In December 2016, my mom and I traveled nearly 16 hours from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia. After a flight that long, you bet we’d find a way to make it up north to the Great Barrier Reef!
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world, has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I am so fortunate to have a travel companion as adventurous as my mother, who was more than willing to knock out two birds with one stone on our trip!
Booking The Trip
After scouring TripAdvisor for Great Barrier Reef day trips, we selected Reef Experience due to extremely positive reviews and the information provided on their website. The booking process was easy enough, and we were even able to hire a camera, which we deemed necessary since I don’t own an underwater camera. And if you snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and don’t have any pictures, did it even happen?
Pro Tip: If you are considering visiting the Great Barrier Reef with your GoPro or underwater camera in hand, make sure to invest in a red filter for it!
Red light doesn’t penetrate far underwater, so a filter will make sure that you don’t lose any color of the reef or fish in your photos.
Unfortunately, there was some sort of miscommunication between the online booking and the boat staff. I arrived on-board and learned from the photographer that all cameras had been rented out, because she hadn’t been informed about any pre-rented equipment. Thankfully, she was able to secure a camera for me to use from the company’s live-aboard diving ship, and everything worked out!
The excursion provided by Reef Experience lasted the whole day, but there truly never was a dull moment!
The crew was composed of active, young, and charismatic people, who enjoyed interacting and joking around with everyone on board.
Breakfast and lunch were both provided, as were wine, coffee, and tea. The best part of the meals was that the food was actually decent– there were salads, fresh fruit, and both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
The package includes a tour aboard a glass-bottomed boat, which a crew member masterfully steered around the reefs. The tour showed everyone on board a different perspective of the jellyfish, fish, and turtles while allowing us to sit in the comfort of the shade.
Diving & Snorkeling
Since an introductory dive was included in the package, I was given the incredible opportunity to both dive and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef! After a brief marine biology demonstration and introductory diving crash course, we arrived at our first stop, Hastings Reef.
Jai, my diving instructor, was adamant that all of his divers leave their cameras on board. After all, you can’t be fully present and enjoying the experience if you’re preoccupied with framing the perfect shots for Instagram. I agreed with his reasoning and left the hired camera behind, and I am so glad I did.
Prior to my dive, up to three (3!) different crew members came up to me to check my mask, pull my hair back from the suction, and overall make sure it was situated properly enough that I would fully enjoy my introductory reef experience.
Each introductory dive lasts for half an hour, but the time flies by so quickly, especially during an experience like this!
I was in awe by the sheer scope of the reef— I was so preoccupied with looking below me for fish that I forgot how deep down we had dived; once I looked up, it hit me just how great the underwater ecosystem is! In front of my face was what seemed like a wall of reef, rising up before me. It blew my mind.
Though we didn’t encounter any notable marine life on our dive, other instructors’ groups had seen octopi, sharks, and turtles, so it really depended on the direction you dove.
Each person has the opportunity to snorkel before and/or after their allotted diving time– I opted to snorkel only at the second reef we visited, Saxon Reef.
If you’re not a strong swimmer, one of the crew members pulls you along the edge of the reef on a ring buoy for a good amount of time. My mom’s reef experience would not have been the same without this option, and I am so thankful she had this opportunity!
Despite the initial mess with the camera hire, I wholeheartedly recommend Reef Experience to anybody seeking an all-inclusive, laid-back trip to the Great Barrier Reef.
I’ve had my fair share of terrible snorkeling experiences before, but Reef Experience went above and beyond to make sure that everyone on board had a positive, memorable day!
Have you ever experienced the Great Barrier Reef?