The Great Barrier Reef is one of those places that I had read about in illustrious travel magazines for years, dreaming that it would live up the hype if I was ever fortunate enough to make it there for diving and snorkeling. Well, as luck would have it, the Great Barrier Reef was priority number one when I landed in Australia at the start of my round the world trip.
Honestly, although there are some cynics who claim there is better diving elsewhere, the Great Barrier Reef is unparalleled and highly diverse, its the worlds largest coral reef system and runs along a huge portion of Australias east coast. During the Australian summer the waters are often clear, allowing for fantastic visibility and a rich ecosystem of fish, turtles, sharks, and coral.
Here are a few tips to consider when planning your own trip to the Great Barrier Reef:
- Book with an eco-responsible company: The Reef is an extremely fragile ecosystem that is facing some very real threats from climate change and human carelessness. Limit the impact of your trip as much as possible by researching companies with green business practices that offer sustainable tours.
- Go remote: Cairns is, by far, the most popular place to organize a dive tour of the Great Barrier Reef, but there are other options. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my three day live-aboard out of Cairns, all of the dive instructors on the boat recommended I dive out of Port Douglas if I make it back, the reef is in far better condition because there are fewer tourists.
- Snorkel to your hearts content: Large portions of the reef are mere feet under the surface of the water and its pretty spectacular. The sun lights up the reef closer to the surface and the colors really pop on the coral. Although many of the larger fish stay deeper, which you can only fully experience by diving, the reef-system at snorkeling level is thoroughly enjoyable, just in a different way. Most live-aboard dive-boats also offer competitive prices for non-divers who want several days to snorkel the vast surface-level reefs.
- Rent an underwater camera: If you like taking pictures on the surface of the water, youll equally love doing it under the water, snapping pictures of a clown fish timidly peeping out from its anemone, or that shark that just happens to jet around a corner and glide mere feet from your face. I split the cost with my dive partner and we each got the chance to take home some gorgeous mementos from the Reef.
I simply loved diving the Great Barrier Reef, this was the first location I dived after earning my open water certification and was really the kick-start to my round the world trip, what a way to start! Australia is incredibly abundant in outdoor activities and the East Coast of Australia particularly appealing.
At one point, after several dives on the reef I glanced over my shoulder just in time to watch a giant sea turtle majestically make a loop of the reef and then disappear into the deep blue waters, likely heading to the surface for air. It was so humbling to catch sight of the turtle that I had to actively remember to keep my lips wrapped around my regulator (the breathing device) rather than watching with mouth agape, which is certainly my traditional reaction!
More on this Guest Blogger
Shannon recently finished a year backpacking trip around the world that took her from zip-lining in the forest of Laos to teaching English to monks in Nepal. Her travel blog, A Little Adrift, shares stories, pictures and videos of the places she saw and the people she met along the way.
Although her former life as an actress in LA is calling to her she plans to stay on the road for several more years, finding local volunteering opportunities along the way. Follow her on Twitter @ShannonRTW.