Australia

Kat, Ned & Scout - Brisbane by Marek Charytonowicz

Brisbane welcomed us with cloudy skies and it was a bit of a shock to be back in a city. We knew that the reality of travelling is to say goodbye to one place just to welcome another adventure but some goodbyes are more difficult than others. 

The good thing was we were about to see our friends Ned and Kat again, play with their little Rhodesian - Scout and see Brisbane for a couple of days. It was very nice - spending time with them, chatting and cooking together. We felt very welcomed and it was great to see them again.

Brisbane itself turned out to be a bit moody with us - out of the two days we had there, the first we spent in a cafe on Southbank, surrounded by pouring down rain and not really feeling like trying to walk around and see anything. Instead, we spent a few hours planning our New Zealand leg of the trip and then relaxed at home playing with Scout who's infinite amount of energy and love was constant fun for us. 

We both love dogs and it turned out we both love Rhodesian Ridgebacks - especially when they're 4 months old and you have all the time in the world to play with them. One day she will be much bigger and stronger but for now it was all about running around, wrestling and barking.

The second day Brisbane was much more accommodating and the dun finally showed its face. We spent it walking around Southbank up to the Kangaroo Point. We crossed the massive Story Bridge on foot and explored Fortitude Valley and area around Central Station. Brisbane was finally nice - a slow paced city with large river going across it and beautiful green areas. We liked it but we were longing for outdoors again - as it turned out we got used to countryside life a bit.

That night we cooked a thank you dinner for Ned and Kat and said our goodbyes. They've been great hosts and made us feel really at home. Thank you! Till the next time!

Goodbye Byron Bay by Marek Charytonowicz

We knew we were going to miss Byron before time came to say goodbye. It is a great place to stay for longer and no surprise it attracts so many people. It seem to offer a little bit of everything - great lazy beach time, surfing spots for beginners and pros alike, treks and walks around town, a few galleries, good restaurants and great cafes and some great musicians that busk on the streets.

We took it all in over those two weeks. We relaxed on the beach, jumped waves and just sun bathed on the sand. We did long walks to see the lighthouse with its spectacular views over the bay and discovered Beach Cafe with amazing mango smoothies on the way there.

We had a blast learning to surf with Gaz and Rhys - not only because we got to love the feeling of surfing a wave - but also because of the great easygoing and laid back attitude of those two dudes. Each time it was hard work paddling, frustration of trying to catch a wave and finally the ecstasy of riding one with nothing but a wobbly board under your feet. And although the whole experience was delayed three days due to weather conditions, it was worth the wait and we'll never forget it.

Byron for us was also hanging around town, visiting various local shops, trying food and coffee in some great spots around town and catching performances of local musicians - like Garrett Kato, a Canadian songwriter whom we discovered accidentally passing by his busking performance. He was very very good - and you can judge it yourself here on Spotify. He was also a nice chap and we chatted about common musical tastes and suggested visiting London for some performances. Who knows, maybe one day we'll listen to him on our side of the world.

We did yoga and tried delightful wood oven pizza at the Tree House and indulge in tons of ice creams at the Beaches & Cream. And we spent hours watching surfers braving the waves of the swell. It was epic.

So we packed our bags and boarded the Greyhound with heavy hearts wishing that we could stay longer. We didn't really know how much longer, a few days, a few weeks... just longer.

The Protesters Falls by Marek Charytonowicz

We have been in Byron Bay for almost two weeks now and have done nothing but the beach activities. We loved that but we thought we need a break and we rented a small Kia Rio  for a day to get out of town and see the area a bit more.

The ocean decided to take a break from people too - a massive swell, an aftermath of the Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji only several days before, brought large waves and turned the beach into a whirlpool of sea foam. It looked spectacular but unless you were a. good surfer, it was better to stay away.

So instead we packed a few things and headed to the other side of Cape Byron to see a few places that Rhys - our surfing teacher had recommended. We reached Broken Head and then Lennox Head - small seaside town with a few nice cafes and shops. Their beaches - facing directly east - were both a whirlpool of massive waves and a sea foam from the swell. Quite a view that makes you feel a bit of respect for the forces of nature.

After that we decided to head inland and check out one of the nearby waterfalls - the Protesters Falls - that one of the shopkeepers in Lennox Head recommended. It took around an hour of winding country roads. At one point we attempted to find a hidden waterfall that an ice cream parlour owner in Byron Bay suggested to us. He gave us a hand drawn map  that we tried to follow but after some time of following a gravel road we found only massive potholes and a concrete 3 meter dragon guarding a road cross. Yes, a dragon - beautifully sculpted from some sort of concrete or clay.

