Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that you put on the bucket list but typically don’t expect to cross off. For me, swimming in open waters and snorkeling were not high on my to-do list. However, I knew I could not pass up this opportunity to see something that may one day die off.
Getting to the GBF should be a bucket list task in itself. In order to snorkel or dive the reef you must depart and boat from one of the two local ports – Cairns or Port Douglas. These small beach towns survive mainly on the tourism cruises and include small airports that host arriving passengers from major Australian cities. We opted to fly into and stay in Cairns to take the Reef Experience snorkel tour. From Sydney the flight was around 2.5 hours.
Our tour started off by departing around 8 am with a breakfast and lunch included in the cost of the tour. We boarded the boat, slipped on a stinger suit and held our fins and masks with expectations running high. Around an hour and a half later we anchored to our first location for snorkeling. The water was deep and from the surface seemed dark, unlike what I imagined it would be like. We jumped in – then the fun began. And by fun, I mean a panic attack in open water trying to decide if the Great Barrier Reef was worth it. It was, and once my breathing regulated I was glad to have made the trek to see the incredible reef.
We went to two sites to snorkel, both of which were different but beautiful in their own way. Bright corals and tropical fish covered the sea floor with intricate detail and color. It was stunning, and no picture serves the real view justice. We saw several different types of beautiful fish in all sizes swimming in and out of layers in the reef.
Unfortunately, parts of the reef are dying as water temperatures continue to increase and cause organisms to leave the coral rendering it lifeless. But for now what is left is magical. The Great Barrier Reef is the only living creature visible from outer space. I was grateful to the staff aboard who explained the dangers and life of the reef, which led to my appreciation of the beauty in front of my eyes.
If you have the chance, take the extra day to visit the beautiful Great Barrier Reef. It is a once in a lifetime experience that you won’t forget. You may even encounter a reef shark or two like my group did. Be sure to reserve your tour at least a month in advance to ensure your ability to do a guided snorkel or drive.