
2 days and 1 night was great, we would not have had anything against staying longer as well. It had been a great trip and we would do it again in a heartbeat! It is surely GREAT the Great Barrier Reef! Definitely not to be missed!

Cheer's from
Anette & Andreas

(by Anette)



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