Australia Day 5: Great Barrier Reef

January 2016, Atlas Workshops partnered with Mill Springs Academy to lead the Life and Land Australia trip, a custom school trip for students from Mill Springs to explore the intersection of environmental issues, conservation, and lifestyles in Australia. The diverse group of 11 students came from different years and background to collaborate on this for-credit field course and project. These are daily updates from different student travelers. Screenshot_2016-01-13-12-07-34-1024x576 2 IMG_9273-1024x683 2 IMG_9275-e1453768332824-683x1024 2

The day we went to the Great Barrier Reef, we all woke up and had breakfast. Secondly, we walked to the harbor and boarded the reef magic ship for our one and a half hour boat ride. After that, we got on to a pontoon to start our snorkeling adventure. Soon after, we all put on the provided snorkeling gear mask, flippers, and even a wetsuit that covered head to toe to prevent box jellyfish stings. When we all got into the water we saw all of the colorful corals and fish… some of us even saw sea turtles! I saw a stingray and jellyfish. Also at one point a really big fish – that the snorkel instructors at the pontoon named Wally – swam right up to me and I took a selfie with it!  Later on, we went onto an underwater glass boat.  In there we saw sea turtles and even more fish and coral. Unfortunately, we had to leave the reef, but on the way back the boat ride was very relaxing. The Great Barrier Reef  was amazing from the time I put my head in the water to when I took it out. It was a wonderful experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

-Wesley Site

Today we woke up at seven o’clock to get breakfast and make our way to the Great Barrier Reef. After breakfast, we quickly made our way to the marina so that we wouldn’t miss our boat. Then one of our classmates, Jacobi, lost his name tag sticker. Once we got on the boat, we had a hour and a half boat ride out to the reef. And we were on the top of the boat where it was almost ninety degrees outside and there was no cover from the sun. We arrived at the floating pontoon that they had docked at the reef. Next we had to get in line to get our lycosuits to prevent us from being stung by all the jellyfish out on the reef. Once we got our suit we put them on and went on an introductory snorkling tour. The guide we had was a marine biologist who told us about the reef and the fish that inhabit the reef. He told us about the giant boulder coral that live on the bottom with the black sea cucumbers. Next we got out of the water where we got lunch. All the food was cold except the chicken curry, which one of my classmates, Peter, does not like. Then we went out without the snorkel instructor, so we had to have a buddy so nothing bad happened to us. We went out and free dove down to the underwater observatory and waved to the people on the inside looking out at us. After that we further explored the reef, seeing a lot of cake colored staghorn coral and blue staghorn coral. Later, we went on the pontoon for the last time and went to the bottom of the pontoon where the under water observatory is so we could see the fish and reef clearly.  Then a few people and I went on the clear bottom boat so that we could observe other parts of the reef that we didn’t get to snorkel. Also there was a lady that pointed out sea life and told us what they were. After we finished that we went back onto the boat where a lot of us were shirtless and didn’t wear sunscreen and got a little sunburnt. Once we got off, we proceeded to keep our shirts off – making it worse. Next we looked around the shops for a few minutes and then went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Later our dinner was at Grill’d where we got locally sourced burgers for dinner.

-Jake Martin