The Amazingly Great Barrier Reef

Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
Trip End Mar 24, 2011

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Where I stayed
Ann's House

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One of the 'must see' areas on my list in Australia was without a doubt, the Great Barrier Reef.  This is the world's largest coral reef ecosystem and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.  The reef is located off the coast of Queensland in Australia and it is the world's largest structure composed of living organisms.  It is a huge area made up of almost 3000 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching over 1600 miles.

I was really keen to see the Great Barrier Reef but as a non-swimmer and confirmed hydrophobe - I wasn't keen about getting into the water to see the marine life and amazing coral reefs.  I sourced out several reef tour companies at the Cairns tourist centre to find a tour that worked best for me and was really lucky to find an excellent day long tour that accommodated both swimmers and non-swimmers.  I went with Reef Magic tours which left the docks at Cairns at 9 AM and came back at 5 PM.  We took a tour boat out to Moore Reef where the tour company has a pontoon platform as a base for exploring the surrounding reefs.  The pontoon had food service areas as well as snorkling and diving areas and a sundeck on the top for relaxing and enjoying the area and the weather.  There is also an underwater observatory as well as a glass bottomed boat and a semi-submersible vehicle that provided tours throughout the day of the local reef and marine life.

As the weather has been quite variable recently in Cairns, this day started out cloudy but quite warm and humid and on the 90 minute sail out to the reef, the heavens opened up and it just poured rain.  Luckily, when we arrived at the Marine World pontoon area at the reef, the rain had stopped and the rest of the day was cloudy with sunny breaks with really warm temperatures.  It was a great day of exploring the reefs, coral and sealife on the glass bottomed boat and the semi-submersible as well as enjoying great food and relaxing on the sundeck.  The tours of the reef afforded amazing views of colorful, swaying coral as well as giant clams, zillions of brightly colored fish, reef sharks, sea cucumbers, jellyfish and squid.  I hadn't realized that coral is a living entity but it is and there are both firm types of coral and soft coral that moves in the water as you pass.  There were huge barracuda fish swimming alongside the semi-submersible as well as tiny bright blue fish, angelfish and little 'Nemo' clownfish hiding in their anemones.  Sea cucumbers lay on the bottom of the reefs and they provide reef cleaning services, making sure the bottom of the area is pristine.

We passed areas of coral that were all but destroyed by the recent cyclone, Yasi, that blew through the area in early February, leaving a swath of destruction.  These were areas of coral that were brown, colorless and seemingly dead, but our guide pointed out that there were small white points on the end of the coral fingers which indicated that it was trying to regenerate.  It was a good sign that there were fish swimming and feeding in that area of the reef so hopefully over time, things will be revitalized where there was such natural destruction.

The colors of the coral and the sealife were amazing and vibrant and you could just never get enough of watching the fish and other marine life under the water.  It was such an enjoyable day even as a non-swimmer that I can only imagine how incredible the reef must have appeared to those who also snorkelled and dove in the area.  This is truly one of the world's most unique and beautiful areas and as ecological experts predict that the Great Barrier Reef is endangered because of issues such as climate change, over fishing, damage due to shipping lanes and pollution,  this was an incredible opportunity to see a disappearing but fantastic part of Australia and the world.
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