We turned around and went straight to Protesters Falls instead - deep into the forest. 

The falls bears its name to commemorate the first successful social protests held in 1979 to change the conservation laws to stop the extensive logging of the forest. These protests and their outcome turned out to be one of the most important moments in Australian nature conservation history.

The falls were a 10 minute walk through the dense forest that brought to mind Daintree Forest with its giant ferns, tall trees and rocky path weaving its way among the vegetation. From time to time you would hear aloud crack and a massive dried palm leaf would fall down on the ground tearing its way through the canopy. It felt like being Indiana Jones about to discover an ancient treasure.

The treasure turned out to be a stunning 30 meter thin waterfall falling into a small rocky pond surrounded by lush rainforest and rocks. There was only one more couple there, quietly enjoying the sounds of the forest. The pond and waterfall was cold and refreshing - but it's not a comfortable swimming place as the bottom of he shallow pool is very rocky with a few tree trunks so it's easy to slip and hit yourself. What we also didn't know is that it's actually not allowed to swim here because of the mosquito repellent and sunscreen dissolving in water and endangering the local population of Fleay's Barred Frogs down the stream. Too late a discovery.

We spend a couple of hours there, simply taking in the forest atmosphere, the water spray rainbows in the sun, the sounds and the solitude of this place. It was a refreshing change after busy Byron Bay and we needed it.

It was difficult to leave this hidden gem and go back. In Byron we went for a walk and it looked like the swell is finally going down so we were looking forward to two more days possibly on the beach. Waves or no waves - the ocean always looks so tempting!

Breath slowly & steadily and never ever hold your breath - PADI course part I by Marek Charytonowicz

Living for a moment in a place like Byron Bay inspires you. Firstly to learn surfing - when you watch all those people young and old picking their boards or all shapes and sizes and running to the waves to surf them, get tumbled, get up and surf them again. It's a spectacle that we loved watching from the beach but even more wanted to try ourselves.

And secondly - it make you want to learn diving. After doing the two introductory dives on the Great Barrier Reef I really wanted to do the PADI Open Water diver course - the entry to the diving world, that usually takes only a few days to complete and can be partially done online. 

I've enrolled to the online theoretical part right after doing the dives in Port Douglas - just to do it in my spare time and when an opportunity arrises - do the practical part somewhere during the journey. The opportunity happened to be now and I signed up for the course in one of the local diving shops - the Sundive Byron Bay. The course was supposed to start on Tuesday and take three days of practical training - under the condition that I complete the theory part on my own.

It turned out that the theory takes time - almost 10 hours of it if one wants to read everything but skip the videos. I finished at half past one am on Tuesday morning. Seven hours later I was at a small pool of a local backpacker hostel, staring at a pile of diving equipment among other eight participants of the course. I was excited - being under water has always been the most relaxing experience for me and I loved doing lengths at the pool underwater almost touching the bottom. 

The pool training was interesting - two instructors were methodically going through a number of exercises and skills that we were supposed to learn and demonstrate practically. Because a pool is a controlled environment, it's easier to learn there. Once this is done, the skills are then repeated in an open water environment- lake, sea or ocean. One needs to successfully complete the pool training and four ocean dives to gain the PADI Open Water Diver certificate.

Our pool training was great fun but the 9 participants and tiny pool made it look like fish in a bucket at Christmas - overcrowded, bumping into one another and unable to swim. I liked it though and after a day of that I was exhausted but happy and looking forward to the next day when we were to start the ocean dives.

That part unfortunately never happened. When I showed up at 7am at the diving shop the next day, my instructor told me that all of the dives are on hold for the next five days due to the weather - Cyclone Winston brought swell that made the only local diving spot inaccessible most likely till next week. The week when we're already in Brisbane. The one good thing was that Sundive decided to not charge me for the pool training - I'm not entirely sure why, but it was a very nice gesture from their side.

Tough luck. I was very disappointed. The diving spot here - Julian's Rocks -  is the only rocky place in the sandy bay which means that all of the marine life is sheltering there - sharks, smaller fish, manta rays, turtles. But if you can not safely anchor a boat out there, you can't go down to see all this beauty.

I started researching where else I can finish the course on a referral basis and decided that our few days in Sydney is a perfect opportunity to do so. So it looks like I will spend two days under water after all!

