The Great Barrier Reef

Trip Start Jan 19, 2013
Trip End Apr 12, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Saturday, March 9, 2013

Today we went to the Great Barrier Reef and it was SO amazing. We got up early to lovely weather and headed to the marina point where we checked in and then waited among the masses going onto an array of other tours. We were going on the Ocean Freedom boat which we had heard very good things about. With the blue sky above us and sun shining down with heat, we thought we were in for a lovely day. It wasn't completely that but you'll find out.

When it was time, we headed down the boarding area to the Ocean Freedom where we were greeted and invited to have a piece of patisserie and some fruit along with either tea, coffee or water. This was our free breakfast and since there was some left after everyone had eaten, I had another bakery thing.

We then just had to store our stuff away along with our shoes and then get comfy whilst they prepped the boat and took us on the one hour journey out into the reef. The journey was quite bumpy and there was some rain along the way so everyone was told they had to go indoors. It was quite a fun journey though. Along the way we were given a safety briefing about snorkelling and also just for those who had paid for it (that was us too), about doing our first dive. They were all really friendly and re-assuring and it was good to know that for everyone two people there would be a qualified diver. We were also told our group numbers and for us that was group 5.

Once we arrived at the reef, we were split up into the groups which would be doing the different activities first. For us, we were put onto this glass boat tour. All it was really was a boat with small glass windows at the bottom where you could see the reef without getting wet. It was pretty pointless as we were about to go into the water to see it up close for ourselves but there was one elderly passenger who wasn't going to snorkel or dive so this was her only chance to see the reef. It didn't last that long and after that we went back onto the boat and were allowed to go for a snorkel. We donned a stinger suit, life vest, flippers and our snorkel and goggles and then climbed into the sea. We separated from each other so I can only say what I saw which was the beautiful reef and lots of fish. Although the water was murky, I found a sea turtle and lots of unusual looking corals. What was amazing was swimming so close to all of the corals and fish and how it's such a completely different world to anything we have seen before.

We both must have spent a good hour and a half out in the sea I think just swimming around to see what we could find. I bumped into a sea turtle and a few jellyfish which were pretty gross.

We headed back to the boat where we were told that it was time for our dive! We waited around a little bit whilst they got us ready and assigned us to a qualified diver. We got a lovely lady whose name I have forgotten but once we had put on the weights, oxygen tank, flippers, and mask, we went to the back of the boat and jumped into the sea. There we held onto a diver's rail which lowered us into the sea with the help of the diver controlling our buoyancy. It was quite unusual to be diving in the sea and a weird sensation at first but then you get used to it more. We saw quite a lot of stuff on our short 20 minute dive including NEMO! Clown fish are so small but very cute and we saw a baby one with an adult one so maybe that was Nemo and his Dad? We also touched some of the coral and saw quite a few other kinds of fish. I can't say how amazing it was to be diving among such a completely different world. Our diver always held one of our hands each to make us feel safe and always made sure we were comfortable. The dive was over in no time but we will definitely remember it for a long time.

We climbed out of the sea onto the steps and everything suddenly weighed a ton so it was a little struggle to get back on the boat. They then took everything off us and let us grab lunch which was ready and what a spread it was! They had fresh king prawns which were delicious, smoked salmon, chicken drumsticks, bread, a range of salads, cold meats, cheeses and quite a bit more. It all tasted really good and I went up for seconds and there was still tonnes of food left. The fresh fish for me was definitely the best bit!

After lunch, we had a short rest and then were taken to a different location where we could snorkel some more. We gave it about 45 minutes to let dinner settle before donning the stinger suits, floater jackets, flippers and snorkel before hopping onto their small boat to be taken out to a good part of the reef. It was only about 50 metres away from the boat and the woman who dived with us gave a small tour for everyone. We saw more Nemos and a sea turtle and other fish/corals. I then abandoned the group to follow the sea turtle to try and catch a photo with him and successful I was. He had to come up for air on two occasions and I almost crashed into him but thankfully didn't. He was so lovely though and I hope our photos come out good.

I then swam back to the boat where I was one of the last back. We got changed out of the suits and dried ourselves off ready for the journey back. They brought round a fruit platter and then had a platter of different sliced cakes which were really good and also a cheese and cracker platter too. We were very full by the end.

It took about an hour to get back to the marina and it was a rather bumpy journey. We got back safely though and on time. All the crew stood on the marina and shook our hands and said goodbye as we departed which was a little cheesy but friendly.

Back at Gilligans Hannah knocked on our door and asked if we were up for a BBQ this evening for dinner. She said they had seen Lorraine and Phil and Karl who all seemed interested. We organised to meet in half an hour downstairs to go and buy food. Sadly Phil and Karl said they were stuck in Peter Pans and so couldn't come at the moment so it was just us, Hannah, Nicole and Lorraine. We got some cheap burgers from Woolworths, some salad and rolls which only cost us a few dollars each. We then went down to the lagoon and found a free BBQ thing there which are free for the public to use and started cooking the burgers.

They were really good and it was quite fun to have a BBQ with them. Once we had finished, it started raining a bit so we rushed back to the hostel and discussed what to do. We ended up going to a bar/club called The Woolshed (just like our hostel!) where they had a dance completion which was pretty funny. We didn't have any drinks except free water and had a little dance before sitting down and chatting for a bit. After about half an hour we left and went back to Gilligans and said goodnight.

We were both feeling hungry though so we decided to head back out to grab something to eat. We ended up at a Pie Face where a lovely man helped us decide what to order. I eventually went for a Thai Chicken Curry Pie and then a brownie with free ice cream (complimentary of him and my discretion) and Jennie had a spinach and cheese roll and a special $1 cookie. Bargains all round! We ate our food outside the restaurant and then went back to the hostel and finally went to sleep. A very good day!
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