Saturday, September 17, 2016

Snorkeling On the Great Barrier Reef

Here comes our ride to the Great Barrier Reef
Although Dennis had signed us up for scuba diving lessons and we both were certified before leaving on this adventure, I prefer snorkeling. I really don't like going deep and can see enough from the surface. I did a dive in Bora Bora two years ago, but not since then. Of course, you can't come to the Great Barrier Reef and not going exploring in the water.

Several of the WARC yachts sailed out to Bait Reef where the scuba boats take divers. A number of WARC boats carry their own scuba gear. We chose the easy way: berth the boat in the marina and take a day tour out to the reef. It turned out to be a lovely day trip complete with breakfast, lunch and snacks and included wetsuits and snorkeling gear. No hassles with anchoring, permits, etc.

The trip out to the reef took two hours on a huge catamaran. On the way out and back we saw numerous whales. These are some of their birthing grounds. One mother was comfortable enough to allow her baby to swim between her and the tour boat. This was quite unusual.

Every year the whales migrate up from Antarctica to the South Pacific Islands and the Coral Sea to give mate and return the following year to give birth and teach their calves survival skills. In the fall, they will swim all the way back to the Antarctica and stay until the next season when they repeat the cycle. The ocean is full of these amazing and entertaining creatures. They do not show in the photos as they are too far away for my underwater camera.

Once we got to a place called Reef World, which is a large floating pontoon at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef just east of Hamilton Island, the fun began. First, we boarded a submersible viewing vessel that took us along the wall of the reef. A marine naturalist explained the reef system and identified coral and sea life passing by us. Since we were at low tide, we were viewing the lower part of the reef where we would not go just snorkeling.

One of the few passages through the reef.
After a nice buffet lunch on the catamaran, we went to the platform and donned our snorkeling attire. The wetsuit helped keep us warm so we could stay in the water much longer. We swam along the reef for over an hour and then worked our way back to the platform.

Much to my surprise, when I first jumped in from the platform, I found myself surrounded by beautiful blue fish. I am fascinated by the various blues in nature. Other than the sky and the oceans there is not a lot of blue in nature. Swimming along with a camera and trying to focus on fast moving fish while keeping yourself off the reef itself was challenging with the current. So most photos are a lucky break when it turns out well.  

Unfortunately we were not close enough to take this shot!

Reef World at Hardy Reef

The view from Google Earth
On the way back to Hamilton Island Marina, we saw many more whales. Since the vessel was not a registered whale watching vessel, we had to slow down and let the whales have the right of way, so to speak. There are rules about approaching whales for your safety and theirs.
The Hamilton Island Yacht Club looks like a manta ray.

All in all, it was a great day and worth the price.

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