Tuesday, June 13th. It happened. The Marshall 5 snorkled in the Great Barrier Reef.
The big day:
8:30am: Check in and got our tickets.
9:00am: Boarded the boat
We took a tour with a company called Sunlovers that departed from Cairns. There were so many tours to choose from. We chose this one because it seemed like they had lots of options for fun in case some of our crew wasn’t into snorkeling. Elle was all in. Mae was a maybe. Luke was a firm no.
First up, we had a 1.5 boat ride out to the reef. It took a quick pit stop at the beautiful Fitzroy Island to pick up some people. The ride was bumpy. That’s an understatement. It was rough. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will set the scene. Everyone was puking!!! The workers aboard were just running around delivering barf bags to everyone. By everyone…I mean NOT The Marshalls, but 3/4 of the boat. Easily. It was such a tough ride. I saw 3 adults get thrown from their seats onto the floor and they landed hard. It got so bad you really couldn’t walk around at all. Wes and Mae chose to sit outside. Elle decided to join them before it got too bad. One of the workers had to escort her out so she didn’t fall. Luke and I ended up getting stuck inside. We tried to get outside, but we fell onto another seat and just had to stay there. Everyone around us was sick. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. We held strong. Luke had to lie down toward the end. I didn’t know the fate of my outside crew. As we slowed down and approached the pontoon, we could finally move around and reunite. So happy we didn’t get sick and felt fine. Phew.
Boat 📸 ⤵️
The Pontoon! The boat docked at this pontoon for the day. The pontoon is right in the outer reef. It was something! It had a roof deck with bean bags and lounge chairs and that’s where you could hop on the water slide. There was a children’s pool and an underwater viewing area. From the pontoon, you could take 20 min boat rides on a glass bottom or a semi submerged vessel to get a looksie of the reef. The main level had lots of tables for you to set up your stuff but we used ours as HQ! And that area was where you got all your gear. My kids were excited about the flippers. The pontoon was really cool!
Pontoon 📸 ⤵️
Elle and Wes got into snorkel gear immediately. Little kids decided to do the children’s pool first. I made the mistake in telling Mae that fish won’t go in there. So she and Luke were enjoying themselves. Luke got out. Next thing I know, Mae was screaming bloody murder. I look into the pool and she was alone standing there surrounded by a swarm of fish. Dory fish. It was like slow motion trying to get to her. I was dressed and in flip flops. Someone on the stairs was super slow moving out of my way. People in the water hanging on to the edge of the pool just kept talking and didn’t even try to help her. I finally got to her and scooped her up. She was shaking and yelling, “I was so scared” over and over. It’s a snapshot in my brain. Mae standing in this beautiful clear water surrounded by about 50 colorful, beautiful fish. And her terrified scream. Onlookers thought it was hilarious. It took a bit of time to recover from that. Here are some pics of before and after the “incident” as well as an underwater pic Elle later took of the same fish.
Children’s Pool/Fish Attack 📸 ⤵️
Snorkeling! Elle and Wes were in their wet suits, snorkle gear and life vests. Luke decided just to take a dip in and take a peek. He was originally worried about sharks, but they told him they wish they were lucky enough to see one. Very rare. The other thing he didn’t like was having his nose covered. I had brought along his goggles so he snorkled without a snorkle. He did it his way. But he did it. He had zero interest in trying and the next thing I knew, he was in there yelling, “This is so cool!” I hung back with Mae for a bit. They used Elle’s underwater camera (her Christmas gift) and came out eventually to have some lunch. Elle decided to try the slide. She loved it. It was dark and fast. She took video going down the slide with her camera. Super cool. Mae went down on Wes’ lap.
I was anxious to get in the water at this point and not interested in eating after that boat ride. So Elle and I suited up and jumped in. I snorkeled for about 5 minutes on our honeymoon and didn’t like being so close to fish. I knew I couldn’t do that here. This was the Great Barrier Reef and I had to model bravery for the kids and take advantage of this opportunity. So Elle and I dove in together. I immediately stuck my head in….and there it was. I wanted to yell or cry or do something. I felt very overwhelmed by what I was seeing. I studied the GBR with the kids in homeschooling and I’ve seen a documentary. Nothing prepared me for what I saw. I can’t explain it. Gliding along the water with my flippers felt so good. Breathing through the snorkel was so easy. And there it was. The infamous reef and fish. Beautiful fish. Their home. We saw a big giant Maori Wrasse. He was so cute and big and swam right along with us. It was so quiet and peaceful. Elle and I looked over and noticed Mae was in snorkel gear!!! Wes, Mae and Luke joined us. Magic! All 5 of us snorkeled together. It was the best. Later, I went down the slide and we tried the semi sub (boring!) Wes and I each took a turn snorkeling alone when the kids were done. I want to do it again. I feel like we were just warming up. 4 hours on the pontoon flew by! It was worth the money and the boat ride. I’m so happy the kids had this experience. They will never forget. They all want to snorkel again… especially Luke (still shocked by this!) However, their first snorkel will be very hard to beat! What a day!
The boat ride home was uneventful. Everyone felt okay! Mae fell fast asleep. Two days later and we are still recovering.
This experience was so overwhelming, yet I find my blog and the pictures to be underwhelming. It’s just indescribable. Please come to Australia and see the reef for yourself. If you ever get the chance. The reef is actually dying due to climate change. We saw the bleaching. It’s very sad.
I’m so grateful for this experience. I feel like the luckiest girl in the universe.
We came as a family and left as a snorkel squad.