Saturday, September 12, 2009

Playing in the Great Barrier Reef

By Swiss:

Being within a short boat ride of the great barrier reef inspired us to go have a snorkle on the 8th of September. Mind you, this is technically spring season, but the weather has been absolutely stunning (80's and sunny pretty much every day.)

Katie, our friendly host at JJ Backpackers, offered us multiple options to book a tour, although it was hard to ignore the fact that her heart was with ocean spirits cruises. I think it was the striped shirts the crew wear, but irrespective of that, we opted to go with them. AU$ 99 gets you a day on a catamaran sailboat including 3.5 hours of snorkeling in the reef, buffet lunch, coffee, tea, cake, glass of sparkling wine on the ride home, and as luck would have it, a pretty cool dude playing the guitar on the ride home. More on that later. For an extra $25, you could do an intro scuba dive, with basically means an instructor takes you down a couple meters in full scuba gear to experience a deeper location on the reef. Jason stuck to the snorkeling, I opted for the scuba dive as I wanted to see what it's like. As luck would have it, we got a free upgrade to Michaelmas Cay. Score.

Since neither of us a) had ever been to the great barrier reef and b) had an underwater camera, we decided it would be a good idea to rent one. It costs AU$45, not cheap, but that's the going price and they provide you with a CD of your pics after it's all said and done. Apparently the waterproof enclosures are pretty pricey. Irrespective, it was worth the cost, and the ones on the boats are limited, so it may behoove future travelers to rent one ahead of time, as we did.

Setting Sail

Tuesday arrived with us being dropped off at the pier by the hostel van at ~8am. We proceeded checking into the boat, where we were listed under “Rawson” for some reason, presumably due to a break in communication between Katie's proper UK English and whatever bloke took the reservation on the other end of the line.

The boat was a large catamaran sailboat, but it did have motors, which came in handy as there was absolutely no wind to be sailed with. Below are some pics on the boat, including the requisite brazilian rocking the speedo while getting his tan on. For the record, it was the only speedo on the boat.





The trip out to Michaelmas Cay was about 2 hours. I got my briefing on the intro scuba dive: breathe through your mouth, don't touch any buttons, pinch nose and blow to equalize pressure, and spit on your goggles, rub, and rinse, prior to your dive so as to avoid fogging them up - Motto “The Greener the Cleaner”, a handy way to determine the fog resistance of the goggles as a function of the color of your saliva . We anchored near the cay around 11am. The cay is a large sand island that apparently was created by animals depositing trash over years and years, eventually catching a bunch of sand. Birds brought in seeds from the land, which resulted in some foilage as well. Most of the cay is off limits to humans, as thousands of birds hang around there (and yes, they do poop on it.)




Jason went on the snorkeling tour, I opted for a solo snorkle, as I wanted to be back on the boat for lunch around 11:30 to get some food in me prior to my 1pm scuba dive. Alas, Jason got first dibbs on the underwater camera.



Here are some pics Jason took




Intro Scuba

After a hearty lunch abroad, including fish, potatoes, prawns, various salads, sandwich meats, etc (point is it was quite tasty)


I got ready for my dive. It's hard to describe, but bottom line is that it was awesome. Since I'm not certified, the instructor took 3 of us and we were constantly linked to him as he adjusted our flotation (the jackets inflate/deflate to change your buoyancy). He was linked into my right arm, which is also where the camera was, so my success was limited in taking pictures. Some samples below. More importantly, I'm pretty much set on getting my scuba license, an effort that likely will be undertaken in Thailand. Just absolutely amazing.




The final snorkle

We decided to do a final 30 minute snorkle near the cay so we could take some pics and video. I had spotted a sea turtle earlier, and part of the quest was to track it down. Flickr will have more pics, but see the following for some samples.




And most importantly, a movie of our friend the turtle:

Sailing back

The sail back (well, again, no sail per se due to lack of wind) was very relaxing and the weather was perfect. Nothing like sitting on a boat breathing in the breeze while taking in the scenery (minus the guy in the speedo) without a worry in the world, After tea and cake, Dale, the crew musician, set up his amp, plugged in his guitar, and serenaded us with live music as we sailed back to port.


About half way through, the crew came out with a glass of sparkling wine for everybody (juice for the kids), which was thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the deck, breathing fresh sea air, while listening to Dale jamming. What a day :)


Unknown said...

Awesome! I was too young to remember for sure, but I feel like Michaelmas might have been the exact same place that we went. Glad you guys enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Diving in SE Asia is some of the best in the world. There's also good diving off the east coast of west Malaysia, and in the Andaman Sea off Phuket. The Red Sea in Egypt is also world renowned.

hungeryjack said...

Nice post - great barrier reef photos ..Keep Posting

great barrier reef photos

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