Words will do little to describe the experience we had yesterday, but here goes anyway!
The day started with an early wake up call and a few moans and groans. We threw the towels and suncream in the bag and headed down to the park office. A short time later a mini bus pulled up and we jumped on board.
It was a pleasant 30min drive out to the boat ramp, which felt like nothing compared to the days we have spent in the car lately! Along the way, the tour guides entertained us with local information and a few jokes to get us into the right frame of mind for the adventure that lay ahead.
At the ramp, we were efficiently split into groups as the tender ferried is out to the main boat. Once on board we began fitting equipment. There was a flurry of flippers, snorkels and wetsuits as the skipper negotiated us out of the channel to the other side of the reef. The anticipation was building.
Then, within minutes, the call went out….. Manta Rays!! Our onboard marine biologist hit the water, as the rest of us struggled into our gear. Our guides rushed through the safety briefing and boom, we were in.
It wasn’t until this moment, that I quite realised what we had asked of our kids. The swell was big and we were in the middle of the ocean. I suddenly decided I was an irresponsible and reckless mother. My youngest (9) had a panic. Her snorkel filled and she freaked out. Mother of the year right here!
There was however, no need to worry. The guides were amazing. Cool young girls had our little mermaid sorted in minutes and that allowed us to relax and see this… a totally unexpected bonus. What a beautiful and graceful animal.
That was it, if there was anyone doubting or worrying about what we were doing, it had vanished! We knew we were going to be the lucky ones, we were in for a treat. Sure enough, minutes after getting out and readjusting, we were in again and this time for the main event.
The excitement was palpable. You could feel the way every single person on that boat was thinking. The word that comes to mind is privileged. Privileged to be there and privileged to share the water with this rare and magnificent creature.
Although there were two boats with 20 swimmers each on board, every time you put your head under, you felt like it was just you and her (I actually don’t know whether it was male or female). It felt as natural and real as anything I have ever experienced.
And that was just the start.
For a further few hours we swam and swam, time after time, each of us craving more. Some had to take a break, including my little mermaid, but that was ok because it felt like you had to just go with what you felt. She was still just as magnificent from the boat (or so I am told, I spent as little time onboard as possible!).
It turns out I am a good mother after all. Both kids loved their day, even with a little bit of motion sickness. My little one is now aspiring to be one of the guides when she grows up. They had her wound around their little fingers. She recovered from her motion sickness with the help, care and attention of the ‘cool’ girls. In fact the crew had every detail covered, nothing was too big or too small.
To top off the day, and complete the big 3 the humpback whales put on a spectacular show breaching, fluking and tail slapping.
We even saw calves very recently born in the beautiful warm waters.
It will be a very long time before any of us forget that day. It was especially exciting to share it with our Canadian daughter. In last few days, she has experienced more of Australia than the last few months put together.
I have found it, the ultimate stress relief! This is it, right here and to think the lucky crew get paid to experience that, day in and day out (not as easy as it looked I am sure, they worked hard but were the happiest bunch ever, and I can see why!).
This day will be my new happy place. When things get tough I will drift off to these memories. Just incredible.