2.2million…that’s the number of eager snorkelers and divers estimated who annually explore the largest reef system in the world (according to 2007 Tourism Research Australia). Today they can add 4 more water-based adventurers to the tally as we take on the Great Barrier Reef.

And there’s one more factoid I should throw in here.

For all of the hype of the Great Wall of China being seen from the moon, so too is the Great Barrier Reef. Only this is the ONLY NON MAN MADE THING that can be viewed from the lunar lookout.

Covering an area larger than Great Britain (roughly 348, 700 square kilometres) this collection of reefs and islands dates back to the Ice Age when the current Continental Shelf was exposed. What’s amazing is that as the sea level rose and fell, tiny organisms that build coral got to work creating a perfect platform for reef creation, and the level of the shelf floor in the reef zone gradually rose. We’re enjoying the results today.

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Good grief, we’re off to the reef!

We’ve taken a day trip with SunLover Reef Cruises  with super friendly staff and some rather comfy chairs to relax in as we head to the inner reef.

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The charter commentary during the 1 ½ hr trip goes into overload, touting 350 species of coral, 10, 000 species of sponges, 4000 species of mollusca, and 150 species of odd creatures known as echinoderms. These factoids mean nothing to the Squids – they just want to get wet!

We strap on the fins and snorkels to shake hands with a few echinoderms on our own terms.*

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We pull up to SunLover’s pontoon at Moore Reef and jump in. While down there we meet mysterious fish changing colour before our masked eyes, parrot fish sleeping in sacks made from their own saliva, clown fish flitting between waving anemones, and vibrant star-fish clinging to the corals corals.

It’s like a kids day-care wall mural gone crazy down there! Nothing prepares you for the absolute explosion of colour and life in the reef gardens, and I’m not sure our Crayola pastel set of colours will do it justice in the Squids journals later.

We continue snorkelling – there’s 1500 species of fish to be spotted – we might be here awhile.

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We’ve got a monetary incentive to keep them going should they decide to turn back on the snorkel-fest. $5 for the first Squid to spot a Nemo (clown fish) and $5 for the first Squid to spot a rather large Wrasse.

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It’s about here I wish I had a waterproof Go-Pro to snap their faces when they realised they’d spotted the fish to net them both the jackpot!

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Little Squid at only 6 years old really impressed us with her ability to snorkel and squeal with delight….sure she got a few salty gulps here and there while trying to master the snorkel…but she was having a ball out there!

 

I’ve snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef single, dating, just married, up the duff, on other mate’s honeymoons…really, I’ve lost count. But none of these can match the thrill of holding your 6 year old’s hand while she squeezes it back as she comes face to face with a Parrot Fish, or passes her hands over the slimy back of a large Rass. You kind of fall in love with nature and parenthood and adventuring all at once.

All this wonderment also makes you hungry.

Lunch was a huge buffet affair which involved elbowing our way passed the predominantly Chinese contingent of tourists to get to the prawn platter. About 4kgs heavier, we hopped aboard the semi-submersible boat and later the glass bottom boat for a view of the inner reef without getting wet.

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Then, what the heck, we’re back in snorkelling once more.

With two junior swimmers with us, we reckoned the trip was a good first reef experience, assuring them the security of floatation pods if they needed it and watching over us all. Sure it may have lacked some of the vibrancy and sheer fish numbers of some other outer reef experiences we’ve had, but as a first for the Squids it was a thumbs up all round.

*And for the record … echinoderms are marine critters with several arms … just think sea-stars and other similar urchins.

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We met a few of the cousins related to the 150 species count. They don’t say much but they are look pretty. That’s my last factoid for the day. Time to hang up the flippers!

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