The morning began early at 6 a.m. with the first dive of the day scheduled for 6:30. Luckily, the water was quite warm, hovering around 29 degrees Celsius at its most shallow depths (84 degrees Fahrenheit). I saw much of the same fish, including the whole crew from Finding Nemo. The varying schools of fish were quite unreal; the most visually arresting was the school of tiny neon blue fish sweeping along in unison. At times, I would sweep my hands over the soft coral to see it ripple like a forest of trees would when strong winds cut through the wild. Some of the coral reminded me of the shapes a biologist might find inside a cell’s walls. The hard coral was wild in its own right. Some of them jutted out at various angles like a naked tree branch would with its various tips naked yet still lit up like the brightest Christmas tree, glowing its soft neon embers of green, purple, blue, and all the rest. Being underwater in an environment like this brings me back to the moments when I was a young child always curious about the world and all that went into it. Every color, every shape, every creature drew my attention; I wanted to know what it was all about and how something so unique and visually arresting could come into existence. But as time went, the appeal faded and those moments were met with a shrug at times. Amongst the Great Barrier Reef in the greatest aquarium I’ve ever seen, I am left speechless begging for more, excited and awakened by what my eyes have seen and my hands have felt. The Reef has certainly not been the only one that has pulled off this bit of magic; more mesmerizing moments surely await me on my upcoming path. Second breakfast followed the first dive (we are basically living like hobbits out on the reef with good food awaiting us at every turn). The next couple dives gave me more time in this water-soaked wonderland with more sharks and even a lion fish which is venomous if given the chance (a black beauty that nestled itself on the sandy bottom under an outcropping of coral). From what we learned, that exact white sand comes from an unsuspecting source. The parrotfish, most of which I saw were pure rainbows, chewed on the coral and pooped out loose clumps that became the sand for the islands and beaches we all know and love. Fascinating trivia right there. For my last water session that had to be snorkeling, I tried a bit of free diving. Taking in as much oxygen as my lungs would allow in one breathe, I plunged underwater kicking as hard as I could with my outstretched fins to reach depths the average snorkeler would miss out on. Holding my breathe as long as humanely possible I paused in spurts to view the activity of the underworld soaking up the last bits of coral and fish I would see until who knows when. That hostie position or even a coordinated live aboard as trainee dive master sounds quite appealing. For now, these memories will have to do and what memories they are. After saying goodbye to the people I met onboard and the Americans that allowed me to tag along, I got into Cairns and found myself back at Tropic Days for one last night. I found that I had already been replaced with the two English (no surprise) who had told me about the rat infested hostels of Burma. Today was Emma’s birthday and her long time friends at the hostel planned her a little surprise party which I took part in. For my last night with them, we first played cards and danced to some apparently very English songs that I was thankfully not aware but were fun nonetheless in their own silly way. We also had the usual English quiz challenge which is always fun and then played pass the parcel. They were stunned when I told them I never heard of pass the parcel, which is a game in which one wrapped package is passed around in a circle until the music stops. Whoever has their hands on the package in that moment must unwrap the outmost layer of the parcel to unveil some candy and a piece of paper that forces you to do something silly in front of the rest of the group. The night was a good time but I had no energy in my reserves to make it out for a night on the town. Sleep awaited me.
Down Under Day 51: The Great Barrier Reef