Reef revels

Saturday 22nd November 2014. Day 75

We were travelling with the same company today so the routine was the same although a later start with the pick at 7.25 am from Airlie Apartments. Being Saturday the number of people at the terminal was significantly more than yesterday and it took us almost until the boat sailed to obtain our boarding passes. There was one stop at the way to Reefworld, at Hamilton Island, where an even larger number of people got on than got off.

Reefworld is a moored barge on the edge of Hardy Reef, one of the 2,900 sections of coral reef making up the length of the Great Barrier Reef. Lying at the southern end of this feature it is a mature reef platform, having grown as close to the surface as it can, given the tidal range. Its growth therefore is lateral, creating a complex of coral forms and ideal habitats for other marine organisms.

The next two hours sailing passed quickly as we booked for the optional extras. Joyce decided that a guided snorkel safari would be a good way to enjoy the reef while Eric decided to revisit his youth and undertake a scuba dive. Despite experience going back almost 50 years, lack of certification, (quiet at the back, who said he should be?) meant that Eric had to book an introductory dive.

On arriving at Reefworld, we headedimmediately for the semi-submersible (the upmarket version of the glass bottomed boat) and enjoyed a close up view of the reef, with its variety of coral forms ranging from the hard branching and brain coral to the soft corals. The growing branching coral was distinctive with the blue pigmentation, although the majority of coral was a dirty grey. A huge variety of fish, each species in large numbers, thronged the coral, especially the near vertical coral wall.On returning from this trip we obtained snorkelling gear and took a short swims. Along the reef, swimming with the fish we had seen through the glass. We returned for our separate activities.

Eric thoroughly enjoyed the dive, reminding him of what he had been missing. Although he had to start the dive arm in arm with a young female instructor (regulations, honest) once she was sure he would not drown he was allowed to swim free, albeit in close proximity. The view of the reef and its denizens, including giant clams, was impressive. Eric’s enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that this dive was in warm water, unlike the early days off the UK coast.

Joyce had the luxury of an individual safari guide, she was taken by barge to a part of the reef less frequented by snorkelers and wearing full snorkelling gear including a stinger suit (to protect from jelly fish) she was towed along holding onto a rubber ring and shown choice examples of corals, clams and anemones, as well as a vast range of colourful fish.

Our expeditions completed we headed for the buffet lunch which we enjoyed sitting at picnic table on the barge. After lunch we viewed the 3 metre long grouper that lived under the vessel and went down into the observation deck, another glass panelled area, to view the shoals of fish just beneath the surface. There was just enough time for another trip in the semi-submersible before we reboarded the ferry for the trip back to Airlie Beach, arriving as the sun was setting. We were dropped off by a company coach before pending a quiet evening watching TV.

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