With all this talk of licking ant butts, cicadas with urinary tract disorders, giant man-eating lizards (perhaps I exaggerate a tad bit), it would only be fitting that I tell you about my underwater follies, no? You see, my mere days in the Great Barrier Reef coincided with a time of year I hate more than any other: Stinger Season. After hearing about the 10,000 jellyfish that inflict GBR swimmers with injuries annually, I was none too excited to go in the water myself (and did you know global warming is only making it worse?!). Luckily, I was outfitted with this super awesome getup (which is only slightly cuter than the neon transparent numbers the Little Sperm Men were rockin’):
Hot, no? There’s definitely nothing like putting your every Spandex-accentuated flaw out there for all the Internet to see. But lucky for me, I didn’t see a stinger throughout my entire trip (though I was bitten all over by sea lice, and honestly, how disgusting of a name for the underwater equivalent of a mosquito?). Over the past year, diving has become an all-out obsession for this nomad, and there was a brief period while in Australia that I feared I would not have a chance to submerge. There was that little cyclone impediment that threatened to ruin our entire stay, but instead only drenched us for the first two days. There was the fact that this was an actual work trip, and not just leisurely venture, meaning my time wasn’t all my own. Then, there was the little issue of the daily flights we took to and fro the various islands, and Queensland policy says you must wait a full 24 hours after diving before boarding a plane. Luckily, I’m persuasive when I want something real bad, and I talked the Lizard Island resort general manager into waiving that policy and letting me go out on a morning dive the day before we left (technically, PADI only requires 18 hours of recovery time).
I would love to say the diving was the best I’d ever experienced, but alas, it was not. Lizard is known on a global scale for its diving opps—turtles, rays, sharks of all varieties abound—but that’s if you venture to the Outer Reef, which takes a full day getting there and back. We didn’t have the time, so we dove on the deserted side of the island. Plus, the residue from the cyclone meant that the visibility was OK at best, so there wasn’t so much as seeing 20 feet ahead of you. The fish were few and far between, and the limited types I did spot were old hat.
But there comes a point in every young diver’s life where she must learn to appreciate the small things, and that’s where this dive came in. The reef off of Lizard is very much alive (you hear all those rumors of coral bleaching and reef shrinkage; well, not here, my friends!), and I have never seen so much interesting macro life as I did that one dive.**
And I did encounter Nemo and his anenome anemone (in Australia of all places! where he actually lives!). (That movie forever ruined my ability to properly pronounce “anemone” or spell it without spell check, for that matter.)
After my dive, I was dropped off at this amazingly pristine private beach, which I had all to myself, as I waited for the rest of my group to arrive for an afternoon snorkel trip.
I could have easily spent the rest of the day there lounging in complete seclusion. But my alone time was cut short when the shuttle full of my journalist companions and others staying at the resort showed up, and it was time to go back out on the open water. I’m such a diving snob and am usually quick to turn down snorkel trips. Snorkeling is comparable to seeing a postcard of a place, while diving is like actually going there. But again, I was proven wrong, as Horseshoe Bay, where we went to snorkel, was full of…
Giant! Clams! There were hundred of them, ranging in all size (from just a foot wide to the length of my whole body, and for once I am not exaggerating!) and color—purple, green, blue, yellow. It was truly a spectacular amazing sight.
Apparently, you can stick your hand in there, too, as their muscles aren’t big enough to clamp all the way together. Still, I wasn’t brave enough to try…perhaps next trip?
For more (better quality) photos of Lizard Island, visit photog Lori Barbely’s site (I was with my point-and-shoot and not my DSLR, unfortunately).