Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don’t Rock the Boat

Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to go to Australia. I got my diving certification with my dad when I was just 12 years old. Put both of those together and there you have my dream, to dive in the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest natural reef but also boasts the most biodiversity of nearly anywhere in the world. We got on the boat quite early at 7:30 am and set sail shortly after that. They gave us a safety briefing and passed around sea sickness tablets. Knowing myself, and the fact that I was not born with an iron stomach, I graciously accepted some. Lindsey was only able to do snorkeling because you had to be 12 to do an intro dive. Mina and Jared were able to do the intro dive program though and they loved it! They did 3 different dives but were not allowed to be down as deep or as long as my mom, dad and I.
Now for the fun stuff… and the not so fun. The wind was pretty bad and it was causing some massive waves. We had a really large boat but it was still rocking pretty good. I swear we all should have started singing “Don’t rock the boat baby”. It was really bad. Mina was the first to lose it. Before long over half the boat was praising the great porcelain gods. Lindsey and I were the only two from our family who survived the trip without sharing our food with the fish. Once we got out to the reef though it was really calm but those 40 minutes to the reef were a built in roller coaster ride. One awesome thing that made those 40 minutes worth it was that we saw a humpback whale! He was so cute! He kept slapping the water with his flippers so it looked like he was waving at us. He also would jump and fluke in front of the boat. A couple of dolphins even joined in the fun. We watched him for a while before we got to the reef. All the humpback whales are in Australia giving birth to their calves and enjoying the warmer waters. 
A Giant Moray Eel we saw
Time to dive below the water. We slid into our freezing cold wetsuits, put on our gear, and descended below the ocean waves. My mom had a bit of trouble getting down at first but then it all worked out. I could not believe how many fish there were! There was a huge variety of fish, coral, and sea slugs. Tucked away in a crevice I was lucky enough to see an octopus. The parrotfish were swimming around picking at the coral and I got a picture taken with some clownfish. My dad took tons of photos so I’ll be sure to put those up on Facebook later. It was so tranquil down there that I didn’t want to return to the surface. After nearly freezing to death one of the crew members gave me an extra wetsuit to put on. We had a mandatory 30 minute wait time before we could go back down again. That passed quickly and we suited up and dove down but went a different way along Milne’s reef. It is amazing how just a few feet away you can see completely different fish. 
White Tipped Reef Shark that was sleeping in the sand.
After this dive it was back into the boat to grab some grub and we went to the next reef for our last dive. It was great to get some warm food and hot cocoa in our systems. This boat also had WARM showers. I kid you not they were almost too hot at times. It felt amazing and I was so glad they had them. The crew was very helpful and friendly which made it fun to talk to them about their various adventures on the Great Barrier Reef. When we descended the waves for our last dive I was shocked at first… ummm where was the reef? There was nothing but sand below us but we soon spotted some shadows off in front of us. That is where we went. Giant coral landscapes and channels were there. It was breathtaking. We swam through some and saw the largest turtle I have ever seen in my life. It must have been about 5 feet long and about 4 feet across on its shell alone. Talk about an amazing specimen. (yes the nerd in me coming out again) We also so a couple of white tipped reef sharks sleeping on the sandy bottom and a small ray. The variety was stunning. It was so different from the other place we went it blew my mind away. I would definitely recommend this to anyone. It is a MUST SEE if you go to Australia. 
This turtle was huge! Seriously the biggest one I have ever seen.
The trip back was even bumpier than the way out there but for some reason or another we didn’t get sick at all, which was a huge relief. It was actually really fun! Mina went out on the front of the boat and got a bit of the ocean spray in her face. The waves were really big and the boat sometimes caught them just right so that it was almost like we were flying. It was bittersweet when we saw the mountains looming in the distance. It wasn’t far until shore now and that meant bye bye boat. It was definitely a chance of a lifetime and I loved every second of it. Guess I can check that one off my bucket list.
Random Fact: A ball of glass will bounce higher than a ball made of rubber.

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