Having spent almost three weeks in Australia I was looking forward to visiting one of the greatest wonders of the natural world – The Great Barrier Reef. I was going to enjoy an aerial view of the reef and sail on a thirty-metre luxury sailing catamaran called Wavedancer with Wavedancer Cruises to an idyllic tropical paradise called the Low Isles.
On the final leg of my great Australian adventure I was going to visit the Great Barrier Reef, the largest natural feature on earth stretching more than 2,300km along the north-east coast of Queensland. That is about the same size as the United Kingdom, half the size of the state of Texas or the length of the entire Japanese island chain. Commentators talk about the Great Wall of China as being the only man -made structure which can be seen from outer space. The Great Barrier Reef is the only natural structure that can be seen from outer space.
The Port Douglas Marina was just a few minutes’ walk from our hotel on Macrossan Street so we arrived in plenty of time for the first of the briefings on board the Wavedancer.
My transport for the day would be a luxury 30 metre sailing catamaran called Wavedancer which comfortably sails from Port Douglas to the Low isles in under an hour. The catamaran was very comfortable with plenty of space out on deck for visitors to relax and watch the coast slowly retreat behind us.
Set like a jewel situated 15km north-east of Port Douglas Low Isles is a 4 acre idyllic, unspoilt coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef. The corals are very close to the island which makes for an enjoyable experience. Many of the visitors were there to enjoy some snorkelling close to the beach. Snorkelling mask, Lycra swimming suits, snorkel and fins were all provided as well as instruction if required. Wavedancer Cruises makes it possible for snorkelers of all abilities to enjoy a memorable experience on the reef.
On arriving at the Low Isles my wife got prepared for the snorkelling and I went aboard a glass bottom boat. The coral viewing boat cruised over the delicate soft coral gardens that surround Low Isles. I spotted many brightly coloured tropical fish, giant clams and I even saw a turtle! Our guide provided an informative commentary pointing out the different corals and fish as the boat came above them.
From the moment we moored in the calm waters of the island’s picturesque lagoon, a host of reef activities awaited us. Low Isles visitor numbers are limited to protect the reef’s ecology so I was looking forward to a peaceful, leisurely yet informative day out on the reef.
I joined a knowledgeable Marine Biologist for a guided Beach and Heritage walk who told me all about the flora and fauna on the island along with the history of Low Isles as an important place of marine research. My guide also outlined the human use of the island, past and present. Sadly, I was also informed that Low Isles was the location where Australian nature expert, conservationist and television personality Stephen Robert “Steve” Irwin, nicknamed “The Crocodile Hunter”, was pronounced dead after being stung several times by a stingray.
After the walk, I sat under a palm thatched umbrella and relaxed watching the snorkelers floating about on the top of the water watched over by a safety conscious beach guide and supervisor. My wife took part in the organised snorkelling having secured a snorkelling `buddy` on board the boat. Great care is taken to ensure everyone`s safety. Before departure the Marine Biologist conducted an informative talk on the reef and corals to provide visitors with a better appreciation of the reef. Snorkelers were also made aware that snorkelling can be a strenuous activity so particular caution was given to visitors to inform the crew of any medical conditions.
My wife described snorkelling as the best experience she had had during our trip around Australia. She said it was a load of fun and a brilliant way to view the wonderful coral reef and abundant fish. All equipment was provided and friendly snorkelling supervisor was on hand to answer any questions she had about her equipment or snorkelling direct from the beach. She saw many different colourful fish and magnificent corals. Safety is the number one priority for the staff taking us out to the reef particularly for those planning to go snorkelling so there were presentations given by the qualified staff before we set off, during the voyage and when we arrived about what to expect, the equipment, protection of the reef and safety procedures.
If like me you don’t swim very well there was still plenty to occupy your time and experience the beauty of the reef. There was also plenty of bird life including some very friendly terns which appeared to have very little fear of human contact.
The lunch on board was a Tropical smorgasbord of meats, cheeses and breads. The bar is also open throughout the tour. All I needed to take with me on the boat was my camera, Swimming costume and beach towel. I should probably have hired or bought a cheap underwater camera.
Living amongst the corals is a large variety of fish, molluscs, sea cucumbers and other animals. Colourful blue, green and purple parrotfish are a common sight as well as angelfish, damselfish, anemone fish or clownfish, trevally, rabbitfish, sweet lip, moon wrasse and fusiliers, to name a few! At least seven species of seagrasses grow on the intertidal sandflats of Low Isles, providing a home and food for such animals as sea cucumbers, the attractive spider shell, as well as rays, green turtles and dugongs.
The ride back to Port Douglas was equally exciting! A bumpy ride as we crashed our way through the waves. A great way in which to complete the day.
I left the Great Barrier Reef thinking over the words of the Marine Biologist. He told me that the reef was at great risk due to climate change and other environmental pressures such as decreased water quality from land-based runoff, coastal development and unregulated fishing activities. The reef is also threatened by storms, coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Having seen the beauty of the reef we must do all we can to protect and preserve this natural treasure for future generations.
I hope in some small way this blog helps protect the Great Barrier Reef!
Wavedancer – Quicksilver Group
Address: Reef Marina,
Wharf Street, Port Douglas,
QLD, 4877, Australia
Phone: +61 7 4087 2100
Fax: +61 7 4099 4323
Nominated: UK Blog Awards 2017
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