Hanging loose - surfing with Gaz and Rhys by Marek Charytonowicz

After three days of waiting we finally got the call that our surfing lessons are a go. The water conditions improved and large waves were no longer pounding in the shallows.

We were excited. Byron Bay is well known for its surfing conditions. Here the Coral Sea to the north meets the Tasman Sea in the south. Cape Byron protrudes into the Pacific Ocean and forms the most easterly point of the Australian mainland with a white lighthouse guarding the rocky cliffs. On one side of the peninsula it's got the Tallow Beach with large waves coming straight from the open ocean and causing strong rips - the domain of the skilled surfers. On the other side though, it has The Pass where waves slide alongside gently curved shoreline and travel uninterrupted carrying surfers for a long period of time. This is where learning takes place and it's a beautiful place to do that.

We were picked up by Rhys - tall, rugged, hippie looking guy with piercing slightly creepy blue eyes and very laid back attitude. A few years earlier he won the Australian Masterchef title and now he spends half of the year teaching surfing and the other half cooking on a luxury yacht sailing around Australia. He arrived in an old noisy van with trailer loaded with surfboards and a few more people already inside. 

Fifteen minutes later we were at a parking lot, put on worn out red rasher vests and met Gaz - even more rugged and weathered looking older Australian with bleached blond long hair, dreadlocked in places and a great sense of humour. He was the owner of the surfing school that was his secondary activity after playing golf all the time. He's been surfing all his life and he had a straightforward non bullshit approach to learning. Basically - take the board and just do it. 

We picked the boards and marched to the beach where he gave us a 10 minute introduction to the surfing theory - quoting "you look up at the beach, you surf to the beach, you look down at fish, you swim with the fish" and "name your board, love your board, look at the wave and banana!". Armed with that in depth knowledge and hefty amount cheese of jokes from Gaz, we grabbed out surfboards and headed into the ocean. Very excited and slightly scared of waves breaking in front of us.

The idea was we stay closer to Gaz and Rhys, lie flat on the board and when the right wave comes they will launch us, we'll do a banana and stand up - hopefully surfing the wave to the beach.  Surprisingly this tactics seemed to work - we were standing on boards and surfing the waves!!! 

And what a feeling it was - you put a lot of effort into paddling, your arms turn into heavy blocks and every move hurts, you're flat on the board, you see a wave coming, nobody on it - you're good to go. You turn around, start paddling like crazy and just when you feel it on the end of your board breaking you lift your torso on your hands into a banana shape (this prevents the board from diving down and lifts up the end of it). Suddenly you feel the powerful kick of the water - the wave takes the board and sends you forward really fast. You jump up to standing position, look at the beach and.... you're surfing! 

And despite the fact that this is just a basic type - no turns, tunnels, jumps - the feeling is amazing, only you, water and a simple board, nothing more. Im nothing more than a beginner but I can feel that this makes you get to know water like no other sport. You're so close and personal with the wave and you forget about the world around you for a moment. A truly amazing feeling. 

We did three classes overall across the next week. Each time we were getting slightly better and were given a bit more freedom - to start paddling and try to catch our own waves. Each time it was great fun, we were leaving bruised, tired, wet and happy! We wanted to learn more, start turning, start feeling we can control the board. We loved it and we were looking forward to trying it later on during the journey. Perhaps the waves of Bali would be good for us!

The joy of nothing - the lazy days of Byron Bay by Marek Charytonowicz

As much as we were sad to leave the boat and Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach left no impression. It was a backpacker oriented gateway to the islands but for us it wasn't really a place worth staying for longer. So we gladly boarded a small Virgin Australia plane to get to Brisbane to see Ned & Kat as a stopover to explore the Gold Coast and finally immerse ourselves in surfing and beach life. 

Meeting Ned & Kat was awesome - I used to work with this guy back in London for a year and apart from being one of the best designers I've ever met, he was also probably the kindest guy on the planet. I haven't seen him for over three years and it was nice to visit him, his wife Kat and their 4 months old Rhodesian Ridgeback pup - Scout, in their new beautiful house in the suburb of Brisbane. 

This stay was short - only a weekend. We spent our time with them walking the dog and exploring their lovely neighbourhood. We had great time and they made us feel very welcome and helped with all the arrangements for the next leg of the trip. On Sunday we visited nearby waterfalls with a swimming hole and attempted to lit up a bbq in a Bear Grylls style - using a wet wood found in the forest around. Well, we did light it up but it was more of a meat smoking spot than a barbecue so we moved to a gas powered one and finally had the meal. Swimming in the waterhole was awesome - cold and refreshing - with an added excitement of meeting a half-a-meter local eel. It was a great weekend!

