|Donning Stinger Suits for our day at GBR-Gail Betts Photo|
Linda Goldman, Julie Zabilski, Ann Nielsen, Linda Ballou
The busy harbor in Cairns is where tourists board vessels for a day of snorkeling and diving on the reef. It was raining the February morning we left for the 30-mile cruise to our first snorkel stop, Simpsons Reef, but it cleared by the time we reached our destination. Stinger jellies are not this far from the shore, but we suited up in lycra stinger suits just in case some did not get the memo. Half of the 180 passengers on board were celebrating Chinese New Year. Amazingly, we were all fitted with masks and snorkels, and entered the 80-degree water with military precision. Those who didn’t snorkel took a submarine cruise with viewing windows.
|Linda in the center of Simpson Reef snorkel spot|
|Great Barrier Reef from Below|
The reef’s coral heads look like giant pudgy brains in colors ranging from murky brown to emerald green and electric blue in an unending variety of shapes and sizes. Fishes of many colors flit in and out of the crannies and cubbyholes that afford protection from predators. The giant clam that can reach 400 pounds and the giant green turtles are a thrill to spot. I almost walked on water when I spied two 5-foot moray eels slithering through the reef near the ocean floor. The reef which is over 125 miles in length and has over 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands, is endangered. The temperature of the water has been getting warmer each year for the last four years. Climate change is causing acidification, and bleaching of the corals which means death to the reef jeopardizing all the marine creatures that depend upon it to survive.
|Great Barrier Reef from Above|