Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Great Barrier Reef

Today was one of the days we most looked forward to on this trip - seeing the Great Barrier Reef. We booked an excursion with Tusa 6 after looking at many options. They came recommended by the tourist information center as well as over 1,100 reviews on TripAdvisor that rated the company as 4.5 out of 5 stars. That is pretty impressive. While the boat can legally hold 120 passengers, they never take out more than 60. That is still a large group, but we appreciated the fact that a larger boat would be a little more stable on the ocean, and they have access to 16 different reef locations so they can choose the ones that are most suitable for that day's weather forecast. The other companies only have two spots they can ever go to, regardless of the weather.

We left our apartment at 7:30 to walk to the pier as boarding began at 7:40 and the boat was to depart at 8. As it ended up, there were only 56 on board, including the 8 crew members. Nearly half the group was diving while the rest of us just intended to snorkel. Tea, coffee and danishes were available first thing. It took 90 minutes to get us to Hastings, the first reef location. On the way there a
beautiful rainbow appeared, which morphed into a double rainbow.

We all donned wetsuits as it is the end of jellyfish season. Wetsuits are like Spanx on steroids. They are incredibly difficult to get on, even when dry. I was surprised to see that the suit ended right above the knees as that left our lower legs exposed. We were given the option of using a full life jacket or a swimming noodle in the water. We like the snorkeling life vests as you can adjust the amount of air in the vest if you want to drop down more in the water. As they didn't have that kind, we opted to use the noodles. They worked surpringly well. 

We had two hours to swim before lunch was served, and we found out that is a long time in the water. We took a break about halfway through. We both agreed that it was the best coral we had ever seen. All colors of the rainbow were present in either the coral or the fish, and the blue of the water was unlike any I had seen. Jim has an underwater camera, albeit an old one so the technology is not as good as the new ones. Below are some of him pictures.

Because we were not allowed into the lounge area in our wetsuits, that meant we had to get them back off before lunch. Jim didn't get on the boat until awhile after me, so I had some complete stranger help me get the top part off, praying that my swimsuit stayed in place while he assisted me.

Following lunch we took off for the next spot, which was Michaelmus reef. That meant the very wet wetsuit had to be put back on. Jim headed out before me as I wanted to take some pictures, so I struggled to do it on my own. After about dislocating my shoulder, I went to zip it up only to find that I had put it on inside out! Now I had to ask a different complete stranger to help me get the darn thing back off. By the time I was finally in the suit again, I told the man they would probably be calling everyone back to the boat. Anyway, I got into the water eventually, and it was pretty rough. The strong waves would keep carrying me back to the boat, so I didn't venture off too far. Due to the waves, the water was not as clear as our first location so that was a little disappointing. I don't think anyone stayed in the water for the full time period. It was challenging just trying to get out of the water onto the back steps of the boat. Once again I got out before Jim, so this time a nice young woman from Germany helped me with the top part of the wetsuit. I certainly had a lot of people getting me dressed and undressed today!

On the journey back it was quite a wild ride due to the waves. I'm so thankful we are not prone to seasickness, because some people had a rough go of it. We were able to enjoy the afternoon refreshment, unlike some. The boat got us back in port by 4:00. One more item off our bucket list!

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