On Monday morning we boarded a Greyhound bus and headed to Byron Bay - an amazing little seaside town, known for its surfing opportunities and generally laid back lifestyle. It turned out - this kind of beach bum way of life was what we love and we spent almost a week simply lazying around before attempting any water sports.

We checked in into our apartment which was to become our home for the next two weeks and hit the beach - a spectacular many miles long stretch of golden sand with big turquoise waves crashing on the shallows and sending sea spray in the air.

Finally - contrary to Port Douglas - the ocean was cooling!   So... we spent most of the first week jumping the waves, lying in the sun or in the sun tent, observing people, observing surfers and bodyboarders braving the waves - and generally relaxing.

We tried morning yoga and afternoon massages that left us bruised and happy. We drank amazing coffee in the morning and ate breakfast at home or in one of the cafes recommended by our apartment's manager (a middle age British lady, clearly enjoying her Byron life and knowing all about everything worth knowing here). We went for long walks on the beach with the famous Byron Bay lighthouse sending long ray of light deep into the evening sky and we sipped amazing margaritas in Miss Margarita bar on the main street. We cooked dinners at home and found probably the best laksa we ever had at Red Hot & Green restaurant. 

The joy of nothing at its best!

At the end of the week we booked our surfing class. And I booked my PADI Open Water diving course. The next week was looking really busy in comparison already....

Sailing with Jeff Bridges - Whitsunday Islands by Marek Charytonowicz

Can you imagine not only not making an effort to get closer to the coral reef but actually trying your best to stay away - because it is so close you can damage it with a kick of a foot or hand stroke? Well, that's Caves Cove on Hook Island, one of the 74 small islands making Whitsunday Islands group where we set sail on a 47 Woodward designed charter yacht named Prima..

Although neither Peter Pan nor the Crocodile was there, the underwater garden of coral reef was definitely something from a fairy tale. In most places only 30-50 cm under the surface, you needed to be really careful to not touch and break anything - as it takes seconds to damage and decades to regrow. I think we've seen more fish and coral species here than at the Reef.

Stunning structures, some swaying with the rhythm of the waves, some like giant static brain like sculptures, and others like meticulously chiseler porcelain trees. All that in a rainbow of colours and sizes and inhabited by a variety of marine creatures, some ignoring you, some swimming away and some assuming you're a small whale and following you wherever you go.

But the sailing was not just about the coral reef. It was amazing to simply be on the boat and effortlessly move forward under a great white sail with only wind pushing us forward. There was nothing to disturb you but the calm swaying to the rhythm of the waves, the occasional flap of the sail and sounds of the boat being squeezed and stretched by the ocean. A perfect peace of mind.

We were lucky with our boat - Prima. We managed to secure the last double berth and join a group of other 9 people - two Chinese couples that were long time friends with their two little daughters Dong Dong & Elsa, a couple from Germany - Jerome & Joanna - and a solo traveller from China, Lilly.

The crew consisted of Chrissie, that was to be our host and Mark, the captain of Prima.

Chrissi, girl from Wales, UK sailed since she was 8 years old and took care of all of us, making sure the kids were wearing safety vests at all times on the deck, people who couldn't swim didn't swim and there was plenty of great food.

Captain Mark on the other hand had uncanny resemblance to Jeff Bridges including the slow and lazy way of speaking, and picked the best snorkelling spots and sailing route for us. He used to work in advertising before, creating videos and movies, until six years ago he decided he had enough and focused on his lifelong passion for sailing. 

The trip was only two days of sailing around Hook Island and Whitsunday Island and two nights anchored in calm inlets protected from Southern winds. We snorkelled, sailed and visited the Whitehaven Beach with its almost perfectly white sand and turquoise waters. We also chatted, listened to traditional Chinese music, listened to the fish stories of our on board marine biologist Jerome and tried our hardest to keep everyone from touching the coral, with mixed results. Sabs befriended one of the little Chinese girls - Elsa - and proved that language is never a barrier to communicate if one wants to. It was great time off shore for all of us.

You know you had an amazing time, when the end of it leaves you a bit sad, missing it already and wishing it lasted longer or never ended. That's the feeling now after Prima got back to the marina, we said our goodbyes to the amazing crew and other passengers and walked to the town.

