Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef: Is This Real Life?

Anna Leigh Vincent is a student at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte and is an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is interning abroad with ISA Internships in Sydney, Australia

This past weekend I traveled up north to Cairns (pronounced “Cans”) with my friends I met through the ISA Internship program and we stayed in a youth hostel. Right off the coast of Cairns is the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest reef and it can be seen from the moon! It has been at the top of my bucket list for some time now and the fact that I got to go there is unbelievable. My sophomore year of college I gave a speech about the reef and the unfortunate coral bleaching happening and announced to my peers one day I would see it before it was too late. My friends and I traveled to the reef on a catamaran with around 50 others. The ride was quite scenic as we passed by mountains and numerous forests on the coast.

The Great Barrier Reef
This is a picture of me snorkeling the reef, taken by James Spevak

Once we reached one of the reefs we were to dive that day, we were given instructions on the dos and don’ts of snorkeling and taught emergency symbols. I grabbed my mask, put on my flippers and dived in the sparkling turquoise water. I had waited years for that very moment, my dream was unfolding before my eyes. I have been snorkeling before in the Caribbean, but nothing could ever compare to the Great Barrier Reef. The marine life was flourishing, fish of all colors and the coral was full of life; the pictures don’t even compare to what it looked like in real life. The kid in me came out when I saw a clown fish and I had to tell all my friends I found Nemo. My favorite fish I saw was a beautiful blue parrot fish.

This is another picture of me taken by James Spevak. As you can tell I was having a lot of fun.
On the catamaran with my new friends I met through the ISA Internship Program. From left to right: Catherine, Anne, James and me.

After snorkeling for about 45 minutes, the underwater photographer came to take a picture of me and my friend. Just as she snapped the shot, I got a massive cramp in my calf and was in immediate pain. All I needed to do was stretch it out quickly, however, a mother nearby heard the commotion and immediately did the emergency wave with her arms signaling an emergency boat to rush my way. It was all a misunderstanding that caused me a lot of unwanted attention, but the crew was extremely kind and helpful. I was taken back to the catamaran where I stretched it out and re-hydrated before going back out. Needless to say, the picture the photographer captured of that moment was worth more than a million words.

Anne and I snorkeling the reef.

That adventure is surely one I will forever hold close to my heart. My mini-emergency will be a story I can laugh at for years to come. Everything I saw that day was breathtaking and I feel ever so blessed to be able to explore Australia and all the beautiful sights it has to offer. To everyone who encouraged me to come here, to go out and take on a new adventure, I thank you for it has been the best decision I have ever made.

Peace out, stay tuned for my next post!


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