Dipping my head under the water and experiencing Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for the first time, I feel I’ve stepped uninvited into a colourful underwater world where sea life is busily going about its business just like it has for thousands of years. I have to admit I feel a bit of a voyeur, just staring at all the busyness going on around me and then I realise no one down here is remotely interested, even the giant clams seem to look at me in a disdainful sort of way. It’s a busy life and everyone’s got somewhere to go.
It’s rush hour here all the time.
But what a spectacle. The coral almost playing a bit part to the endless conveyor belt of brilliantly coloured fish. Some small, some impossibly large but all of them scuttling around looking for juicy tit bits to snack on.
The Great Barrier Reef is a special spectacle and like all special places, to get that best possible experience I avoid the factory line option at all costs. There are big carriers here who ferry hundreds of people at a time to a permanent facility to show them, feed them, dive them and send them back. Not for me thanks. I want to have a sense of personal contact for my first reef experience and blissfully I found a saviour in Calypso Reef Charters.
Family owned and run by Cathie and Graham Jones, they ferry a maximum of 65 passengers in boats designed to hold 125 These trips include a visit to three different locations on the Outer Reef, snorkelling, snacks, lunch and an informal briefing about The Reef and it’s geography. Scuba diving is an extra and all the equipment is provided together with tuition for the non qualified on board.
So all good then.
Half an hour into our 90 minute voyage to the Outer Reef it gets a bit choppy. I look around, and some of my shipmates are looking a little green it must be said. I silently thank the crew for offering us some sea sickness pills before we left unlike Peter and Daisy, an English couple who had regaled me with their travelling prowess and assured me that their sea sick pills were far more reliable.
Needless to say, the sight of Peter and Daisy giving us lessons in synchronised chucking was a joy to behold.
As if the excitement of seeing the Great Barrier Reef isn’t thrilling enough, I’m in for an added treat. Just ahead of us are two hump backed whales looking serene and magnificent.. But hang on a minute, six dolphins have decided to join the party too, finding our boat a source of temporary amusement.
Perhaps the word is out about Peter and Daisy and our marine friends want a front row seat..
It’s the first of our three stops (the locations are picked depending on conditions and visibility) and masked and finned up I’m snorkelled the Reef . Snorkelling I feel, is a great way of getting an almost like scuba experience without all the fuss.. I stick close to Finn (yes really) our snorkel guide who points out marine life of all shapes and sizes. Peter and Daisy on the other hand are not pointing out anything. We’ve left them lying in the recovery position on deck.
Two stops later and I’m lying on deck feeling very please with myself. A scuba dive of epic wonderment under my belt along with a very welcome buffet lunch. Even our English couple made it from their sick bed to take a first scuba experience, under the watchful eye of a our qualified diving coach.
What a day. As we return to Port Douglas safe and sound with smiles on our faces and fantastic memories, I look over and see one of the big carriers coming in to berth packed to the rafters with passengers looking like their Reef experience did not live up to expectations.
Well mine did and I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again.
I want to do a Calypso Cruise. How much is it?
Calypso Reef Charters Day tour with all snorkeling equipment and lunch $231 AUS (rate includes all snorkeling equipment including Lycra suits, wet suits, prescription masks and flotation devices. Guided snorkel tours & an interpretive reef talk, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Tea, coffee and filtered water are available all day
Three introductory scuba dive cruise $396 AUS. Rate includes all diving equipment hire, snorkeling equipment and dive guide 3 certified dive cruise $326.50 AUS. Rate includes all diving equipment hire, snorkeling equipment and dive guide.
P: +61 7 4099 6999
F: +61 7 4099 6777
Free Call (Australia only): 1800 005 9