Over the Easter break I journeyed to Cairns where I snorkeled in The Great Barrier Reef. I felt like I was in the Finding Nemo movie! It was absolutely incredible. The only thing I could have hoped for was better weather. It was such a gray overcast day that the visibility in the water was not great. It also made the water really rough which resulted in me drinking about a gallon of salt water.
The weather is all I can complain about and even then it could have been worse. If you know me then you probably know that the ocean and I don’t get along so well. I have a slight fear of swimming in the ocean, especially when I know there is a potential for sharks and guess what Australian oceans are known for? But because I didn’t know when I was going to visit this specific wonder of the world again I was not going to let the opportunity pass me. Of course once I peeled on my wet suit, fitted the goggles to my face and set my finned feet in the water this gallant idea did not seem so brilliant anymore. I was one of the last people to set off and I felt so bad because my friend was with me and had to wait for me to toughen up and get in the water. I had at least told one the snorkeling instructors that I might freak out once I hit the water and one of them came to my aid and helped ease me into the water. They advised me not to put my face in the water until I was above the reef which was probably a smart idea so that I would have something below me when I looked down.
When I finally put my face in the water it was breathtaking. Even with low visibility the reef was vibrant and buzzing with life. Almost immediately after putting my face in the water I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. My head snapped in its direction my heart pounding and breathing harsh and labored. I was fighting my automatic instincts by not moving and keeping my face in the water trying to make out the dark shape about 20 feet from me. I did not see the tell-tale shark fin shape so I decided I could manage to keep myself calm. I am very glad I did. As my eyes adjusted to the underwater lighting I was finally able to make out the shape of a medium-sized sea turtle leisurely floating past the reef! Unfortunately at the same time I saw the turtle everyone else did as well and started diving towards it to get closer. It didn’t stay to pose for pictures and disappeared once the first snorkeler got too close.
After the turtle left I turned my attention towards discovering the reef. It was so bizarre seeing the reef in real life after seeing countless pictures and footage of it throughout my life. There were so many different kinds of fish and coral I lost count after noticing the first couple. There were schools of tiny slender blue shimmering fish the size of my little finger. There were much bigger fish called parrot fish with bizarre shaped mouths and funky pink and green patterning splashed across their bodies. And the coral! I never thought coral was interesting until then. At one point we swam over a forest of brilliant blue twig-like coral. I remember being fascinated that such brilliant colors were all naturally made and that no matter how hard humans tried they would never be able to reproduce the colors nature created in that reef.
What was most incredible was the silence of the water. At first I took the lack of sound to be eerie. I think from years of knowing how horror films work I subconsciously kept waiting for something with big teeth and horrifying similar to a shark come at me from out of no where. When I was able to convince myself that no such thing was going to happen the eeriness of the silence began to fade. It was replaced by the most soothing of feelings. I watched all of the life and activity of the reef bustling around me- fish-eating, chasing each other, swimming, poking in and out of the coral- and it was all happening below me in complete silence. I felt like I was in another world!