Ok so after the first few days on Hamilton Island (Australian Adventure Vol 3 part 1), we spent a small fortune (it’s all relative I suppose) on a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. After booking the day before, the 5 of us youngsters took a shuttle bus down to the harbour bright n early, and boarded the FantaSea.
After the usual safety speeches and tip to purchase some sea-sickness tablets, we headed out on the 90min-2 hour trip to a specific reef that I forget the name of. I forget details. There was snacks, coffee and tea available, I went for the coconut cake n some coffee. I remember details when it comes to food though. The waters for the first 45min were pretty calm as we were still within the waters between and around the Whitsunday Islands, but as we were warned, it got a little rough after that.
And then a little more rough. My step-sister’s boyfriend and I decided not to take the sea-sickness tablets, which we started to regret, but were told it was too late anyway as they take a while to get into your system. Although it was pretty hectic out there, and nausea was kicking in, I kinda enjoyed the choppy sea. A free rollercoaster ride thrown into the package.
I have never seen so many people throwing up in one place. The rough waters got the best of a lot of passengers. We were on the bottom deck and I’d guess over a third of the maybe 60odd passengers were vomiting, repeatedly. The staff jumped into “sea-sickness mode” and brought out ice chips, cold moist towels and ‘vomit bags’. It was really strange. This was obviously normal for them.
Anyway, so after the trip there, we arrive into a small bay formed by the reef and docked onto a platform anchored down to the seabed just off the reef. We hopped off and onto the platform and headed up to the upper deck to find a good spot. This Spanish photographer, part of the crew, kinda latched onto us. She was a strange combination of funny and fucking irritating. We were all amped to get into the water and snorkel so we bypassed the “stinger suit” area (they recommended wearing a light wetsuit in case of jellyfish, we’re from South Africa, so we’d be fine thanks), grabbed some gear and jumped into the maybe 30 x 80metre rectangular area demarcated for snorkelling.
It took me a little while to get comfortable, breathed in some water a few times, but started to get the hang of it again pretty quickly. I love being in water, I always have. Diving down for 10+ seconds and swimming among the fish and coral was amazing. The water was clear and cool, and the snorkelling area was large enough that you hardly ever bumped into other people. We would just point and tap and shout (underwater shouting is weird) when we saw something new and then laugh when the water patrol dude on a dingy would have a go at people for standing on the reef. Along the one side of the snorkelling area the reef was only a metre or so below the surface of the water and quite flat and sandy, less coral. I’ll admit I stood on the reef once. I was far away from anything to grab onto and I was tired. I also kicked the coral once, o.O which is rock hard by the way.
After abut 45min out there, we came in to take a break. Free popcorn, sun tanning and photo session, followed by a trip on the semi-submersible sub. It runs up the reef away from the snorkelling area and platform for around 20 minutes. We were on the ‘seaward’ side on the way out, so not that much to see for the first half of the trip, just the odd large fish. The return was great; different types of coral and small fish, which we were educated about by a guy on a mic in the sub. My crappy lil camera didn’t quite capture the beauty though.
After a great buffet lunch back on the FantaSea, and exploring the platform a bit more (a ‘large fish’ viewing area towards the seaward end, a glass walled underwater viewing area on the reef side, some posters about the sea life, etc) we hit the snorkelling again. I went deeper along the edge of the reef and right out to the corners of the demarcated area. We also snorkelled over some scuba divers around 20m below us, these small yellow and blue fish strangely attracted to the bubbles it seemed. Besides the usual variety of sea life, we saw a few giant clams (vagina references flowed from my stepbrother) and a pipe fish in the sandy, shallow part of the reef.
After swimming back towards the platform and fooling around a bit without snorkel gear (‘free-diving’, I you will), we went back up to the top deck to chill a bit before boarding the boat for the return trip. Started noticing my lower back was sunburnt; I guess that’s what happens when you snorkel for hours. The ride back was also pretty bumpy, not as bad though. But we all took those tablets just in case. The Asian lady vomiting behind us and missing the sick bag was a sign that taking the tablets was a good idea. We just snacked on cheap ice-creams and talked about the day. And tried not to watch people vomit. The harbour looked really beautiful on the way back in. I think it was at this point where I thought that this was one of the greatest days of my life. An incredible experience.
(an assortment of photos to follow)