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Checked one off the Bucket List: Great Barrier Reef

I spent some absolutely beautiful days with perfect weather in the perfect tropical north Queensland city of Cairns last week. Destiny {shoutout to you if you actually read this haha & now you’re famous} and I flew on Jetstar for 2.5 hours to our destination leaving basically before the sun even came up.

We got to our hotel and stayed right on the marina where the cruise boats for daily reef tours depart and it was a great view. Compared to Brisbane the weather was much warmer around 85 and sunny instead of low 70s with some clouds. The first day we ate lots of food (because who doesn’t like to do that?) and laid outside by the pool taking in all of the sun. It was such a great start to a small escape from reality and heavy load of school work that had overtaken my life just a few weeks earlier.

The next morning we got up bright and early for breakfast and to board our Great Adventures Catamaran for a day on Green Island and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, something that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. It was about a 50 minute boat ride out to Green Island (a little bumpy to say the least since the water was a bit choppy) but we sat outside on the top deck and got to see the beautiful blue and turquoise water leading up to the island. The island had so much to do with a gated pool, multiple beaches with visible reef, an eco walk, FOOD, and heaps of live crocodiles. We adventured around a bit when we first arrived and then there was a glass bottom boat tour over top of some of the reef with fish and turtles. I didn’t go on that because I was still recovering from the catamaran ride over, but it seemed like a really cool concept.

We walked over to the crocodile exhibit and were able to hold a baby crocodile and take pictures. There were lots of other crocodiles to look at and some were literally so massive I couldn’t even understand and all they do is lay there on the land or go into the water and lay there. Apparently they only really are active when they’re feeding and the rest of the time they’re pretty boring.

Being the typical {maybe not so typical anymore} Americans we are we had a lunch of french fries and chicken nuggets and burgers with ice cream of course before heading to the dive shop for our snorkel boat trip. The water was pretty warm so we didn’t have to wear a wetsuit but we got our snorkel equipment and flippers and headed down to the boat with the rest of the snorkelers and divers. The driver took us about 10 min out from the island to a part of the reef called the “New York” which fit perfectly because I was born and raised in New York in the United States. When we got there we put on our equipment and jumped in the water to start exploring. Thank goodness for lifeproof so I’ll attach pictures below of what we were able to see!! It was an absolutely incredible experience to be swimming with the fish and to observe something that wasn’t built or made by humans. Even from the small portion of the reef that I was able to see and swim along, I could tell how amazing it actually was and how lucky I was to be able to witness something that is a big part of the world.

As I was watching the fish swim below me and looking at the coral formation I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with how beautiful the Earth is and how small I am as a human compared to the powerful creations of the world. In the hour I spent snorkeling along the different pieces of the reef, I was able to put into perspective how fragile the Great Barrier Reef truly is and that it is important to protect because it is home to so many creatures. It’s difficult to actually care about something until you see it in real life because until then it is just an idea or figment of the imagination, but thanks to my continuing semester in Australia i’m able to make more things a reality than I ever thought possible.

We snorkeled along the beach for another hour or so when we got back to the island from the outer boat tour and there was a stingray swimming on the ocean floor not far from the shoreline where we were watching the fish. I was surprised at how close the coral comes to the edge of the island and to also just see a stingray in its natural habitat swimming around and minding its own business. It’s easy to see some of these creatures as enemies because we perceive them as dangerous but they are just doing what they know in their habitat to survive with humans constantly intervening, and that’s something we need to think about when we place labels on stingrays or sharks or even the “deadly” box jellyfish that can be found in the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef was so many things at once: fun, exciting, adventurous, overwhelming, amazing, breathtaking, complex. I know that it’s a trip that I’ll never forget and I’m so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to swim through the reef because each day more and more of it is being destroyed. So after a 7 hour day on Green Island and snorkeling the reef we headed back to the catamaran for the hour ride back to mainland Cairns. The pictures don’t do this beautiful place justice, but it’s still a snapshot of what we got to see throughout the day.

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