Adventures Down Under: The Great Barrier Reef

‘The ocean is everything I want to be. Beautiful, mysterious, wild, and free.’-Unknown

I have loved the ocean for as long as I can remember. Going to Sea World was a highlight of my childhood summers. I have watched every documentary about the deepest parts of the ocean. I love listening to the waves crash on the shore. I have watched The Little Mermaid a million times to the point when we moved from Rowland Heights to Lake Arrowhead, my parents sold me on the move by saying there was a rock just like Ariel’s in the front yard. A rock I would spend countless hours on pretending I was living in ‘under the sea.’ Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef was the activity I was most excited for. I couldn’t wait to go. And for the first time maybe ever, I wasn’t worried or anxious!

Expectation versus reality can be a funny thing! I was fine the boat ride out to the marine station. I was fine during all the safety videos. I was fine when I grabbed all of my gear. I was not fine when it came time to get into the water. I was sitting on the bench, feet in the water, fins on, and had a full blown panic attack. I started hyperventilating and I cannot tell you why! All I can think is that being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and no land in sight came roaring out of my sub-conscious. I was so excited up to the moment it came time to get into the water and then unexpected sheer terror. But there was no way in hell I was going miss this opportunity, so I gathered enough courage as I could muster and in I went. There was also a nice British man that told me he freaked out too and after a while, you get used to it. He was mostly right.

As luck would have it, Wally, the friendly fish, decided the moment I got into the water was when he wanted to say hello and a member of the staff, in scuba gear, decided to take my picture. The photos look very cool but just know-sheer panic. I was still trying to get used to being in the water and getting my hyperventilation under control and getting these photos was a miracle of miracles. It was a very cool first experience, however. Note: All photos are mine (taken with my Lumix underwater camera) except for the one’s below. These were taken by Magic Reef and purchased by me.

We were out on the marine station for about 8 hours and it went by so quickly. I probably spent more than half of that time in the water. For clarity, each reef company has their own marine station and your swim area is marked. I was told by some older women who kept an eye out on me (they were celebrating one of their retirements) said it was because divers had gone missing with other companies (mine was not one of them). There was lunch provided and a cafe on the ship where I got some ice cream. The boat also had wifi, so I was able to send a photo to my dad and my friend, Mathias, both of whom are scuba divers. Mathias liked to point out repeatedly that snorkeling was not scuba diving and I was doing it wrong, but I still had fun. Maybe I will work up to it. But it gave me a better appreciation at how badass my dad is because not only has he dived all over the world, he did a lot of night diving! I barely survived snorkeling in the middle of the afternoon surrounded by people!

I saw some really spectacular sealife! I will say, the reef was not as colorful as I anticipated (except for several neon green sea plants). I know due to environmental reasons, coral bleaching has taken place. However, I think part of it was also that it was a commercial site and damage is going to happen (some of the people with me did not listen to staff very well, it was frustrating). The staff said it was partly that coral is not very colorful in and of itself but it is the bacteria and plants that give it the color. I am sure it is a combination of all of these. It was still really cool and I loved swimming with the fishes!

My day snorkeling was something I will always remember. And that I overcame a massive panic attack to do it made it even sweeter.

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