Katie's Komments: Our Experience on the Great Barrier Reef

Over the past week we have spent a truly unforgettable five days on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It included all of the elements that great trips have: exploration, fun, relaxation, and even a little thrill. The next few paragraphs describe my feelings about this remarkable experience, and what I learned from it.

At the start it wasn't looking too great…
The boats generator burnt out, then Mom had to go home - I wasn't sure if things were really going to work out. As soon as we got on the reef, however, my feelings completely changed.

Jumping into that refreshing water, I didn't know what to expect. To tell you the truth, I envisioned something completely different from what I now know about The Great Barrier Reef. I pictured snorkeling in deep water, looking down on fish and coral, and seeing intimidating looking sharks circling underneath. I had no idea we would ever get so close to the wildlife. I got so close to an extent that I felt "lost within it." I love being in the water and always have, but being in the midst of all of this life and beauty brought an especially magical touch to my senses. You are part of the ocean. You can't help but feel caught up in the magic when you are being surrounded by thousands of small silver fish, when you're hovering over soft, moving coral, and pulled in by the contractions of the wonderful Giant Clams. Even the peaceful sounds of the Parrot fish pecking at coral adds to the mix of brilliance in the reefs. What more can I say…it was amazing!!!

So there you go, a little of the exploration element. Our captain, Pete, also made the snorkeling fun by pointing out cool fish, starfish, coral, and sea cucumbers. There was one incident in particular when Pete dove down and picked up a Leopard Sea Cucumber to show us. As we began to touch it, much to our surprise, some beautiful white string-like things came out of its underside. Pete told us that if you touch the strings it acts like super glue, and took many days to get off. In addition to some fun snorkeling experiences, we had a lot of fun fishing as well. Fishing here in The Great Barrier Reef, we learned, is very different from fishing on Cape Cod. We did a lot of what we call "trolling": dragging a line behind the boat as we move, off of Ruben Jane as well as off the boat's Zodiac. We caught a large variety of fish doing this, including Spanish Mackerel, Giant Trevally, Tuna, Rainbow Runner, and Shark Mackerel. We also had a lot of fun doing what they call "Bottom Fishing," which is basically putting fresh bait down with a line and spool. This was a new concept for us, which we very much enjoyed. While doing this kind of fishing, we caught mostly Red and Spangled Emperor, Coral Trout, along with many small bait fish. That's a lot of fresh fish, and it tasted delicious!

Don't even get me started with the food…aaaaaaahhhhhh! Here is where the luxurious and relaxing aspect of the boat kicked in. It was a great routine: getting back from an evening snorkel, rinsing off, changing, looking in books at new wildlife we saw that day, being called for dinner and peering into the dining room for a sneak peek of that night's dinner surprises. We would then eat a fantastic meal, artistically arranged on the plate. That truly is the life. The food was cooked by Steph, a professional Canadian chef, one of the most warm-hearted chefs you'll ever meet. I can't say enough about the friendliness and experience of the crew. We would go over the weather forecast and plan for the next day, look up any fish we weren't sure about with Pete…we now feel like we have a pretty basic understanding of at least a little of the ocean life of the Great Barrier Reef. It was all very relaxing and made us feel at home right away.

Last but not least, comes the much dreaded thrill aspect of The Great Barrier Reef. Even though many TV shows give viewers the impression that the reef is dangerous and haunted by Great White Sharks, the only impression I got of the reef was beauty and eternal peace. With the exception of a few small slightly intimidating sharks, I felt extremely comfortable here. Even as a person very much afraid of animals with teeth, I am proud to say that I have faced my fear and successfully touch a small cat shark, and become an official shark spotter on the reef. Wow!!! Who would have thought I'd have this much courage and confidence, when a year ago I didn't want to place a finger in that water! We also had a couple of adventurous experiences on deserted islands, crawling through dead trees, and exploring a shipwreck with poisonous fish and jellyfish. If the beauty of the reef pushed someone like me to go swimming with jellyfish and dangerous fish, that really tells you something about The Great Barrier Reef.

As you can see I had a great experience on the Great Barrier Reef, and hope to be back someday to further explore this incredible world of magic.