Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Great Barrier Reef Adventure: Tale from the Deep

Today I did something that I never in 42 years dreamed I would do: I got wet. Soaking drenched. Not in the shower. In the middle of the ocean.

I had no intention of doing anything of the sort when I set out this morning from Cairns into the Pacific on the AU$180 Marine World Outer Reef Cruise. I can't swim, so I wasn't exactly looking for adventure under the sea. I'd already spent quality time with crocodiles, kangaroos and koalas yesterday in the wetlands, so my expectations were somewhere around medium. I figured I'd hop on the glass-bottom boat once the catamaran reached its outer-reef destination, check out what I'd been hearing is the largest living organism on the planet from the safety of above sea level, come home and tell everyone it was everything I'd hoped it would be.

But there's nothing like being stuck on a boat and adjoining platform for five and a half hours in the middle of the ocean to change your plans. What harm would there be in taking a guided snorkeling tour? What's the worst that could happen? Well, I knew the answer to that question, but I dived in anyway.

I bought my tour ticket (AU$35), suited up in my rented wet suit (AU$6), and hung on to the orange ring-shaped flotation device for dear life (and hoped that neither the pretty Asian girl nor the other pretty woman with an Eastern European accent who were accompanying me on the guided tour would pull me under.)

I couldn't really tell you much about the specifics of what I saw, though I know I saw a lot. I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere (literally) to freeze frame any particular scenes or catch more than a sentence here and there from the guide.

It was so peaceful down below. I wondered what had taken me so long to go under. I fell into a deep reverie, imagining what it must be like for the schools of fish, the sea turtles, the starfish, the coral (boulder-shaped, spaghetti-shaped, broccoli-shaped, cauliflower-shaped) and all those other water creatures to spend eternity there. What was I doing in Melbourne? This is a much nicer neighbourhood than South Yarra, or St. Kilda. I started to calculate in my head what the rental rates must be 60 metres below. Who'd I invite to my first deep-sea diving party? What would I wear? Do wet suits come in sky blue? Was that The Little Mermaid? Where's Nemo?

Then I woke up. Game -- and tour -- over.

I always say I'll do anything twice (once for the experience, rinse, and repeat to be sure you love or hate it), so I'm sure I'll be back. Someday soonish. In the meantime, maybe I'll start planning that first camping trip I've been putting off for 42 years.

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