FEB 19 // DAY 21

SeaQuest was out of commission, so we got to go on the newer, faster ReefQuest for the same price. It’s a ninety-minute boat ride from Cairns harbor to the outer reef. I’ve been snorkeling in a few places, namely Hawaii and the Caribbean, but the Great Barrier Reef is in a league of its own. The sheer number and diversity of fish, not to mention the exquisite coral formations, was astounding.

Compared to the second dive, first dive was fairly uneventful. We saw a smallish reef shark and a pair of clown fish that looked like they were plucked right out of the opening scene of Finding Nemo. The second dive was on a much steeper reef, with a drop off that went down more than 30 meters into the murky blue abyss. Within the first few minutes, we ran smack dab into a gigantic sea turtle. Since we were on the far outer edge of the group, we had the lovely guy–or gal–all to ourselves for several minutes. Turtles are amazing. I love turtles. After the big one departed, a smaller one swam up from the depths. Turtle heaven, I tell you.

At this point, I should mention that during our snorkel briefing, we were shown a picture of a “little” Trigger Fish and told to avoid them. Apparently, they’re extremely aggressive during mating session–which is now–and have human sized teeth. The cue for identifying the feisty species is a spike that sticks up when it’s irritated. Note, we didn’t fully comprehend the size of this thing and figured it looked like a maroon salad plate with enormous choppers.

I was cruising around looking at the electric blue starfish scattered around a particular area of the reef and, out of the corner of my eye, saw Tiffanie having a “special moment” with a “very friendly” gigantic fish. Curious, I paddled over, only to have the “very friendly” attentions of said fish visited upon my person. It swam right at me, mouth open, exposing a gnarly set of human-like teeth. I instantly remembered our safety briefing, but noting the size, I was uncertain until I saw the trigger get triggered.

We were in trouble. Keeping our heads underwater so we could see our pursuer, we quickly flippered backwards. It followed us for a good five minutes until it encountered another fish to trigger its trigger at and we safely swam away. After returning to the shore, we googled “trigger fish bites” and were extremely relieved to have escaped intact.

After that excitement, we got to swim with 1.5-meter reef shark on the hunt for an injured fish hiding in a mass of coral. Tiffanie found an octopus about 6 meters down. Reef two was by far our favorite. On the boat ride home, we enjoyed cheap beers and a view at the front of the ship. After some super bomb Thai food, we moved hostels to a quieter one off of the main drag.