I have three words for you: Great Barrier Reef. The largest reef system in the world and I got to spend a day on it snorkeling.
The Great Barrier Reef is made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, covering approximately a total area of 133,000 square miles which makes it the largest living structure that can be seen from outer space. Coral reefs are made out of thousands of living sessile organisms. Being a major in zoology, part of my class requirements is to take invertebrate biology. Considering invertebrates make up 97% of all animal species, the majority of those being marine, I was actually excited to see what I’d learned last semester put to good use. So far this semester, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I remember.
Our morning in Cairns began early, but the excitement for what awaited us made up for the lack of sleep. On our boat, fruit and bacon and egg sandwiches were provided for breakfast. Lunch later on consisted of rice, potatoes, noodles, salad and bread rolls. On board there was also a marine biologist to answer any questions we had about any of the marine animals we were going to possibly see. After his brief presentation, I was most excited with the prospect of seeing a sea turtle, reef shark, manta ray or, at the very least, a fish the same size as me.
At both our destinations, we had about an hour and a half stay at each reef. My first half hour I spent pretty much alone snorkeling since a couple of my friends went diving and I kept losing track of the other two. I knew how to snorkel, but I’d never done it in the open ocean before, therefore, I was a bit nervous at first. When I put my face in the water, however, and began swimming, my breath was blown away by the alien beauty of the deep blue. Unfortunately, the day was cloudy so the sun didn’t quite reach very far to light up all the different corals and instead everything appeared blue and washed out. I didn’t let that ruin my day, however.
I was unable to see anything really neat, but I did see a lot of reef fish. I can’t complain though because I did what few people will ever get the chance to do. My friends and I did manage to get a glimpse of a moray eel in a leftover shell of a giant clam. My friends, who’d gone diving did also manage to see a reef shark which I’m super jealous and relieved about at the same time.
All in all, it was a great day and a rather unique way to spend my Easter Sunday. I’m not regretting the fact that I didn’t get to see anything really awe inducing, but it would have been nice after I’d travelled half way around the world to experience that which was one of a lifetime. I guess I’ll just have to go back again someday!