Out on the Reef

My first two snorkeling trips with Ocean Rafting took me to the Inner Reef, which is the part of the Great Barrier Reef that fringes the coast (in this case, the area that surrounds the Whitsunday islands). As I noted in my previous post, these trips involved going out on a fast, loud pontoon boat:Thunderstruck-2640_2309x1732_2686835.jpg

We traveled roughly forty-five minutes to Hook Island, which has a couple of terrific reef spots. Thanks to helpful guides with Go Pros (and the willingness to exchange their photos for a bit of cash), I am able to share a bit of what I saw at Saba Bay. First of all, we found Nemo!

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I feel a particular attachment to clownfish because I did a report about them in third grade, prior to our class visit to Mystic Aquarium (so my relationship to clownfish and the movie”Finding Nemo” is similar to that of people who say, “I knew that band before they were famous …”). It’s pretty exciting to see them — and the waving anemones are an added bonus.

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I also spent a lot of time trying to get a good look at this giant clam (depending on which guide you believe, it is either over a hundred or a thousand years old):

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Unfortunately, underwater photography of the amateur variety cannot do it justice.

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The other thing that I really loved were the corals. Who knew that corals could be more interesting than fish?

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But the real treat was going to the Outer Reef, the part of the reef that sits out in the open ocean. To get there, I went with with Explore Group to Bait Reef. This was a long trip. From Airlie Beach, we started with a hour-long boat ride to Hamilton Island (a fancy, expensive resort island in the Whitsundays; it has too many high rises for my taste, but I did like that the port had a building that looks like a giant ship).

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There, we then boarded another ship…

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…which would take us on our two-hour journey, out past the little beaches and coves of the Whitsunday islands …IMG_5175

… and into the open ocean. Once there, we all donned wetsuits (the water is colder in the Outer Reef), put on our snorkel gear, and hopped in!

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From above, on a perfectly sunny and calm day, the Outer Reef looks like this:

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But beneath the water — wow! Words cannot do it justice (nor could a Go Pro, if anyone around me had had one). This was a magical visit. I saw a giant sting ray, fish galore, more coral than I ever imagined existed, and my first shark! (The jury is out on whether it was a a leopard shark or a white-tipped reef shark.) The good news is that it didn’t eat me, though I did feel suitably nervous when it turned around and started swimming in my direction.

I was so sorry to leave! If it weren’t so expensive to take these trips, I would have continued going out every day.

 

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