GREAT Barrier Reef

WOW, is the first thing I have to say about the Great Barrier Reef (GBR from here on out)!

We booked our trip to the GBR with a charter company called Wavelength and they had to cancel our original trip for Friday because of high winds that were then making the sea too rough. Today was supposed to be a bit better and apparently it was!

The Wavelenght boat in port.

The Wavelength boat in port.

Our boat was about 60 feet long and at one point I asked the captain how fast we were going and he said 17 knots. This boat takes up to 30 passengers at a time, but today we were 26 passengers and 3 delightful crew members. There was another USA couple on board, from Spokane and the rest were Aussies.

We were heading for the reef before 8:30 AM and the ride got a little “sloppy”, one of the crew members words. Then there was a stretch where we were in ocean waves that had not gone over the reef, and there were some BIG rollers! Three of us had all taken some form of sea-sickness, but Alison, being a child of the Pacific Ocean, had no need for such things! None of the 4 of us got sick!

Up in the wheelhouse of the boat with the captain, for the best view!

Up in the wheelhouse of the boat with the captain, for the best view!

Our tour took us to Opal Reef, about 30km east from Port Douglas, and it took almost 2 hours to get there. The plan was to visit 3 different areas of Opal Reef, having an hour at each for snorkeling. As we got close to our first snorkel site we were fitted with thick wet suits, fins, mask and snorkel. Crew member Tim gave us a safety talk and a talk about how to snorkel. We all are experienced snorkelers, so didn’t need that instruction, but it was good to hear it all again. We then donned our gear while sitting on the stern of the boat and in we went. There was a slight chop on the water on the reef, but not enough to get in our way or prevent us from doing anything.

Jim and me, almost ready to go!

Jim and me, almost ready to go!

Tucker and Alison getting ready to snorkel.

Tucker and Alison getting ready to snorkel.

As we swam away from the boat, we were immediately enthralled with the magical world beneath our masks. So many varieties of coral and fish, we didn’t know where to look first. The water was warm and our  wet suits kept us afloat and the hour we were given went by quickly. We had expected to see many fish of many colors, but we all were pleasantly surprised to see the many rich colors  and shapes of the coral. When our first session was over, we all got back on the boat, had morning tea while we cruised the short distance to the second snorkel spot.

GBR coral

GBR coral

Beautiful blue/purple clam.

Beautiful blue/purple clam.

At the second site on Opal Reef, we had the option of taking a reef tour with either Tim or Alesha, our crew guides. We went with Tim because he was doing a shorter tour which allowed us time to explore on our own. During the reef tours we all would follow our guide to a location over the reef and the guide would explain a specific feature of the reef at that point. Because we were just floating in the water with our heads out so we could hear our guide, we were given pool noodles to give us extra floatation, which was nice during the tour, but a bit of a hassle when we struck out on our own. The tour was very informative and we were later able to go find some of the sites that Tim pointed out to us.

Lunch!

Lunch!

Lunch was awaiting us when we re-boarded the boat. While we ate a tasty lunch of sandwiches and salads, Alesha, a marine biologist guide gave us a talk on how the reef formed and things that are threatening it today (e.g., climate change). Again, very informative.

The 3rd and last site we visited on Opal Ref was a free snorkel, although we all followed Tim to the spot on the reef where the anemone grows that is home to the “Nemo” fish, made famous in the Disney movie Finding Nemo. Apparently, after the movie came out and was wildly popular, all sorts of people came to the reef and stole the anemone and the Nemo fish for city aquariums and personal fish tanks. This is one of the few placed where this particular fish and anemone can be found.

Two Nemo fish, the orange and white ones!

Two Nemo fish, the orange and white ones!

Jim diving down to get a clam to close up by waving his hand above it!

Jim diving down to get a clam to close up by waving his hand above it!

The ray!

The ray!

Tucker, Alison, Jim and I were the last ones out of the water after the hour at the 3rd site. All the other snorkelers were cold or tired or both! We didn’t want this trip to end. In addition to countless fish we didn’t know, we did see a nurse shark, a ray and a huge parrot fish!

This was an amazing adventure and has given us an appreciation of this World Heritage site. We only have positive things to say about Wavelength, our charter company. They were pleasant, helpful, informative and professional. We were back to Port Douglas around 5 PM, tired and hungry. Showers and snacks gave us the strength to go out to dinner, by the wharf area.

Celebratory cocktails at On the Inlet.

Celebratory cocktails at On the Inlet.

It has been a terrific day! Tomorrow we will work our way back to Cairns, where we have an 8 PM flight back to Melbourne.

Here are more photos from our GBR adventure.

Stern view back towards Port Douglas.

Stern view back towards Port Douglas.

Pretty fish.

Pretty fish.

School of larger fish.

School of larger fish.

VW Beetle-sized purple coral formation.

VW Beetle-sized purple coral formation.

Wavelenght waiting for us to return.

Wavelength waiting for us to return.

View of reef from the wheelhouse.

View of reef from the wheelhouse.

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7 comments on “GREAT Barrier Reef

  1. ttaber2@rochester.rr.com says:

    I am so glad the trip was not cancelled! Beautiful pics! Did you get a cover for your camera? The water looked pretty choppy. Glad you all did OK with that. It doesn’t surprise me that you were the last ones to return to the boat! Pretty amazing!

  2. jeannie says:

    Looks absolutely awesome!

  3. D'Alta says:

    Wow is absolutely right!! What a fantastic adventure!!

  4. D'Alta says:

    Just noticed the time of my post. I’ve been trying to figure out the time difference. It looks like it’s Sunday morning, church time there. I am loving every minute of your trip!!

  5. Kay says:

    We’re waiting to head to the lake on the 15th. Things are quiet here; most of our friends have gone. But am I bored?? No way, I’m touring Australia!! Thank you!!!!!!!

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