Scuba trip reveals a wonderland that is Great Barrier Reef
I AM trying to hold back a smile as we glide along the water surface taking in the colossal beauty that is the Great Barrier Reef.
Even the smallest smirk will fill my goggles with seawater as my cheeks push against the plastic seal.
But holding back your emotions as you point and squeal in wonder is a little tricky.
The profusion of fish, the rich coral life and the stamina of this underwater kingdom is almost impossible to describe.
I am speechless by the sheer biodiversity of the great reef. It is like nothing I have ever seen.
New life flourishes in bright spirals among slow-growing coral boulders and swaying marine animals.
A wall of fish swim in unison along the reefs borders, darting in and out of tight spaces and snatching at the life as it passes by.
There are about 40 people on the Port Douglas tour with family owned and operated company Calypso Reef and Charter.
The experienced crew has been taking tourists to the reef for 15 years, and is one of the top-rated charters in the region.
Everything has been provided on the boat, including snorkel mask, flippers and an unlimited supply of knowledge, which the nine crew members are more than happy to share.
Our first taste of the reef is a small northern shelf 50km off Port Douglas called Opal Reef.
The water is a warm 25 degrees, and although a little cool in places, my goose bumps are the least of my concerns.
I jump in and begin to kick toward a dark mass on the ocean floor.
As I draw closer my eyes adjust to the beauty below and I am suddenly stunned.
Where to go? What to look at? There is just so much. My eyes cannot focus on the reef's surface quick enough.
I am mostly shocked at this heritage listed world's ability to regenerate, given a cyclone wiped out this area 15 years ago.
It is simply remarkable how these bright and incandescent coral walls have been built from thousands of coral spores, which found a home to nurture and develop.
This regeneration occurs every minute across the 2300km-long reef, which stretched from just below the Tropic of Capricorn to the edge of Papua New Guinea.
Seeing the life bloom in such powerful forms just shows the reef's resilience.
I swim back to the boat as the crew gathers everybody for our next reef cluster, Bash and The Wedge.
I expected these areas to be similar to the first, but as the skipper, Tony Ryan, points out, "I have been diving here for 15 years and I always find something new to see".
Home to more than 1500 fish species and hundreds of types of coral, sponges and molluscs, you could spend a lifetime here and still not see everything.
A bubbly crew member takes a group of 15 on a guided tour of the reef, pointing out different species and creatures which live among the beauty.
We see a giant clam, a sea cucumber and a variety of fish.
She points at a large coral boulder, the size of a small car. It sparkles bright blue and silver, as if mimicking the rippling water.
There are also tiny teeth marks spread across its surface from a fish gnawing on its body.
I brush my hand a centimetre from one of the corals spores and watch it close up, then reopen, as if breathing in and out.
And just when I think my time on the reef is over, a wall of large Grouper fish dart in and out from under the boat.
I swim closer as the crew throws bait off the back, enticing the group to stick around.
After spending the morning with the tiny crews that live in the reef, it is mind-blowing to swim among these giants.
They are thick and muscular, yet gentle and inquisitive.
I board the boat for the last leg back to Port Douglas and try to comprehend what I have witnessed.
I knew I would find this day hard to describe.
Maybe I just feel lucky to have been a part of the reef for a day.
* The writer was a guest of GoDo Tours
IF YOU GO
Calypso Reef Cruises operate out of Port Douglas, offering family cruises, reef tours, dive trips and sailing to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling and scuba diving.
The experienced crew departs daily from Marina Mirage, Port Douglas, taking visitors to the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The tour was organised through Wotif's experience company, GoDo.com.au.
For more information, go to www.calypsoreefcruises.com.