Sunday, 7 October 2012

Great Barrier Reef

The amount of hype surrounding the Great Barrier Reef means a trip there has got to be pretty incredible for you not to feel slightly underwhelmed. Postcards depict dazzling fish darting through crystal-clear waters and overhead shots of sunlight twinkling on mosaics of immaculate coral.

For our last holiday in Australia, we travelled north expecting something very special. And the Reef delivered. Big time.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

Joining us for this adventure off the north coast of Queensland were Ed and Helen Poulton. Ed and I were best men at each other's weddings and the opportunity for the four of us to share this amazing trip was as special as any facet of the holiday itself.

We sailed aboard the good ship Rum Runner (pictured above). Among the 16 passengers were a couple of other exchange teachers and several backpackers. The crew were full of banter and the food was surprisingly good. We were on our way.

Ed took on an introductory dive and enjoyed it so much, he took to the depths for a second time the following day. My diabetes meant I couldn't dive, but snorkelling presented its own unique challenges/ excitement.

Our skipper, Jase, declared: "the swimming pool is open" - one of his less crass soundbites - and snorkelling commenced. My fear of what lurks beneath dissipated when my goggles revealed the first wall of coral. Seeing this underwater world in such clarity was like swimming in the world's biggest fish tank.

The marine superhighway was teeming with fish of all colours and sizes. Smaller specimens darted in front of our faces, dark shadows criss-crossed in the deeper waters. Sea cucumbers lay motionless, startlingly blues starfish stretched their limbs. We swam around coral, between coral and over coral. Fish were everywhere and my misgivings about the ocean were nowhere. What a feeling.

Watching the sun set over the Barrier Reef defies description. Cameras clicked along the length of Rum Runner as we all tried to capture the stunning sky.

Standing there on deck, you couldn't help but marvel at the scale - and the intricacy - of the creation displayed around and below us. We are small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

It was a moment which spelt out, in capital letters, how much I have to be thankful for. Incredible opportunities, great friends and a beautiful wife who has been at my side for every peak and pit of this remarkable year. Darkness fell and we hit the bunk beds.

This little fella, a sea turtle, popped up to see what was happening. His appearance was only fleeting before he plunged downwards and disappeared. It was quite a privilege to see a master of the sea in his own back yard.

We renewed acquaintances with Rachel Dickenson, a schoolteacher from York placed by the exchange programme in Broken Hill. Sheer distance and travel practicalities have made it impossible for us to visit since we became friends in Sydney, but I fully expect the two Rachels to stay in touch beyond 2012.

Great Yarmouth,
Lloret de Mar,

Ed and I have done some trips in our time and this was right up there with the very best.

As the Cairns skyline (notable only for its backdrop) loomed slowly larger, the page turned on the latest chapter of our Australian adventure.

Maybe one day I'll be a travel writer and then my words can do justice to such fabulous corners of the globe. For now, though, I hope these ramblings underline my point that the Great Barrier Reef is most definitely worth the hype, and the trek to get there.

Our sun-kissed group, as photographed by dive master Masanori Onishi. We stepped back onto the quayside and promptly burnt our feet on the scalding hot rock. It was good to be back on terra firma although the sensation of rising and falling with the waves didn't subside for at least 24 hours.


  1. Thanks for using my photo! =)
    I also went to the GBR with Rum Runner... and I really enjoyed!
    See you!

    Luiz Fernando Campos Furlan

  2. awesome nice im feeling happy watch this videos i like it thanks for shareing kind information thanks but im looking for a camper rental cairns