Day 60: Cairns to The Great Barrier Reef

It’s 5:30am. We’re awake with our bags out front. A bus brings us to the dive centre where we leave our gear in storage. We bring our day packs with us, packed for two nights on the boat. We’re headed to the Great Barrier Reef.

The bus brings us to the docks and we board The Sunkist. We learn that, for safety, we are only allowed to walk around in bare feet on the boats. The students couldn’t be happier about this rule. The Sunkist brings us out into the ocean, we roll over waves up and down, losing our stomachs. For two hours we are challenged to act like seasoned sailors. Some of us sit near the back where the boat is most stable, closing our eyes and praying to arrive. Others, sit on the top, roasting in the sun, laughing and cheering as we bounce over waves. You never know who’s going to get seasick.

We arrive on The Kangeroo Explorer, a larger boat stationed at the reef. Students divide themselves into three groups: those ready to go for a snorkel, those ready to go for a dive, and those who are worn out from the rocky journey and need a nap.

A snorkel requires a buoyant wetsuit, facemask, flippers, and snorkel. We jump off the boat and kick our fins effortlessly to reach the reef. We are greeted by schools of fish and colourful coral.

A dive requires a wetsuit, facemask, flippers, and an instructor to hook us up with an oxygen tank and regulator. We are trained to clear our masks under water and practice with the equipment by showing we can drop our regulators and find them again. Then the guide helps us descend into the ocean and explore the reef. We have a teacher and a small student body of certified divers who fast track to grabbing equipment and start exploring the reef. It’s mostly vibrant fish and fields of coral but some lucky students see small reef sharks, sea turtles, squid, and an octopus.

Is this really one day? We’ve turned ourselves over to the barefoot boat life. It’s all snorkel, dive, eat, sleep, repeat.

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