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Monday, March 16: Day 329 – Good Barrier Reef

Today was a long awaited day and a pillar of our trip…to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef. This would be the last adventure in this grand adventure so we wanted to make the most of it.

Our hotel was just two blocks from the beach so yesterday we went out to the Four Mile Beach. There were a lot of people there but the lifeguard had determined that there were dangerous jellyfish in the water so no one could go in the water. I was thinking how hard to would be to take your kids to the beach for a vacation and then tell them they can’t go in the water.

The box jellyfish sting kills in two minutes so you don’t want to mess around. Here is the posted reality. Note the crazy people ignoring the threat.

Laying on the beach is always a fun way to relax.

Since we couldn’t go in the water, we decided to go swim in the hotel pool. Notice my cool longsleeve swimsuit!

Later we went on a sunset cruise on the Sailaway VI. Here is Skipper Rob!

So prior to going out to the reef this morning, I took some motion sickness medication. I am very prone to any type of motion sickness. Ginger tablets were recommended early and often.

The snorkeling company, Wavelength, picked us up and we headed to the pier. It is a beautiful day. We boarded a boat with 45 other people for an hour and a half journey to the reef. It will be hard to keep a social distance… plus I was a little concerned about the mouthpiece of my snorkel mask. I think that we are among the last boatloads to go out as tourists will stop coming within the week. So many jobs are affected by COVID-19.

The Great Barrier Reef is roughly the size of Italy yet runs the same distance as from New York City to Florida. It can be accessed from other places on the east coast of Australia, but it goes out even further and takes longer to get there.

We will snorkel at three sites on the Opal Reef called RayBan, Mojo and Blue Lagoon.

The reef is a very diverse city. There are 1625 species of animals on the reef. Most are tiny; smaller than your hand. So initially they will be found in hiding places.

If you approach quickly and with lots of splashing, you will scare them away. Make yourself one of them. Do nothing. The less that you move, the more that you see.

When an animal approaches you, they are “asking” themselves three questions:

  1. Can it eat me?
  2. Can I eat it?
  3. Can I mate with it?

Since we are bigger than anything out here, they initially will treat us like a predator. It is like dating. The less interested the closer you can get.

Do not chase them. Remember to go slow. Let them see you and decide that you are not a threat. Everything around the reef will relax.

Turquoise water means that it is shallow sand. Brown coral is mixed in. Brown is the color of most coral. Bright colors often mean that the coral is stressed.

If you see of the following, instead of yelling and scaring them away, one uses hand signals.

Clownfish- thumb on forehead with wiggling fingers

Turtle – “hang loose” thumb and pinkie extended and wiggling

Octopus – wiggling fingers pointed down below chin

Shark – hand like dorsal fun on top of head.

Really big shark – two hands stacked on head. (I think not. I would be using those two hands to swim away.) Remember: Jaws was not a documentary.

A surf board resembles a seal from below. A paddling surfer looks like an injured seal.

A great white shark would not be at the reef as the water temperature is too warm. And seals aren’t here either.

The hand signal for help is to put your fist on top of your head.

Sharks cannot afford an injury. They will not survive so they avoid a confrontation. The best cure for shark fear is to see one and that would likely be a white tip reef shark. Best thing to do is stare at it and swim at it. Again, I think not.

The reef is experiencing a bleaching event right now. It is bright white, glowing or even fluorescing. It is not dead but headed that way. Warm water temperature is the one thing that is hurting the reef the most. Rainstorms and cyclones help to cool down the water temperature.


I was only able to snorkel on the first drop before I started getting sick. I saw a large variety of colorful fish and even became part of a school of fish before I headed in. I was given a throw up bag to which I contributed. I was told to toss the “fish piñata” into the water.

It was strange to enjoy the experience so much but yet I could not wait until it was over!!! I had a good, but not great, time so that it why I have renamed it the Good Barrier Reef.

I did go in the water briefly the other two times but what I saw was amazing. I was the ship photographer from that point on. I spoke with the captain and learned so much about the importance of the reef.

There is an unusual line of waves breaking in the middle of the ocean. That used to be the edge of the ocean many years ago.

It is also where Nemo and the turtle catch the current. We were cautioned not to get close to the waves or we would get swept away.

The reef water is shallow and warmer so it evaporates and moves to the mountains and cause rains in the tropical forest.

The mangroves in the tropics is where 30% of the reef fish start their lives. Crocodiles are the babysitter of the fish in the mangroves. The little fish swim near the crocodiles so the larger fish that are scared of the crocodile won’t come near where the little fish are.

So everything depends on the reef!!

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