Until then my knowledge of the Reef has been confined to gorgeous images of colourful coral and marine life balanced by worrying reports of human generated deterioration that threatens the Reef's future. When I booked for a day's cruise and visit to the Reef I was in two minds about enjoying this natural wonder on the one hand and being a contributor to the deterioration by my, and so many others', intrusion to the area.
The catamaran we travelled on probably was carrying about three hundred sightseers. It took about two hours to reach the anchored pontoon on an edge of the Reef to which the catamaran was tied for the four hours of our visit.
Passengers could explore that tiny portion of the Reef in numerous ways. There was a submersible vessel that motored from the pontoon along a stretch of, I guess, one hundred metres of the Reef's edge. The pontoon itself housed an underwater viewing area alongside the Reef's edge. Passengers could, indeed did in large numbers, snorkel and scuba dive on a tiny section of the Reef and it's edge. There were two nearby helipads from which passengers could take helicopter rides over the Reef for periods of up to twenty minutes.
One way and another that seems a lot of potential disturbance on admittedly a tiny section of what is an enormous system. However there would be other daily visitors like ourselves at many other points not to mention disturbance from passing vessels, leakages and the many other events and accidents that impact on the area.
So did I observe the colourful life of the promotional images or signs of worrying deterioration? I am no expert on marine life or science and my exposure was for four hours only and at one very tiny section of the Reef. I don't suggest that my limited exposure is definitive but sadly what I observed was not the promotional images.
Here are several images of life under water.
And some images of life from above.
|Snorkeling on the Reef|
|Pontoon sundeck with Catamaran in background|