The Magnificent Barrier Reef

 

Really, it’s better than great, it’s magnificent.

Coming to Australia, I figured The Great Barrier Reef was a must see. So this morning I got on the boat with a few friends from my hostel and about 70 other people. There was also the flirtiest crew of dive instructors known to man. The first thing they did was to lead everyone in an orientation on the way out to the reef. The orientation was peppered with adoring comments to women onboard, expressions of appreciation for the invention of bikinis, and jokes towards Asians, Irish, Americans and Germans. It was hilarious and incredibly inappropriate at times.

I was doing two dives and snorkeling for the day. When we arrived at the reef I got my snorkel and flippers. I was properly accessorized and filled with dignity. Diving, I realized, is a strange thing because it requires you to work against all your instincts and allow yourself to sink to what my body thought was certain death. It is also, one of the only times it is beneficial to be mouth-breather. At first when I went to the ocean floor, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t getting enough air, I was surrounded and trapped by water. It was horrible and I didn’t want to continue. But I kept at it because the Italian instructor kept insisting, “darling, it will get better.” It did get better. I got a little more comfortable and descended again. I told myself not to panic and to breath. I had to consciously do this over and over. Then I saw the reef and it was so magnificent my curiosity overcame my fear and I was fine.

After today, I will never be able to see any color labeled “coral” without thinking how wrong it is. Coral is not just pink. It is every color and looks like a million different beautiful pastels in all textures from soft and fuzzy to sharp and deadly. There were fish swimming all over and they were as diverse as the coral. There were electric blue fish, silver fish, black and white fish, anemones, 3 foot clams and polka dot eels. It’s stunning to see. I hadn’t had a lot of expectations about what I would see when diving but I was completely blown away by what a lively circus it was. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful and amazing things I had ever seen.

After two dives I went back to meet up with my friends for snorkeling. I had to laugh at how different cultures on the boat approached the ocean and the sun. The Caucasians were all tanning on the deck in the relentless sun and swimming in the water. The Asians were marinating in sunscreen. They also had no shame about wearing water wings, even as adults. I saw a grown man wearing water rings and his intertube around his waist while lounging around the boat with his children. Another woman had dived and immediately changed into a glittery, lace sleeved black cocktail dress with a large straw hat. She spent the rest of the day avoiding the sun. The Asians have completely different standards of normal and are awesome because they rarely seem bashful or embarrassed. It was awesome to watch, but not as cool as the reef.

The rest of the day I spent snorkeling, which was surprisingly cool as well. You could see a lot in the reef which was near the surface. It was sort of mesmerizing. Once you started looking there were so many amazing things I had never seen before that I couldn’t look away. I was also surprised at how much life there was in the reef. There were schools of fish and lone fish everywhere you looked. The reef itself is alive. It’s funny because sometimes when I’d think a strange type of coral was solid it would move suddenly as I approached. I was disappointed when we had to come in for the day. I would have gladly spent the next few days there if I’d had the time. It had been one of the most incredible days of the last 8 months.