My husband and I have snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef, and it was a most wonderful experience that I'd like to share with you. Firstly, a little background about the Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and really needs not only to be seen, but to be experienced. The incredible natural structure covers some 3,000km (1800 miles) and stretches from Fraser Island right up to the tip of the Cape of York. The reef envelopes an area that is bigger than the United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland combined. It is said that the complex natural ecosystems that exist in the Great Barrier Reef are one of the richest in the world and as such were declared a World Heritage Area in 1981.
The Coral Gardens as they are termed, are found within the length and breadth of the reef, and are home to the world’s largest variety of corals and over 1550 species of tropical fish. Marine mammals are abundant in the reef, and include the gracious dugong (also known as the sea cow) and several of world’s threatened marine turtles.
The Great Barrier Reef attracts visitors from all over the world and offers a very unique experience for both the basic snorkeler and experienced scuba diver.
I have snorkelled on the reef at a site called Agincourt Reef. This is considered to be one of the better sites for both snorkelling and diving. To get to Agincourt, there are a number of tourist operators that offer large catamarans that can speed you to the reef within 3 hours from Cairns. These fabulous cats are huge and offer air-conditioned comfort as well as a great lunch. The ocean can be a bit bumpy, especially at high tide when we were snorkelling, but you can still manage to see the underwater wonders.
Whilst travelling to the reef, the operators will show videos of what to expect, and also safety videos to enable visitors to get as much out of their day as possible. The travel time is about 3 hrs to the reef, and can be very bumpy. Some passengers suffered travel sickness during our trip. I find it best to sit in the centre of the boat (centre deck, centre of the ship) and still quite still for the duration.
The tour operators have huge pontoons that are anchored to the reef, and it is from here that you set off onto your snorkelling adventure. I am not a strong swimmer at all, and was a little apprehensive about snorkelling. But together with a very buoyant life vest and a fully roped area, and being fully supervised by qualified life savers, I felt very safe and was able to experience the wonders of the reef to the fullest.
You really need to be in the water to really experience the wonders of the reef. All the photographs in the world cannot prepare you for the explosion of colour you experience whilst snorkelling. And the fish were not shy at all, happily swimming in and around my legs.
There are other attractions available on the pontoon, for those who would rather not go in the water. An underwater observatory and semi-submersible craft are available so that everyone that makes it to the reef gets a chance to see the wonderful gardens of coral and fish.