Part I: Personal Experience
It was another distinctly sunny day in Sydney, Australia when I, along with my brother and my parents, made my way to the Sydney International Airport to catch a flight to Cairns. Cairns is championed by the Australian people not only for being a cultural symbol, but also for its iconic representation of nature’s beauty. Commonly referred to as the ‘gateway city’, Cairns boasts the entrance to two of the world’s most beloved and breathtaking natural wonders: the Australian Wet Tropics rainforest band, and the famous Great Barrier Reef.
Hours later, my family and I arrived at a dock where we would wait, along with dozens of other families, for a boat ride to our final destination. Eventually, a mid-sized white boat slowly drifted to the lines of people overcrowding the dock. One by one, we filled the boat, eager to experience the reef with our own eyes. The boat took us to a floating blue and white pontoon away from the shore and surrounded by bright, blue-green water.
The pontoon was enormous; it was able to fit what seemed like an entire town of reef enthusiasts. For a while, everybody walked around, taking in the sight of the endless sea as much as they possibly could. But nobody was on that boat purely to sightsee, at least not the younger group. A handful of children went straight to snorkeling, while my family and I tried something different in the meantime.
The pontoon housed several yellow semi-submersible machines that docked at the end of the boat. The instructors took them out one by one and started them up. These scooter-type vehicles functioned exactly as a real bicycle would. To get in, the instructors gestured for us to go underwater, then rise above under the machine helmet. It was an odd and confusing process, but it worked, and we could see clearly without being affected by the water. Once we were inside, we took a quick tour around a couple of corals, accelerating and stopping along the way. Although we were secured by a cable, we were free to move around. These ‘bikes’ are known as ‘Scooba Doos’ and were a fun way to experience local coral life. We even got lucky enough to snap a photo with nearby humphead wrasse fish, and at times, we were able to touch them.
Our next mission was to experience the longest, most colorful snorkel dives we could possibly achieve. So, we all headed towards the equipment area of the raft and grabbed a bright orange vest and snorkeling gear hoping that it would fit us, and lined up at the snorkel platform. Several tourists stayed nearby the boat and socialized, but my and my brother wanted more. So, a kind cruise staff member guided us farther out and took us on a personal tour. On the tour, my brother and I spotted a baby shark, and we followed it around. We stumbled upon a larger group of them, and they circled around on the ocean floor.
And to say that it was a fantastic experience would be an understatement. Everything from the array of colors, to the variety in species of coral, to the circles of sharks, and even to the glaring sun amounted to nothing short of incredible. It’s safe to say that no other natural experience could match the satisfaction nor the feeling that we all had after the full reef tour.
All I can say is that no matter your curiosities or fears, this is an experience of a lifetime. It is entirely worth the effort and I suggest it to anyone who may be considering. After observing the Great Barrier Reef, I learned about the threatening environmental effects that put the area at risk. I instantly became motivated to spread awareness and help conserve this marine ecosystem.
Stay tuned for Part II and Part III of this series, where we’ll discuss more information about the Great Barrier Reef, including the issues that concern its future as well as possible solutions.
All images are mine unless otherwise specified. Pictures not owned by me are attributed to the correct source and is not displayed as mine.
4:15 PM EST