The Last Day: The Great Barrier Reef


I don’t know how or why I planned it this way, but on our last day in Australia, we snorkeled The Great Barrier Reef. It was absolutely spectacular and the perfect ending to our vacation Down Under.

I would highly recommend you do the same on your last day in Australia. Unless, of course, you plan to scuba dive. You can’t fly within 24 hours {perhaps more?} of diving. All of the divers on our ship were asked if they were flying the next day. And when we checked in at the airport the following morning, we were also asked the question.

I took very few photos during our trip out to the reef, if only for fear of dropping my iPhone into the ocean. Sorry! So those that I do have and a few borrowed photos will just have to do!


Our Aussie friends recommended Quicksilver Great Barrier Reef Cruises. And while they do operate out of Cairns, where we were staying, we opted for the Silversonic out of Port Douglas so that we could visit an outer reef. The Agincourt Reef rests right along the Continental Shelf!


Did you know that you don’t have to be a certified diver to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef!? All of the divers got a lesson and briefing during the ride out to the reef. (It takes about an hour and a half or so.)

We had choppy waves on our ride out. Upon boarding, motion sickness medication was offered for purchase. Natural ginger tablets were complimentary. I asked a staff member if I should purchase the motion sickness medication. I rarely get seasick, but had felt a bit woozy on the couple of bus rides along the winding Australian coastlines the last two days. She recommended it and said that all the staff was taking the medication that day.

That sold me.

Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to take it. It would be much better on ruining my whole day at the reef by being sick when it was something completely avoidable. I felt like it was the right move when a few passengers made a run for the door during the ride!


On the ride out, all of the snorkelers were briefed, too, so we would know what to expect. It was a much smaller group than I had thought. There were maybe a dozen or so of us. Our lifeguard/snorkel guide was who I would picture as a typical Aussie surfer dude. Think Heath Ledger, but with blonde hair.

Snorkeling is considered an adventure sport.

I found that interesting. I don’t think of myself as adventurous by any means! And when I think of adventure sports, I picture rock climbing and bungee jumping – definitely not me! Still, Heath* told us that we’d be visiting three reefs and most people aren’t used to working out at least three hours each day. Good point.

I love to swim, but I wouldn’t consider myself a strong one. And the few times I’ve snorkeled, I’ve had a mini panic attack when getting in the water. It takes me a bit to get my bearings, to ensure my mask isn’t leaking and I’m breathing normally through my tube. This was a bit more challenging with the choppy waves on that windy day!

But once that’s over, the magic begins…

I could have rented an underwater camera for something like $60 – $70. It would hold up to 700 photos or so. I was really on the fence about doing it. In the end, I didn’t.

Do I regret it?

Yes and No.

It would be so wonderful to have beautiful photos of everything I saw beneath the surface. However, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do in these depths or if carrying something else would be bulky and weigh me down. Instead, I just swam about at my leisure, not worrying about getting a good shot and just enjoying every moment. It was the most incredible snorkeling experience I’ve ever had! The colors and inconceivable number and variety of marine life were extraordinary.

As I’ve mentioned before

It was otherworldly.


A Few Highlights:

  • Swimming so close and through schools of fish that I thought I would hit them!
  • Seeing all the way to the bottom. What was it? 50′ deep maybe? It was so clear!
  • Trying to keep up with the snorkel “tour” on our 3rd reef when Heath* said, “There’s a shark sleeping down there. I’m going to go down and wake him up!” (Reef shark that is. They are harmless.)
  • Heath* was also our marine biologist. Between our reef visits, he gave us a lesson on the marine life we were seeing. Did you know that all clownfish are born male? They got Finding Nemo all wrong!
  • The Giant Clams! They were the size of a suitcase or two. Just tell me that this isn’t captivating!

Now if male clownfish becoming female clownfish and giant clams aren’t enough to convince you that The Great Barrier Reef is otherworldly, let me introduce you to one of the favorite fish I saw:

The Parrot Fish

parrot fish ultimate

Those are some beautiful colors, no?

parrot fish wings

But it’s not just the colors that gave the parrot fish its name; it’s the beak-like mouth!

parrot fish 2

...and wing-like fins!

Coral reef fish Scarus, Red Sea, Egypt

The one thing I didn’t see that I wanted to and that I know others did was a sea turtle. I guess that’ll remain on my bucket list. 🙂

Speaking of sea turtles, it’s time for another lesson in our world’s conservation efforts. Heath* told us how sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. What a horrible thing to ingest. I can’t even fathom what that would be like for a turtle.

One thing that he said resonated:

“Think globally, act locally.”

Keep our natural surroundings natural. Don’t litter. And if you find someone else has or see a water bottle wash up to shore, pick it up. That all sounds obvious, but if everyone did these things, our world would be an even more clean and beautiful place.

What’s more is that there are many controversial threats to the Great Barrier Reef, making it endangered as well. Some estimate most of the reef to be gone as early 2050.

Have you been snorkeling?

If so, where and what was your favorite part?


*Named changed… because it’s fun!

That sums up our Australian vacation we took in September of 2014. You can check out my other posts on the trip here:



5 responses »

  1. Wow what an amazing experience!!! We went snorkeling in Hawaii and it was so magical seeing everything underneath the surface. Gorgeous, colorful fish, giant turtles. I, too, wished I had a camera to take photos but it’s ok. It’s in my memories…

  2. Hi Carrie! I just found your blog as we’re doing the same GBR snorkeling trip this upcoming weekend. Looks amazing! I think I’ll rent an underwater camera on the boat as well. With your phone and personal belongings, did you feel comfortable leaving them on the boat while you snorkeled? I thought about bringing my nice DSLR camera but wasn’t sure how safe it would be. Thanks!

    • Awesome! I felt the same way at first, but it wasn’t really a big deal. I just put my wallet/phone in my bag with a towel or coverup over it like I would at the beach. It was all just fine. You are going to have a blast! I’d probably just rent the underwater camera and be good to go. Enjoy!

  3. Pingback: 7 Gifts I Gave in 2014: Ideas for Your 2015 Gift-Giving | Season It Already!

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