WHAT LIES BE­NEATH

Central Telegraph - - ESCAPE -

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.

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