I am not a huge fan of water. I hate it when it rains, I don’t have fond memories of being around lakes, and I was never really excited to hang out poolside during my summers as a kid. However, one type of water that I do enjoy is the ocean. Besides loving the beach (as I wrote about in a previous blog post), there’s something about the ocean that intrigues me. Maybe it’s because I live bum-smack in the middle of the country and miles and miles from any ocean, but every time I have the chance to be around an ocean I get extremely excited.
Probably my favorite and most unique ocean experience so far has been when I went snorkeling for the first time. I’d never been snorkeling, but I’d always wanted to try it. A perfect opportunity came about when my mom and I visited Australia in July of 2015. The first place we went to in Oz was Cairns, which is a resort-style town in the north east coast of the country. Cairns is a popular gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. There are a million and one different companies that run tours out to the reef from Cairns, so we did some research and ended up going with a company called Ocean Spirit Cruises because it went out to a more secluded cay beach on the reef. (More secluded = less people).
The day of our tour, we got really lucky. The waters were not rough that day and it wasn’t freezing cold. Note, it was winter in Australia at the time, but the tropical winter of Cairns is nothing compared to winters I’m used to. We boarded the catamaran and, after some safety presentations (I know am fully aware of how to properly put on a life vest), we were off to the reef! It was about a three-hour boat ride, which was the longest boat ride I’d ever been on. Once we neared Michaelmas Cay, they started fitting everyone in wetsuits and snorkel gear. We wore lycra suits (to prevent from coral and animal stings) underneath our wetsuits — even though it was warmish outside, the winter ocean was cold.
Getting into my lycra suit, wetsuit, flippers and snorkel mask was an experience in and of itself. The flippers were definitely the most awkward and cumbersome things I have ever tried to walk in. My mom and I had booked a snorkel tour, so once we got off on the beach of the cay, we met up with our guide, Elliott. There was one other American family of three on the tour with us. Man, what an amazing experience it was to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef.
Finding Nemo had long been my favorite Pixar movie, so seeing the long stretches of colorful coral and watching schools of fish swim around me was the most incredible thing. It took a second to get used to breathing with the snorkel mask, but once I figured it out there was nothing stopping me. Everywhere I looked it was just so vibrant and full of life. My only regret was that we didn’t get to see any sea turtles, and apparently the afternoon tour saw seven. But, oh well. Maybe next time.
I think part of why I loved snorkeling the GBR so much was because it was the first time I was actually seeing all of this coral and wildlife in person. You see so much about life under the sea and the GBR in movies and on TV, but not a lot of people actually get there in their lifetimes. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget, and now I am keen on going snorkeling in more places. And, who knows, maybe I’d be up to try diving!
I filmed my snorkel adventure with a GoPro, check out that video: