The wind finally let up a bit yesterday (still quite strong at 15 knots) and we were on the boat pier, ready to go at 8:00am. After a lot of research on the different snorkel tour operators, we had decided to go with Wavelength (and would highly recommend them). They are one of the pricier tours, but don’t take scuba divers (which means they visit the better snorkeling sites) and they go out all the way to the outer reef.
Even though the reef is the closest to the coast anywhere here, the trip out is still two hours … in pretty rough seas. Fortunately, all of us made it without getting sea sick. Once there, the water was surprisingly cold and nobody went in without a wet suit … which also acts as a bit of an insurance policy against any stingers that might be left in the season.
We had talked quite a bit with other tourists about how the snorkeling compared with elsewhere (The Red Sea, Caribbean, Thailand, Fiji, …) and got a wide variety of opinions. So we weren’t sure what to expect. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a cloudy day (makes a huge difference), but when the sun came out a few minutes every once in a while, it was quite spectacular. The coral cover and variety was excellent, as was the marine life. Our personal “snorkeling benchmark” is Atutaki (a small atoll in the Cook Islands, see our post here), and the snorkeling yesterday was absolutely up to par, if not even a bit better.
We also had a marine biologist on board, who could not only answer any and all questions, but also gave an interesting talk about the current state of the reef … and it’s very depressing future. Apparently 50% of the reef (meaning coral and fish) have disappeared over the last 20 years … and the trend is accelerating. Most biologists believe that it will be gone (or have changed into algae beds) in the next 20 years. The main causes seem to be industrial fertilizer run-off, overfishing, shipping pollution and a drastic increase in water temperature.
Better come and see it while it’s still here!
Here are a few pictures from the day (including underwater shots that others on the boat took): http://www.flickr.com/photos/uwefassnacht/sets/72157633892533708
Tomorrow we’ll return our camper van, fly to Alice Springs and into the “red heart” of the continent.