Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cairns - Snorkeling The Great Barrier Reef - A First Timer's Journey

The use of a snorkel to breathe underwater has been around for 3,000 years - there are records showing the use of hollow reeds as breathing tubes, a far cry from the beautiful plastic and silicone snorkels of today!  Add modern materials to the production of face masks and fins, and you have the modern snorkel kit used on the Australian Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel Gear is included on good Reef Trips.

Coral Reef
If you are a first time visitor to the reef, it might also be your first time snorkeling. It is not hard, it just requires a leap of faith.  I reckon that those who have snorkeled well remember when we first strapped on the mask and snorkel, put our face under the surface, and got up the courage to do the impossible - breathe in underwater. After that? Easy.

The Great Barrier Reef is immense - it stretches 2,600 Kms (1,600 mi) down the east coast of Queensland, contains 2,900 reefs and 900 islands.  Look at a map of the Great Barrier Reef  to really throw it into perspective.

Coral only increases the size of a reef about 1 - 3 Cm (.39 - 1.2 in) a year, and it forms very fragile ecosystems, requiring strict conservation. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was set up in 1975 to regulate the 30 reef and 40 non-reef Bioregions that make up the Reef, and it was created a world Heritage Site in 1981. The permanent Great Barrier Reef marine Park Authority says where you can anchor and controls general use.
The Great Barrier Reef
Make sure you have booked a Reef Trip ahead of time - the best ones sell out in busy periods -  grab your swimming trunks and towel and head off to the Cairns Marina for a day offshore. You will have to go about 50 Kms (30 mi) out to get to the outer Reef where the best coral is found. Some boats go to a pontoon that is moored over the Reef in fairly open water, and some go to Sand Cays (islands) that allow you to go ashore and snorkel from a beach as well as in deeper water.

Have a great day out on the Reef, but don't make the mistake of leaving your camera or sunscreen back at the hotel.  


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