While in Cairns recently I had the opportunity to boat out to the outer reef of the Great Barrier Reef and do some snorkeling and SCUBA diving via Passions of Paradise! I had always dreamed of SCUBA diving and have been wanting to get my license for a while now so I was very unprepared for what actually happened when I dove…
It was me and a bunch of friends hopping on to the boat early in the morning (hungover from partying the previous night) and what happened was not pretty. A few of us got really terribly sea sick and were sitting with brown bags at the front of the boat for the entire 2 hour voyage to the outer reef. I was fortunately not sick at this point and jumped at the chance to snorkel around Michaelmas Cay, a protected island and bird sanctuary. Saying that it is an island is kind of pushing it considering you can probably run around the island in a hot 10 minutes. It is basically a stretch of white sand teeming with birds.
The water was pretty warm and calm, with corals and sponges in view right below you only mere feet from the shore. The reef around the island is popular spot for sea turtles, and we were lucky enough to be graced by one’s presence. I’ll never forget what it felt like to be swimming right along such a beautiful creature! There were also tons of colorful fish of all sizes. A favorite were the rainbow parrot fish we saw nibbling on coral.
Immediately after snorkeling it was time to dive. At this point I was pretty tired from swimming around and had swallowed a fair amount of sea water so the dehydration was too real. We were warned initially about becoming dehydrated from diving because the oxygen in our tanks was very dry. Having no time to drink water or rest before diving I got super sick as soon as I hit the water again. We dove down to a depth of 6 meters and saw huge sea sponges and little clownfish (Nemos) playing around the anemones. Then it happened: I threw up…all over the Great Barrier Reef. I just couldn’t stop it from coming and ended up feeding the fish for a few minutes while 6 meters deep under the ocean. Needless to say that was the low point for me on the trip, literally.
Besides the whole fish feeding mess it was truly an experience that I will never forget, and I hope that it’s not my last time visiting the Great Barrier Reef. It is frightening to think about the rapid rate of decline that our beautiful reef environments are facing worldwide. Thanks to human-related pollution there is no marine environment on this Earth that we can say is, by definition, pristine. We should each try to do our small part in protecting our oceans and that means no littering or flushing anything other than human waste down the toilet, and cutting down on our use of plastics (especially plastic water bottles!)
If you would like to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef and the efforts to protect it you can visit any of these sites: