Under the Sea

Last week we visited the Great Barrier Reef. Okay, we actually only visited a tiny piece of the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is huge. It is roughly the same size as Texas. Imagine Texas as a coral reef. We visited Wink, Texas. Basically, we saw the Wink Sinks of the Great Barrier Reef, and it was incredible.

To get to the Great Barrier Reef, you need to book a tour. We went with Cairns Dive Center, and had a great time. I wish I could say that we researched and shopped around, but we really didn’t. We simply walked into one of the many tour booking companies in Cairns and told an employee that we wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef, and specifically that we wanted to snorkel and do an introductory dive. The friendly young woman handed us a brochure for one of the dive companies. She recommended it because they have exclusive access to this part of the reef, and because they stop at one place that is a bit deeper (for diving) and another that is shallower (for snorkeling). But they were asking $230 per person – more than we wanted to pay. So we thanked her, took the brochure, and walked on.

As we walked past the next tour booking company, a young man stopped us and, seeing the brochure in our hand, asked us if we were going out to the reef. We explained our qualms with the price. He asked what we would pay for it. Patrick and I looked at each other for a second before Patrick said, hesitantly, “$180?” The salesman instantly agreed, which left us wondering how low we could have gone.

In any case, we booked it. It was just about the cheapest price I had seen for a tour with an introductory dive, and we are only beginners so any part of the reef was probably going to be fine for us. All I really wanted to see was sea cucumbers, after all, and there were plenty of those.

One thing I was sure I wanted to do before going out, and something I strongly recommend to you if you find yourself in Cairns, was to attend Reef Teach. Reef Teach is a wonderful program designed to inform people about the Great Barrier Reef. It is a presentation put on each evening (except Sundays and Mondays) that lasts a few hours. The cost is $23 per person, and that includes snacks (I’m a sucker for snacks) as well as identification sheets for coral and fish you might find at the reef. The presentation is put on by a marine biologist, and is really very entertaining. You will learn about the different types of coral and sea creatures on the reef. You will also get some tips for where to spot certain animals when you are out there. It really made us appreciate what we were seeing when we were snorkeling and diving. Seriously, if you are thinking about visiting the Great Barrier Reef do this. It’s worth it.

Back to the Wink Sinks of the Great Barrier Reef. The first stop the boat made is called the Fish Bowl. There was some great snorkeling here, and we tried diving. We didn’t see any large creatures, although other people on the boat saw some sea turtles, a barracuda, and a large ray so they were out there. I think I was just too distracted by the sea cucumbers to notice. The next stop was at a little sandy island, or cay. This stop didn’t have as much coral as the first stop, but we did see a little ray. Most of the people from the boat swam over to the island and relaxed in a little lagoon area there, which was very beautiful. Patrick and I swam to the island, but then just turned around and snorkeled some more. We only had 45 minutes there, and I didn’t come all the way to the Great Barrier Reef to work on my tan. All in all, it was a great trip. I would go back in a heartbeat if Australia wasn’t so expensive.

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