Amanda Ferguson, 2014 North Queensland student blogger, writes:
Thursday, May 29
If being in Australia wasn’t magical enough, swimming with Nemo and his friends certainly was far more than I could have imagined. I think many of my classmates would agree that while every event on this trip has been spectacular, they’ve all been stops on the road to the reef. Honestly, the Great Barrier Reef was the best place to end our stay here in Australia.
This was my first time snorkeling, but Eye to Eye Marine Encounters let us first-timers test out the snorkeling gear at the hotel pool before we jumped into open waters. Soon though we were out on the boat, adorned in black ninja suits (a.k.a. wetsuits) and snorkel gear, and face to face with Nemo’s home. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan of Disney’s Finding Nemo, so I was tickled pink see actual clownfish poking their heads out of anemones as depicted in the opening scenes of the movie.
The coral itself was also just as beautiful, and lots of other fish were present for the party as well, including butterflyfish, grouper, parrot fish, and even a couple of blacktip sharks! On the last day we even managed to swim with a couple of Pacific green sea turtles. It was really a majestic sight to see these creatures as they gracefully glided in and out of the reef. It was like the ocean version of a horse riding into the sunset.
It was also interesting to learn how everything in the reef is interconnected. For example, the grinding of the parrot fish as they feed on debris on the coral is actually what orients the baby polyps to swimming back towards the reef. The coral are also able to influence cloud cover for UV protection, which eventually float more inland and contribute to the location of rainforest formation.
This experience really was a great reminder of why I believe sustainability is so important. It is an example of the planet’s beauty we could potentially lose if climate change is not taken seriously. And honestly as I travel back home to Ohio, that’s probably the main thing that is going to stick with me from this trip. I will always remember the beauty of the land, but it’s the discussions of sustainability to maintain those places that will have a lasting impact on my perspective.
These were truly unique places that we were lucky enough to visit, but if I were being honest, it’s a real concern that these some of places could be gone in the next ten years, especially when you realize how interconnected they all are. The reef in particular, while being a great resource to the fishing, shipping, and tourism industries amongst others, is also extremely sensitive to change. A 2 degrees increase in temperature would be enough to have serious effects on the ecosystem.
Australia doesn’t have all the answers, but it is doing a couple more things right that we aren’t all doing in America. I’m so glad I was able to experience all that I have in the past 25 days. It’s definitely been widely educational and life changing. For everyone who’s been reading these posts, thank you for reading! And thank you AUIP and everyone we met for a wonderful experience!