Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Diving Australia: Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

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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).

COMMENTS
  • January 27, 2009

    I am deathly afraid of anything and everything underwater.

  • January 27, 2009

    these photos are amazing – thanks for sharing. and you are rocking the wet suit, if i do say so myself! i don’t think i’d have the guts to post that of me on my blog.

  • January 27, 2009

    The jellies generally hang out by the coast, and not by the islands in the GBR. That’s why I decided to get out of Port Douglas and Cairns, as we were confined to the netted areas of the beach. Not fun to snorkel or dive with a net in the vicinity!

    Loved the pics of the giant clams – I’ve never seen one before.

  • January 27, 2009

    Aw, thanks for the love 🙂 The clams were so cool! I think you need to boost the black in Lightroom. And try loading the images onto Flickr and linking from there (that’s what I do). I know Blogger kills color on photo uploads, I wondering if Wordpress might be doing the same?

  • January 27, 2009

    I want to know how you got such sweet shots with a point-and-shoot!

  • January 27, 2009

    When I was little I wanted to be an oceanographer because I love sea life – reading your post just now is the closest I have come.

  • January 27, 2009

    That sounds awesome but I think I’m too chicken to go diving! I’ve never even been snorkeling

  • January 27, 2009

    Wow, wow, wow. As someone who only gets TRAINED to dive and never actually, you know, dives, I am consumed by jealousy at the moment.

    The giant clams! It’s sort of like seeing a miniature giraffe.

  • January 28, 2009

    Those are still some beautiful photos though, even if wordpress sucked some of their colour out! That sounds like a really wonderful island to visit!

  • January 28, 2009

    I like the underwater photos. although the thought of diving makes me hyperventilate. I like floating around on top or just watching from the beach

  • January 28, 2009
    ali

    okay…yes, the picture are lovely..

    but can we talk for a moment about your bikini???? i LOVE LOVE LOVE it. 🙂

  • January 28, 2009

    Ali, it’s J. Crew. OBVS (right?). And that’s one of my biggest fears related to scuba. WETSUIT OF HORRORS. Not that you look horrible, but ya know, paranoia!

  • January 28, 2009

    Yeah, the pictures are still gorgeous. My favorite however is the one on land – I would do anything for that pristine beach right now. Lucky you, island hopping around paradise.

  • January 28, 2009

    Love the photos! I am imagining myself on a private beach right now!

    Serenity now!

  • January 28, 2009

    Seriously, that wet suit=hawt!

  • January 29, 2009

    I hear you about anemones, spelling wise. And I, too, am a huge giant clam fan, with all that awesome iridescence.

    I’m gonna call you soon as I am catching a flight outta the US tonite…

  • January 30, 2009

    private beach = you are teh lucky. And the pictures are so neat! I’m going to live through you because I don’t scuba or snorkel.

  • January 29, 2010

    Not only are the pictures great, but so is the post! I really appreciate your take on the Great Barrier Reef. I am glad to hear about the bleaching in the area not being an issue. I have often heard about how bad the reef is becoming, so thanks for picture proof! Thanks again for sharing it.

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