One of my ultimate highlights of my trip to Queensland was snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. It wasn’t something that I ever thought I’d have the opportunity to experience and I nearly squealed with delight when I found out that it was on our itinerary.
Janneke and I were booked onto a morning Reef Sprinter tour. Our captain Steve was funny, entertaining and the perfect tour guide. The jet sprinter was super fast and it took just 15 minutes to zip from Port Douglas harbour to the Low Isles.
Being one of the wonders of the world and a world heritage site, it’s very restricted in terms of where you can actually snorkel and only a few select tour companies are allowed to pull up in this particular area. This not only protects the delicate environment but means that the area wasn’t overrun with people. In fact there were just 12 others on our boat.
Although I am a strong swimmer I haven’t done much of it in the actual ocean and I’ve certainly never been face to face with fish at my local leisure centre! I was pretty nervous before we jumped in the water, but I need not have worried. Steve helped me set up my gear and gave me a noodle (the long yellow floaty thing) that I could use to stay afloat if I needed it. It turned out that I didn’t, but it was nice to hold onto and not have to worry about the possibility of drowning!
“You’re a natural!” he yelled and I jumped in the warm water and gave it a try.
We initially were in quite deep water so couldn’t see a thing, but a short splash over towards the island and the reef started to come into view. My heart was pounding as I started to make out some coral and rocks, nervous that something might jump out at me or something.
It wasn’t the clearest of conditions but we still saw plenty. When I saw my first school of fish I swear I nearly started to cry. It was so magical and so beautiful – just like swimming through a screensaver!
We had an hour and a half out on the reef and in that time I got much more confident in my abilities. I disregarded the noodle and really started to enjoy it, especially when Janneke, an experienced diver, taught me how to drive under the water, right down to the sea bed. What a pro!
One of my favourite parts of the whole trip was when we were swimming near the boat and suddenly we were surrounded by giant yellow and grey fish. They were clearly used to people as they came right up to us and even let us feed and stroke them!
While we didn’t see any turtles (although some people on our trip did!) or find Nemo, we did see a shark. Luckily it was small and non-man eating (apparently) but the word ‘shark’ did make me start to panic a little bit all over again!
We were the last two back in the boat. An hour and a half zipped by so quickly and I was really sad when we had to head back to dry land. I could have stayed out there all day.
Luckily, this wasn’t my only encounter with the reef on this trip. As our time in Port Douglas came to a close and we were set to drive back to to Cairns, Tourism and Events Queensland had a surprise in store – a helicopter ride, across the reef, back to the airport!
We captured this, along with some of our other favourite moments, in the home video that we made of our time in Queensland. Oh how much fun we had!
This really was the trip of a lifetime and I can’t thank Tourism and Events Queensland enough for treating us like rock stars and showing us such a damn good time.
If Queensland sounds like your kind of honeymoon spot you definitely have to go snorkelling (and helicoptering!) on the incredible Great Barrier Reef.
Say hello to Nemo for me.
- Photography: Janneke Storm