Great Barrier Reef Part 2 – Opal Reef from Port Douglas   4 comments

I forgot to add in my previous post the second major attraction at Port Douglas – the Great Barrier Reef. Along with Cairns, PD is the gateway to the GBR. There are literally hundreds of tours leaving throughout the day to snorkel and dive. Most are huge fast catamarans that speed out to large pontoons on the reef with restaurants, underwater subs and waterslides. We went for something a little more low-key and chose Wavelength Tours who were focused on snorkelling and only carried about twenty people. You can read my review here but safe to say they delivered a superb day out.

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef

It’s a long way out to the reef edge from PD so it’s a long 1.5 hour ride. The SE Trade Winds whip up the sea at this time of year so it’s a very bouncy and quite wet ride out. The journey passes with fitting of equipment and talks about reef ecology and diversity.

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

I should at this point say that the majority of photos are from the crew. They possess a full underwater equipped DSLR camera and I don’t. Taking photos in bouncy waves, underwater, of moving objects is pretty hard and they clearly know what they are doing. Thanks to Johanna who took the photos. I’m sure you’ll agree they are pretty amazing

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

We arrived at Opal Reef and got kitted up

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

Even though the waves were rough the water quality is quite astonishing. As soon as you dip your head under the water the clarity takes your breath away.

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

Where Lady Elliot Island was primarily shallow here the water was much deeper and the reef edges much higher.

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

The diversity of life was simply astonishing. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

The kids were struggling with the fins (you really need them as currents are very strong) so after an initial struggle we quickly worked out to “buddy up” such that I towed TJF around – holding her hand as I did all the swimming and TBF likewise paired up with TJS. It was actually quite a nive father and daughter moment as we explored the GBR together, hand in hand

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

We saw fish of all shapes and sizes (including “Nemo”!)

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

Coral of all shades

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

A turtle, snoozing on the bottom

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

We even saw our first reef shark, spotted by TJF but not in time to grab a photo

My favourites however were the giant clams, just like the one’s you saw in 1950’s B movies, grabbing divers by the ankles!

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

They are everywhere and a multitude of colours. They are of course harmless and no-one got trapped or eaten 🙂

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

You simply snorkel around in circles around the edges and see something new every time. You often hear people say that it’s like snorkelling in an aquarium and it’s true. You just don’t want to get out. However cold and tiredness and the need to get back to shore before dark mean you have to get out eventually. The reef delivered one final treat. As we approached the boat we got up close and personal with Angus, a Maori Wrasse who frequents the reef and comes over whenever boats visit for a quick feed

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

In case you can’t get the scale he’s about 5 feet long from tail to teeth and a little intimidating!

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

Reluctantly we climbed out and headed back to shore. The GBR is everything you imagine it to be and more. A true wonder of the world and I feel lucky and privileged to have seen it.

great barrier reef, opal reef, wavelength tours, port douglas, low isles, opal reef, snorkelling

Even luckier, we got one more chance to see it later in the trip. 🙂

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4 responses to “Great Barrier Reef Part 2 – Opal Reef from Port Douglas

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  1. That water is just unbelievably clear – what amazing photos 🙂

    Like

    • If only I’d taken the photos I could claim the credit 🙂

      To be able to see so clearly down to about 10-15 feet was amazing. It really does make your eyes wide when you first see it. In terms of color, snorkelling is the best way to see it. Water filters out all the red/yellow light so it everything is a sort of monochrome blue deeper down (as you can see from the turtle shots. Just floating on the surface means you can see everything. You just don’t know where to look.

      At least I’m in a few photos for a change 🙂

      Like

  2. “At least I’m in a few photos for a change”
    And that’s an improvement? Oh sorry, did a question mark slip in inadvertently there? I think I meant “And that’s an improvement!”
    Back to the post: on the one hand: Wow! Wow! And again – Wow! Actually, I think I mean: WOW!!!!!!!!!
    On the other hand: ” Most are huge fast catamarans that speed out to large pontoons on the reef with restaurants, underwater subs and waterslides”.Really? You aren’t overstating that for ironic effect? I know – I’m supposed to be a world-weary cynic. I shouldn’t be surprised by our boundless capacity to find somewhere beautiful and then turn it into a toilet, but…..

    Like

    beatingthebounds
    • I’m just responding to the sincere and valued comments of my readers for more photographs of the author of these travel articles/ramblings.

      You and the boys would love the snorkelling, once you get used to the depth and the choppy waves – amazing stuff

      The demand to visit the Reef is huge so these pontoon things are very popular. They are reasonably well done and there are pretty strict controls but still you’ll be sharing reef with hundreds rather than tens of people. Tourism is a big problem on the reef but nothing like the threat from fluctuations in sea temperatures due to global warming, pollution, and the nasty old Crown of Thorns starfish (which in turn is flourishing due to the other reasons).
      Inconsiderate tourism can cause damage to small sections but if Global Warming continues it could kill the entire reef in a few years Very sobering thought

      It really is a delicate treasure and I’m glad to have seen it while it’s still there

      Like

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