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Did You Know You Can Meet Mickey Mouse on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef?
Posted on June 10, 2016 by Sophie Tabouel
Did you know that about 10 kilometres from Australia’s continental shelf on Flynn Reef there is a Mickey Mouse shaped coral reef- you have just got to see it to believe it!
I had a chance to see what the fuss is about on Silverswift Dive & Snorkel all thanks to the courtesy of the Quicksilver Group and my bosses at The Tour Specialists .
As an Australia Tour Specialist consultant I get to try out all the local tours and attractions for FREE. Yes, for free so that I then have the full knowledge of every single thing about that tour and I can advise my guests on the best tours and activities for them.
The sleek Silverswift boat departs from Cairns in Tropical Far North Queensland every day at 8:30am and it is one of the fastest vessels around. It is also the only vessel out of Cairns that takes you to 3 Outer Barrier Reef dive and snorkel reef sites in one day so you can see the best of the best reefs and coral.
Do You Suffer Seasickness?
If this is you then you need to book this reef trip. The boat has specially designed stabilisers that are operated during times of rough seas to keep the boat balanced so this is definitely a favourite choice when guests who suffer from seas sickness wish to visit the reef!
Got My Camera And Mask Ready!
I am well prepared for my snorkel trip this time- or so I think. I have my very own brand new mask and snorkel, bright pink mask strap for extra comfort and powerful Canon Powershot G16 underwater camera hired from Cairns Digital to savour the memories of my day. Not that you would need to bring your own snorkelling equipment as it is all included in your Great Barrier Reef ticket price but I am a bit fussy and just like to choose my own colours.
It isn’t overly sunny or calm in the morning today but it seems that the skipper is going in the right direction (read: heading towards the clearest patch in the distance). Silverswift is a decent size dive/snorkel boat taking maximum of 85 passengers on-board. She is actually surveyed to carry over 100 guests but for comfort they choose to keep the numbers low so the day is comfortable and personalised.
The reef boat is full according to the numbers but there are plenty of seats to choose from and both forward and rear sundecks are nearly empty.
I spend my time in the bow at the front of the vessel and enjoy the breeze on the way to the reef as many other passengers make their way to the front deck to admire the views. Crowd is mixed; I am meeting people from Spain, United States, Canada, Kazakhstan, Japan and Australia of course. Silverswift is one of the few vessels that include the lycra sun suit in their base price from November till May when it is the peak time for jelly fish to be in the water that may annoy you and give you a little tingle and the sun is at its fiercest for sun burn.
If you have a fear of jelly fish or you wish to really know the facts about jelly fish on the Great Barrier Reef then read this article here by Jelly Fish expert Dr Lisa Anne Gershwin it will certainly put your mind at ease.
Boys Will Be Boys…
Mex our snorkel guide for today is warning all males over the age of 45 on-board (and we have 8 of them) not to forget that they are not 20 years old anymore and to wear a buoyancy vest and take the floatation noodles that area on offer for free.
Mex is over 45 himself so he must know what he is talking about. According to the statistics, most dive and snorkel accidents happen with men over the age of 45 just because they are still trying to do the same tricks as teenagers.
Some nationalities in land locked countries do not get time to spend learning to swim but they also do not like to be told they cannot swim so they can sometimes get themselves into a spot of bother just trying to save face.
Just make sure you follow the boat crews instructions at all times and no-one gets hurt okay!
For your own safety you will be asked to fill in a medical questionnaire before you dive – to preview the questionnaire please click here.
Mickey, Is That You?
It takes just over 1 hour to arrive to our first snorkel/dive site on Flynn Reef- Coral Gardens. There is a bit of a swell and I underestimate my capability to multitask- trying to adjust my mask, hold onto the floating noodle and camera. As I am about 1 hand short I swim back to the boat, re-seal my mask, secure the wrist strap around my hand and I get rid of the floatation noodle – I mean I can float anyway, right?
There’s just heaps of big fish around, I am spotting hump-head parrotfish, clownfish, triggerfish and several angel fish straight away. The coral is simply stunning and plentiful; I am getting some really cool pictures on my rented underwater camera.
Once we have spent about 1.5 hours in Coral Gardens it is time to move to our second fabulous coral reef location which is about a kilometre away, still on Flynn reef and called Gordon’s Mooring. During our snorkel briefing the Mickey Mouse reef gets pointed out and everyone gets excited.
Indeed, the coral formations do look like 2 big Mickey Mouse ears and face so I totally get the name now. Who knew…you can apparently even find Koala, Heart and Mickey Mouse shaped reefs on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef!
Magical Creature from the Depths of the Sea…
I just love Gordon’s Mooring snorkel/dive site because it has got several deep crevasses and passes and all surrounded by magnificent colourful and healthy coral. Some people spot turtles and when I rush to get a glimpse they have already disappeared… as I am starting to lose hope for seeing the sea turtles and swim back towards the main vessel one huge majestic specimen emerges just underneath me from the depths to surface and take a gasp of air. I totally forget that I am heading towards the boat and just lose myself in this moment. The sea turtle isn’t rushing, it is slowly gliding like underwater ballet heading towards the surface and I make sure to stay still and just take photos and videos of that incredible moment. Professional photographer also spots the turtle and tries her best to get a photo of me and a turtle together. I am not very cooperative as I am focusing more on my own exciting footage and therefore don’t make an effort to pose sorry Mr Photographer.
Once I lift my head from the water I am surprised how far I have followed the turtle. I am completely on the other side of the boat! As magically as the turtle appeared from the dark blue abyss he disappears from my sight. That encounter alone would have made my trip on the Great Barrier Reef worthwhile even without seeing any coral or other fish.
Some of the Best Coral Around
Our third site dive and snorkel site is not less remarkable. Although unfortunately I don’t see more turtles, I saw some of the best corals I have ever seen on all of my trips to the Great Barrier Reef.
This time I follow my snorkel guide Mex around and it is a wise choice- he takes me and some of the other snorkelers right on the outer edge of the reef where we see trigger fish, clownfish families and some huge clams. It is intimidating and amazing at the same time to have the most gorgeous coral on one side and a huge endless wall drop off on the other side into the deep blue sea.
This is the famous trench you see on Finding Nemo where the fish ride it to Sydney Harbour like its’ a highway with its strong current. Remember the turtles said to Nemo’s dad and Dory “Hey Dude Grab Some Shell” and they then went zooming off with hundreds of other sea turtles on the Trenches current. Soon there is a new movie coming out called Finding Dory cannot wait for this one! This area is like snorkelling between two different worlds – light and darkness.
Time for the Afternoon Drinks on the Sundeck…
As much as I have been dreading that moment, it is time to get back on board and head back home to the boat marina in Cairns. Sun is out and it is the perfect time to crack a beer or sip crispy cold sparkling on the upper sundeck of the boat.
I have taken well over 200 underwater pictures and numerous videos. What can I say… Silverswift is certainly a big underwater experience and well-worth the money for an adventurous diver/snorkeler who wants to see the best coral and stunning marine life.
And if you are a diver then definitely jump on board this boat to see some of the best parts of the Great Barrier Reef. But just make sure when you book you pre-book all your dives to ensure you do not miss out!
Read more here about this Great Barrier Reef Tour.
Tour Specialist Tip: Pre-book a good underwater camera to savour the memories and save money. On-board hire cameras are usually more expensive and they only have very limited cameras available for hire. I got my camera from Cairns Digital the day before with the full tutorial how to use the camera and I also got to keep the 8GB SD card.
Author: Helen- The Tour Specialist
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