Ellis Beach turned out to be the perfect base to set off and explore the wonders of northeast Australia. After enjoying the soft sandy beach, warm ocean and rain forest, we decided it was time to discover and experience at first hand the mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef. To this purpose, we booked a day out with Haba Dive at http://www.habadive.com.au/ and drove in our hired motorhome to Port Douglas, where the snorkelling/diving team would meet us and direct us to our allocated boats that would take us out to Agincourt Reef, in the Outer Great Barrier Reef.
The actual day was a bit cooler than previous days and, as the ocean was a bit choppy, the team advised us all to take some sea-sickness tablets, for we would undoubtedly feel our stomachs churn with what was forecast in terms of waves….. (more on this later). Still it was sunny and pleasant enough to sit on the deck and enjoy the long ride out (I seem to remember it had taken about 90 minutes). During this time the very competent and knowledgeable members of the diving team explained to us all about the fragile environment of the reef and the importance of not touching anything, as well as a few safety precautions and what to do if we got into trouble once in the water, always swimming or diving in pairs rather than alone and the emergency signals.
At last it was time to get changed into our wetsuits and be decked out with snorkelling or scuba diving gear, as the case might be. I had never done either of those things before and I was a bit apprehensive about the whole event, but wild horses wouldn’t have dragged me away from discovering the marvels of the ocean, so I played it safe and chose snorkelling. The best word I can find to define this place is ‘awe-inspiring’ as this has probably been the most transcending experience in my whole life. The moment you put your face in the water, you start seeing all these estrange and wonderful creatures that could easily have come from other planets. It’s not just the fish, which included a shark, but the coral, giant scallops and sea-plants swaying in the ocean. I wanted to reach down and be part of them and at one point I felt the water coming through my breathing tube as I had in fact got carried away by the sheer beauty of this precious and unique eco-system. I had the foresight of carrying a water-proof camera and, even though the quality of the pictures is not brilliant, at least I managed to capture some of the things we saw.
Time passed all too quickly and when we were finally called back into the boat, I couldn’t believe it was time to go. Unfortunately the ocean was getting quite rough by then and it was deemed safer to start our journey back to Port Douglas. The sea did in fact get a lot worse, more than my and my son’s stomachs could tolerate and the inevitable happened. I have been in many boats, yachts, ferries and dinghies before and I was born by the sea-side and I have very good sea-legs, but nothing had prepared me for what was to come and, to my dismay, I spent most of the journey back lying on the deck, only getting up to be sick overboard, as was young Peter. Once again, the wonderful Haba team, did their utmost best to keep up comfortable and warm and they had us wrapped in layers of dry wetsuits and kept giving us water, but I have to admit we were feeling quite sorry for ourselves and it managed to spoil what until then had been a perfect day. Still, it didn’t kill us and we still laugh about it every time we mention our first and fantastic snorkelling experience and it certainly didn’t put us off from trying again, as well as scuba diving, on a different holiday a couple of years later. But that is another story……