A few days ago, we embarked to the Great Barrier Reef in a small (relatively) catamaran. 30 of our friends went out on a huge catamaran that took 500 people to a platform further out in the sea and allowed viewing the reef without getting into the water. We took a smaller, more personal voyage on a 20 person vessel and headed for the Low Isles upon which is a lighthouse maintained by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
The coral structure of GBR is immense, so much so it is visible to astronauts circling the Earth over Australia. It is the largest living thing on Earth - a 2,300km-long ecosystem comprising thousands of reefs and hundreds of islands made of over 600 types of hard and soft coral. The picture above was our hilarious captain, Steven. A jolly Aussie. The others on our crew were Greg, a marine biologist, and Algo, an escapee of Italy. Australia has some of the deadliest species of spiders, snakes, and jelly fish. The deadliest of all is the the box jellyfish. We were told that once the tentacles brush your exposed flesh you die an excruciating death within half an hour.
YEAH! Let's go!
The Box Jelly fish is usually close to the coast. Not out to sea. However, where we are going, there is another jelly fish that won't kill you, but if it stings you, you will wish you were dead. So we all don our wet suits, and though parts of our face are exposed to the sea, everything else is covered.
The lighthouse on the Low Isle
In the water we go. I didn't have a water resistant camera, however, the coral was beautiful. Not as colorful as you see in photos, but still yellow, red and blue were evident. So, too, a huge clam and many fish. There were a few bleached out coral and we learned it was worse north of us. There were many reasons for the dying coral. Warming waters, tourist's sun screen, etc. Sad. Yet some dead coral seemed to be regenerating in spots - allowing for hope.
Once on the island, we learned more about the environment. Our guide, Algo, informed us that Steve Irwin died on the island after being stung by a Sting Ray (a real fluke of an accident) but he was stung in the same waters where we were swimming. Steve Irwin died in the little shed that our sail company used to store gear. So very sad. He was such a great guy.
This little bird, Charlie, pecks at visitor's toes (in sandals). He didn't peck at ours, but he did dive bomb my head. Hilarious. I loved his spirit. He was saying - "Get out of here."
We ended the day by leisurely motoring home as the sea and wind had calmed considerably. The sun brightened making for a languid afternoon. Don and I sat up with the Captain and others laughing and chatting with our new friends.