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The Great Barrier Reef

Manel Montoro

The Great Barrier Reef

With a length of 2,300 km, the Australian Great Barrier Reef is the only one that can be seen from space. Considered a living being, this fragile ecosystem is home to 400 types of corals, 1,500 species of fish, and 4,000 varieties of mollusks. It is a visual spectacle and a miracle of nature, and one of the few remaining refuges on the planet.

“Hello, don’t be
afraid, I am not
aggressive!”

The Minke Whales

It is 9 o’clock in the morning, we have already received the briefing for the dive sites for the day. Suddenly the scientist on board appears and tells us, “This is a whale area”. We all looked at each other, excited. “At last,” I thought, “at last I can swim with them”. He briefly explained to us that they can reach 8 meters long, weigh about 10 tons, that they are gray with a white belly, etc… I will always remember what he told us: they are very sociable whales. If when they see you they turn around and show you their white belly, it means that they are greeting you, saying “Hello, don’t be afraid, I am not aggressive”. We were all very hopeful, although we contained our excitement, since we all know that nature is not a zoo, and therefore the whales might come, or they might not ….

And so it was. During the 45 minutes of our dive, the whales did not appear. But just at the end, when we were already five meters from the surface, they arrived! About six whales began to circle us, singing. They paused, docile, calm, elegant… in short, magical. I assure you that such an experience changes your perspective on life.

Feeding the Sharks

One day, the people in charge of the expedition suggested that we do a “shark feeding”. It consists of hanging a huge ball of frozen fish from the boat. All of us stood around this ball, and the sharks arrived. Usually, when we dive with sharks, they are quiet and calm. They approach us, circle us curiously and leave. But when they eat, everything changes. For the first time I understand the hunting frenzy. They become fast and electric, biting the fish ball mercilessly and coming much closer to you. At one point, one of the sharks passed right over me. So close in fact that just by lifting my hand a little, I touched its belly.

Shark skin is very curious and special. It is smooth if you run it from head to tail, but as rough as sandpaper if you run it from tail to head. The funny thing about it all though, is that despite the excitement of the animal, I never felt in danger. Adrenaline surges, of course, but no hint of aggression towards us. Sharks are not as bad as the movies make them out to be.

The Return to the Mainland

As always, the trip had to end on an extreme note. On the way back to Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, a hurricane made an appearance. Thank goodness it was the tail end of the hurricane, but I had never been so seasick on a ship. It was impossible to stand, sit or lie down. It was a very long night, I assure you, but the seasickness was worth it!

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