POP QUIZ: Is coral a plant, an animal, or Both?
If you answered:
- Animal: you are right.
- Plant: you are half right
- Both: you are also right!
Coral is an animal but they exhibit the characteristics of a plant. Some people think they are rocks which is incorrect. Coral is like a plant because it has algae living in its “skin” that use photosynthesis to make food. There are many species of coral and the algae is what provides its color. Essentially coral is an organism that chills out and tans for a living!
We learned that and much more during our Reef Teach Class in Cairns, Australia. My astute husband found it was the #1 Activity on TripAdvisor and of course we had to check it out! You may not want to sit through a class during your vacation but this one is very much worth it! There are over 132,000 square miles of Reef (about the size of Germany), so it would be a shame that you visit it and not know what you are looking at! The instructor makes the class interactive, and keeps you engaged by providing interesting facts and tips when visiting the reef. He also helps you understand what to avoid such as trigger fish guarding their eggs this time of year. They become highly territorial and if you swim near their eggs they may attack but all you have to do is swim away!
Another interesting topic is that of “stinger season”. This time of year, there are many closed shores near Cairns. This is due to the Box Jellyfish. This is THE DEADLIEST CREATURE on the plant. No, not ONE OF THE , but THE deadliest creatures! If stung, you will die within 10 minutes. NO WORRIES though, they like the shores and do not hang out at the reef. We were safe and I made it out no problem!
We had marvelous timing (by accident) when visiting the reef! During the previous week, coral spawning took place. In this yearly event, all coral (simultaneously) releases spawn in an attempt to regenerate. The eggs and sperm are thrown! This increases the chances of fertilization. This event provided for some calm waters and lots of fish who came looking for food!
Marine life is quite interesting and we learned that quite a few fish are hermaphrodites (Nemo is one of them!). These types of fishes start out a male and can convert to female. Clownfish in particular are special because they can go back and forth if necessary.
We explored the reef looking for Nemo and we saw many other great creatures such as: Sea turtles, lion fish, and reef sharks! Jose and I booked 2 days and 1 night on a live-aboard called Reef Experience and we highly recommend this trip whether you are looking to dive or snorkel. It includes 5 dives (or snorkle) including a night dive. That was by far the most nerve wrecking experience for me but others loved it! It was dark, I was scared, and I lost Jose for 15 seconds (it felt like 15 minutes) and panicked! No future night dives for me!
The food was excellent, the staff was friendly, the rooms were clean and comfortable. There are various companies doing live-aboard tours in Cairns and reef experience is a reasonable price/value. There are more expensive ones which got amazing reviews and there are cheaper ones which, well…are cheaper. You get what you pay for! On Reef experience, if you are a guest you are eligible to stay as a hostee. In return for waking up early and helping throughout the day with setup and cleanup throughout the boat, you get 2 dives, meals, and accommodation! Its a sweet deal if you’re on a budget.
Cairns, Australia reminded me of Florida except people had an Australian accent. This time of year, tourism was starting to pick up so it was not too busy. We enjoyed the boat hotel and were so glad we got to see the amazing Great Barrier Reef!
With that I leave you with a short video of our reef trip (no pictures for once!).