Photo Essay: The Great Barrier Reef

A “must see” when visiting Australia is undoubtedly the Great Barrier Reef. It is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching over 2,600km, and can even be seen from space! It’s located off the north-east coast of Australia in Queensland. You can visit the Great Barrier Reef from a number of shore points on the east coast, but the most popular launching point is from Cairns.

In Cairns (pronounced CANS), there are a large number of tour operators available to choose from, ranging from single day excursions to 2-3 night adventures. During our time in Southeast Asia, we met a traveler who spoke very highly of the company Passions of Paradise and that’s who we ended up booking our tour with. It was a full day tour including a large buffet lunch and two stops along the reef. Our first stop was at Paradise Reef, which Passions boasts exclusive mooring rights, and our second stop was at Michaelmas Cay, a protected National Park with snorkeling possible right off the small sandy beach island.

We enjoyed the cruise but didn’t think as highly about it as it had been described to us. We felt there was too many people crammed aboard the boat, making it a tight squeeze eating lunch. We spent too long at our first snorkel site which had sustained damage from a cyclone that had passed through the year before and therefore didn’t have as much exciting coral and fish to see. And subsequently had a shorter amount of time at our second site which was by far the more superior area to explore.

But we came to see the Great Barrier Reef and it lived up to much of the hype. We spent every minute possible face down in the water and were enchanted with the colour and shapes of the different corals and the life around them.

Oh, and please, if you’re going to visit the Great Barrier Reef, don’t be an idiot like these people and step all over it! If you’re not a strong swimmer, just ask a crew member for a life jacket. Reef systems are extremely fragile and take years to create. Be aware of your surroundings.

Now without further adieu, here are some of our favourite shots snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef:

What you need to know: Our day tour cost $149 (AUD) each. We also rented an underwater camera from Calypso Productions, located at the Reef Fleet Terminal, for $49 (AUD), which included a 2GB memory card and a thorough walk-through of how to work the camera from their exceptionally helpful staff.

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