The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a wonder we'll be lucky to have in a few generations. We knew we had to see the Reef, but we had no idea where to begin looking for a company to take us out. We had two recommendations from two different friends and instead of heading to the internet like normal millennials, we went old school and walked between the two companies. After speaking to both, we realized that they're all virtually the same and without knowing anything about the Reef, we had no way of knowing which dive spots would be better than others. Mostly out of laziness, we decided to forego the walk back to option one and booked with option two, Passions of Paradise.
We couldn't have been happier with out choice. Every staff member, aboard the boat and on land, was friendly and helpful. The boat itself, a catamaran, was spacious and felt quite luxurious. We were greeted with tea, coffee, and mini muffins(!!!!), enjoyed a hot lunch with plenty of salads and even a vegan option to choose from, and ended the trip with cheese and crackers. Passions scored major points with me on the food front, but at the end of the day we were there to dive, not eat. Luckily, they made that experience wonderful as well!
I've been scuba diving once before, in Koh Tao, but other than that I have no experience. I psyched myself out and woke up pretty nervous for the dive. One of the really great things about visiting the Great Barrier Reef is that you don't have to be a certified diver to get your scuba on. The crew made me feel so relaxed and after a few short skills tests we were unda da sea! We linked arms with an instructor, dove about ten meters to the sea floor and swam around for a while. After coming up, we ate our delicious lunch (a little rushed, but we were the last to dive so we forgave them) while motor to another close by mooring line, the second dive spot. This time, we made sure to get in the water as fast as possible so we could stay under as long as possible. We went with another instructor, and since we were pretty much advanced divers after our first 10 minute session, we skipped the skills tests and went straight down. We saw some cool fish, but mostly just enjoyed breathing underwater and pretending we were mermaids.
Scuba diving is a pretty surreal experience and I think I'd like to get certified so I can dive more independently and go deeper. However, at the Great Barrier Reef, at least on the type of tours we were looking in to (day trips for tourists, not experienced divers), you could see just as many fish snorkeling as you could diving. In fact, I think there are a few advantages to snorkeling that you miss when you're diving. Talking being the biggest thing. Communicating under water is difficult. So, my point is, if you don't feel the need to dive on the Reef or you're on a tight budget, snorkeling would be the perfect option.
The Reef itself
It's no secret that the Reef isn't what it used to be. Due mostly to raising water temperatures, the coral is bleaching itself, the process in which it rids itself of the algea growing on its surface. The alge gives the coral its vibrant colors as well as all of its nutrients and without it, the coral goes white, or bleached, and eventually dies. The area of the Reef that we went to (somewhere in the East and about 2.5 hours from Cairns) was supposedly one of the best snorkel and dive spots out there. Don't get me wrong, it was pretty great being out on the Reef and realizingI was finally experiencing something so many people travel far and wide to see, but the damage was more extensive than I had anticipated. That, or my expectations were simply too high. The coral was incredibly muted and although there were a lot of fish feeding on it, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. Which in turn made me feel like a terrible person. The Reef isn't there to entertain or amaze us. It's a living, breathing natural wonder that we've taken for granted. So yes, I was underwhelmed; it's colors didn't blow my mind, I didn't see any crazy cool fish, I felt it was a bit overrated compared to other Reefs I've explored (i.e. the BVIs). But I walked away respecting the immensity of this ecosystem, humbled by its resiliency, feeling slightly ashamed for being so superficial, and feeling incredibly lucky to have seen the Reef at all. I just read somewehre that if you trade in your expectations for appreciation, your whole world changes. If we can all just remember this simple practice, the world would be a more beautiful place.
Prices (including food, coffee, and tea)
- All day (8-5) snorkel: $174 AUD
- All day (8-5) dive: $219 AUD
- Second snorkel: free!
- Second dive: $45 AUD (apparently there was a promotion on, and normally the second dive is around $70 AUD)