Hubby and I have a problem…. I’m basically a fish and Hubby is afraid of water. (He just corrected me. Apparently he’s not afraid of water. He’s afraid of dying in water.)
But we were in Cairns, Australia, one of the best places to experience the Great Barrier Reef, and, well…. I HAD to snorkel!
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure (at 133,000 square miles, it is even visible from space), and is one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems (including many endangered species, and species that are only found there). It is also threatened by climate change, pollution, overfishing, and invasive species. Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the health of this ecosystem, as mass bleaching events are becoming more common.
So I talked Hubby into it. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
We boarded the boat that morning and sat at a table next to a window so we could enjoy the 45 minute trip to the reef. Before we departed, we had to remain in our seats for the staff to triple count the passengers. Apparently strict safety precautions have to be followed after divers/snorkelers were left on the reef overnight, even leading to a couple’s death (as highlighted in the movie Open Water).
The trip out to the reef was choppy, to say the least. After about 15 minutes some of the passengers were vomiting uncontrollably, including children who were (understandably) howling at the tops of their lungs. The staff tried to keep everyone’s minds off of their stomachs with a presentation about safety and the kinds of marine life we would see on the reef. I was glad I took Dramamine.
But when we arrived at the reef all was right with the world. Holy crap, we were on the Great Barrier Reef! Snorkeling, baby!!!
I was nervous for Hubby. He’s been accommodating over the years with my water fascination, and has even started to enjoy himself while rafting and kayaking. But I’ve also seen him have panic attacks, once in a kayak while it was still on the beach and another time on a dock at the Red Sea in Jordan, as we were preparing to snorkel.
So it was with excitement and trepidation that we put on our gear and headed to the deck.
I apparently shouldn’t have worried about him. Once his face was in the water he was like a kid, exploring the awesomeness of the reef.
The boat was docked at the company’s section of the reef, and a lifeguard made sure no one ventured beyond the large roped-off area. But, due to wear and tear over time from the mass number of tourists behaving badly, the reef near the dock had significant damage. So we headed as far away from the dock as we were allowed to go.
We saw a huge diversity of gorgeous corals (some of which were bleaching at the tips). Clownfish. Giant parrotfish, which we could hear chomping on coral. Lionfish. Eels. Starfish and sea urchins.
And then we saw the turtle! It was soooo beautiful, hovering over the reef to eat algae, and periodically shooting to the surface to quickly take a breath of air before descending again. We must’ve watched the turtle for at least 20 minutes.
Then I noticed Hubby was missing, and I nervously looked around, expecting the worst. I finally saw him, quickly (for him) swimming away from me. And then I saw why. He was chasing a shark! I kid you not. My afraid-of-water husband was trying to catch a shark on the Great Barrier Reef. I wasn’t sure whether to relax or not!
After breaking for lunch we went at it again, happily spending the rest of the day with our faces in the water.
When it was time to call it a day, we turned in our equipment and sat in our seats while the staff triple-counted again. (During this time, Hubby and I imagined how scary a night alone on the reef must’ve been for those ill-fated divers.) After everyone was accounted for, we headed back through the choppy waters home, tired and happy (and, for me at least, quite sunburned).
The GBR is deservedly one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, and we are honored to have experienced it, if only briefly. Hubby is certainly glad he was able to overcome his fear. I hope humanity can find the will and the way to save this incredible ecosystem, for the benefit of all of us.
But I still can’t believe Hubby chased a shark!
What do you think? Share your snorkeling or diving stories in the comments below!