We checked in to the Whitsunday Rainforest Retreat - a very nice resort on the side of a rainforest covered hill overlooking the bay. To our surprise, our Chinese friends from the boat happened to have the very next villa and we spend a nice evening having a beer and chatting as the night was setting over the jungle buzzing with insect life.

Yalada - welcome to the Mossman Gorge of Kuku Yalanji by Marek Charytonowicz

While travelling around Australia we noticed one thing - the Aboriginal culture although so prominent in the names of various geographical places is unfortunately not very visible. The towns we were passing by seemed to favour Balinese imports or cheap tourist memorabilia  shops than any real aboriginal craft. We did find a few galleries - most notably Port Douglas based Ngarru Gallery but the spirit of the indigenous people of Australia seemed to be pushed aside and downgraded to one of less interesting tourist attractions.

Trying to discover more of it we decided to do the Daydream Walk in the Mossman Gorge  - a indigenous cultural centre based near Mossman, a small town an hour from Port Douglas. The town, originally the result of gold fewer, is the centre of local sugar cane farming and has large indigenous population. After years of efforts they managed to secure funding for a beautiful modern cultural centre that became the entry point to the Daintree Forest and Mossman Gorge with daily Daydream Walks. These an hour and a half walks are guided by Aboriginal guides and introduce you to the indigenous culture and lifestyle and uncover some secrets of this primeval forest.

Our guide was Sean Patrick Ryan - an outgoing and witty local guide who combined Aboriginal and Irish roots - which explained his familiar sounding name. He talked fast and gestured a lot and it was great to listen to the stories about various plants and places.

After brief initiation by smoke from the burned paper tree bark - which introduces us as the guides' guests to the ancestors living in the forest - we entered this probably oldest rainforest on Earth, remembering the times of Pangea - when all continents were still one landmass. It felt like walking through the Jurassic Park, only without the dinosaurs running around.

We learned how to mark a path in the forest using lianas, signal distress using certain type of tree with wide hollow roots, and even what to use to light a fire. It turned out that most plants here are after you and unless you learn how to remove various toxins, you'll be dead. A particular one with heart shaped leaves was so nasty, that touching the bottom bart of the leaves would leave you with stinging pain lasting for months and only getting worse with every attempt to wash it with water.  

It was both impressive and very humbling to realise that the indigenous people understood the forest so well. It provided them with everything they needed not only to survive but actually flourish. It is a shame that knowledge like that is now found mostly in books or Google and nobody is interested to learn it anymore.

Sean explained to us the meaning of simple painting patterns and showed a particular type of tree that has bioluminescent fungus growing in its bark. Pieces of this tree were used to mark paths at night and during ceremonies. Apparently this actually inspired James Cameron while creating the forests of Pandora in his movie 'Avatar'. I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

The Dreamtime Walk finished with a cup of Daintree Tea - a locally farmed tea famous in the region. After that we decided to go for a short swim in Mossman Gorge where a small forest river meanders among large boulders forming a little swimming pond. It started raining so we ended up swimming in a cold refreshing river on one side and being poured down by a torrential rain on the other. Amazing!

There was no dry spot around so we walked in swimming suits across the jungle to the bus pick up spot. Walking almost naked and barefoot across the jungle? Tarzan and Jane? Hmmmmm…. not quite.

We were welcomed here and said goodbye with a single word from the language of Kuku Yalanji - yalada. This word means 'welcome', 'hello', 'friend', 'goodbye', 'safe travels'... It means that whoever you are, you are welcome as a friend to the forest. 

Walking through Jurassic Park - the Daintree Forest by Marek Charytonowicz

We have felt the touch of tropics in Port Douglas but we haven't seen the tropical rainforest yet. So we decided to take a day tour to the famous Daintree Forest - over 1200km2 and the largest continuous forest on Australian continent. It dates back to the times where places like Uluru were covered in rainforest and some species of plants retain the original characteristics from 110 million years ago.

Our guide - Wayne - picked us up in the morning with other five people. He was a very knowledgeable guy, looking like Leslie Nielsen from the 'Naked Gun', which made the trip even more entertaining.

We started the exploration at the Mossman Gorge next to the local indigenous centre. It's a beautiful spot in the forest where Mossman River meanders through large boulders - and where you can swim in refreshingly cold water. We didn't have time for that just yet as we were going to take a river boat cruise and see some crocodiles.

