Tuesday, March 4

Number 4. Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef

So in fourth place for my favourites-slash-must see's, is snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef. 
Now I was lucky enough to do this a couple of times because I spent almost 4 months in Cairns which is the closest harbour to the reef, and the most popular place to do it, but also the Reef is accessible 
from loads of other different locations along the East Coast as you can see below. 
Therefore, I was also able to snorkel on Magnetic Island (off Townsville), and on the Whitsunday's boat trip.

In Cairns you are pretty much inundated with travel agency reps coming up to you asking if you have dived the reef or snorkelled yet. Even if you can manage to avoid these pesky salespeople then you still can't escape the numerous dive shops, underwater camera shops etc...
Cairns pretty much makes its living, it would appear, from the Great Barrier Reef.

There are a numerous different companies you can go with ranging in price, reef locations and time spent on the boat.
My first trip was a day trip with Deep Sea Divers which included an introductory dive, unlimited snorkelling, and snacks, lunch and entertainment, all at a cost of $160.
The second trip was cheaper at around $100 but without the intro dive.

It's important to know that as amazing an experience seeing the reef is, it definitively is not as colourful as one may hope. Put it this way, it's no Finding Nemo basically. And the visibility can largely depend on the weather. The reason I preferred snorkelling to the diving was that my ears hurt the further we descended. For most people, diving is the most exciting part, but for me snorkelling was more relaxed and enjoyable.

Snorkelling is also fairly easy to get used to, only takes about 5 minutes to get going, and with flippers on its easy to keep up with the fish that you are following.
On both my trips in Cairns I wasn't lucky enough to spot a shark or a turtle. But there are lots of colourful fish, some pretty big ones, and a good few rays hanging about for the most part.

When I took a trip on Tongarra, a Whitsundays sailing boat for a few days, we had the opportunity to snorkel several times too. This is another part of the Great Barrier Reef and we visited a little cove nicknamed "the aquarium" simply because there are so many different fish! 
You jump in and are immediately surrounded by hundreds. Especially if you take some fish food with you... watch those fingers!

My favourite snorkelling experience was when the boat visited another location called turtle bay, and from the boat you can see these giant turtles surfacing every so often.

Obviously when you are in the water snorkelling around its a little difficult to hear your peers yelling out of the boat for you to "swim here! swim there!" to locate these giant turtles.
But I was lucky enough to be swimming along in one part, where the visibility was quite bad..  and see a large shadow begin to emerge towards me. 
It was pretty scary at the time actually because all of a sudden this dark shadow becomes larger and larger and gets closer and closer until you bump into a giant turtle! I mean giant! This one had to be around a square metre in size!
Pretty darn cool, and as soon as it sees me infornt of it, it glides to avoid me and continues on its way...

Here are some pictures of what to expect, but unfortunately we were never great with the underwater camera so a lot of the fish escaped our snaps..

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