Renowned around the world, and touted by some of my fellow backpackers in Cairns as the best day of their lives, the Great Barrier Reef has a big reputation to live up to. So I did my part and tried to pick the best day possible, weather-wise. I checked online forecasts and wind levels, took advice from travel agents, and settled on Saturday.
As Murphy’s Law would have it, I woke up on Saturday morning to overcast skies and a steady drizzle of rain. Figures.
But, as the boat glided out of the harbour and into the sea, we ditched the clouds and sailed into the sun. The sea was wild though; strong winds and huge waves rocked the ship. We crashed and rolled through the ocean like a roller coaster.
Half of the people staggered out on to the sun deck to put their faces into the wind, like dogs out of the car window. The other half were violently seasick. The skipper – the epitome of Australia – leaned back in his captain’s chair and steered with one bare foot.
Snorkelling was everything it’s meant to be; only the sound of your own breathing and a strange underwater Alice in Wonderland. The girl I was snorkel-buddies with pointed out a sea turtle, and we followed her as she dug around in the coral for food. She eventually came up for air, right in between us, as if we weren’t there at all. Pixar personified these turtles perfectly in “Finding Nemo”: they are the picture of easy going, unaffected cool.
Lying on the sun deck afterwards, goose pimpled and shivering, drunk with excitement, I struck up a conversation with one of the crew members. “Must be a pretty sweet job, working here?” I asked. She replied, in an affable Aussie accent, “Oh sure, it’s great. Except for all the vomiting. There is a lot of vomiting.”