WHAT LIES BENEATH
There are closer launching pads for experiencing the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s that very fact that makes the trip from Townsville so special. With only a handful of dive boats and tours in the region, run by operators proactive in conservation, reduced tourist traffic means healthier reef.
I’m along for the ride with Pro Dive, worming into my supplied wetsuit at the company’s cosy Magnetic Island headquarters before joining 10 other divers and snorkellers at the marina.
Our little boat bounces out into open ocean, passing the telltale breath bombs of humpback whales as it zips toward the pristine coral gardens of the outer reef. (Tip: take steps to settle your tummy first if you’re prone to motion sickness).
Introductory dives require no previous experience or you can stay on the surface for a snorkel — either way you’re in for a treat.
Sliding in the wake of a blacktip reef shark through puffs of tiny neon-blue fish, the coral looks like it’s in fantastic shape.
That’s despite relentless coral-munching predator, the crown of thorns starfish.
While we’re getting stuck into morning tea, our guide uses vinegar to inject the creeping CoTS, causing dramatic disintegration within 48 hours — sounds hardcore, but it’s effective without harming the ecosystem’s rightful inhabitants.
You get the impression it’s a needles-in-ahaystack kind of job. Yet, however herculean the task, experiencing the Great Barrier Reef will make you wholeheartedly believe it’s worth whatever it takes to preserve it.