by Danielle Ross Walls
I’ll confess that I had anxiety about snorkelling for the first time. It certainly didn’t expect it to be quite so life changing I’ll explain.
I love adventure, but I’m not a fan of beachswimming (I like to see what is around me). I’m happy with the Tassie Winter when I can live in my puffer jacket and Blundstones. This year, however, I exchanged some time in Tropical North Queensland – winter in t-shirts, days of cloudless blue skies and temperatures around 25 degrees.
Tropical North Queensland is renowned for its stunning waterfalls and gorges, endless palm fringed white sandy beaches, and rainforest that extends in places to meet the reef. It was the latter that really had me intrigued. For me, holidays are for creating special life-long memories – experiencing The Great Barrier Reef with my kids was right up high.
I set an exciting vibe with my kids well before we departed. The idea of us disconnecting from all technology and reconnecting was appealing, so I opted for a treasure-hunt style task. The Great Barrier Reef’s ‘Great 8’ – (manta rays, clown fish, potato cod, maori wrasse, turtles, giant clams, whales and sharks) were added to our wish list. Sadly, many of these species are endangered.
The Great Barrier Reef National Park itself encompasses over 344,400 kms, and the shallow waters off Michaelmas Cay were the perfect place for our first snorkelling adventure. Our 32-metre motorized Catamaran – the Ocean Spirit (part of the Quicksilver Group) was our choice; there was an onboard Marine Biologist plus it allowed us to snorkel from the beach.
Michaelmas Cay is a small sand island, 43 kms north-east of Cairns. It’s classified as a National Park and is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries on the Great Barrier Reef. Green sea turtles also nest on the island occasionally.
As we got ready to snorkel we joked about being the ‘Griswolds at the Great Barrier Reef’. We clambered about awkwardly fitting our masks and snorkels, flippers and stinger suits – but it made for some good laughs and photos. An underwater camera is a must!
Snorkelling in the cay’s see-through shallow waters was a thrill for all of us. Any anxiety I had disappeared immediately (my children had none). I was transformed by the magical under-water world abundant with colourful angel fish, stunning giant clams and little Nemo’s (clownfish). A giant turtle surfaced nearby to us and the numerous coral forms and colours had me mesmerised.
By the days end we had ticked off a few of our ‘Great 8’ – a manta ray, clownfish, giant clams and turtles. My son shared with me that the Giant Clams can live for over 100 years and can weigh up to 200 kilograms, but neither of my kids needed to tell me what that experience had meant to them. It shone bright on their faces.
As I returned to Tassie, I knew that the Great Barrier Reef family experience would live fondly in my memories – and that’s not to mention the satisfaction in having stepped out of my comfort zone and conquering one of my fears! www.oceanspirit.com.au