It turned out that the crocodiles are quite shy and hidden in their nests at this time of the year. The cruise was very relaxing on these calm river waters, with both sides overgrown with mangroves and large blue butterflies passing by from time to time. We've spotted only one and a half of a croc - half being a tail of a nesting female on a muddy mangrove bank. There was one male on this river - we were told - but he was busy patrolling the banks and decided not to show up.

After that we headed towards Cape Tribulation where in 1770 captain James Cook's ship scraped a reef and later run aground badly damaged. It wasn't until the next day when the crew managed to reflect it. Cook named this place Cape Tribulation '...because here begun all our troubles".

Apart from rich and dramatic history, this area is also one of the few places where the rainforest meets the reef. Because Great Barrier Reef at this point comes to the very shore, there are no waves that would result in salt spray in the air and the forest is free to come to the very water edge. Cape Tribulation's beach looked beautiful and wild with its turquoise waves but like all beaches around this part of Australia this time of the year, was frequented by marine stingers so swim once again was out of question.

To my pleasure though I managed to find some seriously large Golden Orb Weaver spiders - easily the size of my hand - sitting completely still in their webs next to female toilet. Yes, my relationship with spiders and bugs is a complex one.

After that was time for dinner and - finally - a swim! We drive a little bit into the forest and after enjoying some steak and fish (happily together on one plate) we jumped into a forest river. After a day in the heat and high humidity this felt like paradise - the cold water of slightly brownish colour cascading over the round stones and broken tree trunks. It was one of the most refreshing experiences of the last week or so. Amazing. 

The last attraction of the trip was a walk in the forest starting from an old wood mill location (that also has a resident venomous snake as Wayne casually mentioned). After that - we jumped in the van, to the ferry and then to Port Douglas. 

Just in time to book some sea kayaking for the next day. The exhausting duties of a holidaymaker…

Looking for Nemo - Great Barrier Reef by Marek Charytonowicz

Great Barrier Reef is one of the true wanders of the world and stretches from Torres Strait in the north all the way to Fraser Island in the south for over 2300 km. It's the largest single structure made by living organisms. It's even visible from outer space. The more north you get, the closer it is from the shore and at the Cape Tribulation it actually meets the rainforest. Because of that, Port Douglas is the perfect place to go and see it as the reef here is only 40km from the coast - a short trip by a motorboat.

We decided to go for a day trip there with Poseidon - a relatively small motorboat that offered tours in small groups of around 30 people and a nice, relaxed atmosphere. It turned out to be the best choice - the crew was really chilled out and professional at the same time. There were several marine biologists and diving instructors, that made the experience really special. Because the boat was small, they could go to areas not available to bigger vessels and we ended up visiting three reef snorkelling spots on the outer wall - and we were literally the only boat visible around.

It's a strange feeling when the boat finally stops, you look around and see the turquoise calm ocean and you notice the long strip of slightly greener water stretching across in front of you. And you know this is the famous Great Barrier Reef which you're going to go up close and personal in just a moment. You stop paying attention to the annoying stinger suit you need to wear and you just slip into the water in anticipation to see all this wanders you read about and saw on countless pictures. And you're not disappointed!

We saw a green turtle almost straight away, a familiar shape floating not far ahead of us. Beanie was more lucky and she saw one more later on, along with Nemo (the clown fish) and Doris (blue tang fish). And of course - loads and loads of other species, big and small, in all colours and patterns. The reef is an amazing underwater world that you can just observe for hours and you never get bored. It's like life in miniature happening in front of your eyes - you can stretch your hand and touch it - that is if you didn't know better of course. 

The problem is it takes years and decades to form a coral reef, and just a moment to break it with your fin or stupidly trying to stand on it and take a selfie - which we realised was unfortunately quite common among other passengers. The crew did their best to explain that over and over again but some people just don't see beyond another Facebook post with another selfie. It is a shame because we will probably get to appreciate that still not well known to us ecosystem when it's too late and its already almost destroyed like we did with so many other on this planet. It's almost like human race is still in its infancy when you learn only by breaking things. Perhaps it's time to learn to walk?

We had great time though, snorkelling and trying the introductory dives (Marek), which was a great and new experience. I found it extremely relaxing - to be able to go underwater and stay there for 20 minutes without running out of air and just floating around the coral reef - almost like a part of this marine world.

And yes, we did see sharks. Young six foot long reef sharks majestically passing by underneath us. Quite an unforgettable experience!