Saturday, March 1, 2008

Great Barrier Reef: Not the Jersey Shore

The Great Barrier Reef, located on the coast of Australia is like one pristine, sandy underwater garden after the next. Filled with sun dappled coral forests and clear water, the wave tips glitter like diamonds in the sun. Beneath the surface fish flit in silvery, metallic schools darting and weaving their way through the reef while translucent jellyfish bob gracefully in the slow rocking of the saltwater. Dive down below and the colors are as shocking as a Warhol print: witness the bright blue of Staghorn coral stretching its delicate branches up towards the sun while electric lime green pipefish and shimmery purple and teal parrotfish cruise lazily. Here you can float effortlessly while playful turtles paddle above your head, their silhouettes outlined in the sun. This is something you won’t forget – at least not in this lifetime, one of the many reasons it was proclaimed a World Heritage site in 1981 and chosen by CNN as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

Details: We took Quicksilver Cruises from Port Douglas out to the GBR. It’s an hour in a huge air-conditioned catamaran, the staff looks like an Australian version of Baywatch and snacks & beverages are offered onboard for a nominal fee. Upon arrival we docked at a pontoon on the outer edges of the Agincourt reef, a prime piece of underwater real estate where you’re guaranteed to see at least a dozen varieties of fish (if not more) and coral formations bigger than human beings. Turtles, sharks, jellyfish and other animals sometimes make an appearance if you’re lucky – and don’t freak, the sharks that come out aren’t dangerous so give up on the Open Waters paranoia already. Scuba diving, helicopter rides, snorkeling, helmet walks, and semi-submersible boat rides are all available on-site and a fab buffet lunch is included. Did I mention free beer and wine on the way back to shore? An ideal way to end a day diving in the reef…bottoms up!

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