Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Engaging with Fijian kava ceremonies. Exploring the startling beauty of New Zealand's Milford Sound. Stepping to the edge of the world in Antarctica. This is why many alumni call our programs the single most influential experience of their university careers.
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July 8th, 2016
While studying abroad in Australia, I got to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas. The experience I had was absolutely amazing and the reef was beautiful. This was definitely one of the highlights on this trip. We headed out in the morning to get to the boat that would take us out to the reef. The journey out was about an hour and a half with unbelievable views. The weather was a little bit stormy, so the boat ride out got bumpy.
Once we got to the reef, we spent the day snorkeling and boating to different reefs. The Great Barrier Reef was great to snorkel in. The colors were vibrant in some of the places that we went to: the coral was bright yellow and some anemones were bright purple. One of the guides on our boat took us on a snorkeling tour where we learned more about the reef while in the water. I loved having the experience of snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and learning about it while I was there.
At one of the reefs, we saw a giant humpheaded wrasse. It is a big (about 4 feet long) greenish-blue fish that swims right up to you. Our guide said that this humpheaded wrasse, Angus, has his section of the reef (home for him) and will often come up to the boat when they park there. The guides were able to “train” him by giving him food to make him come closer or swim right up to them. On the last day at the reef, we also saw a moray eel poke its head out of its home.
While we were in Port Douglas, we learned about the different fish and coral before snorkeling, and then talked about them after we snorkeled in the reef. We learned which fish are keystone species (butterflyfish) and also the different types of coral. I always love snorkeling in a reef, and it was interesting to learn about the different things I was seeing. We also did a project out on the reef where we split into groups and counted fish or coral. Although our counts may not have been the most accurate, it was fun to get a small glimpse of a research project. The project helped me to see that every part of the reef and everything in it works together to help it survive.
I can’t believe how fast the time has gone and that the trip is almost over after Cairns! Seeing a new part of the world and experiencing a different culture for a month was something that I loved doing, even though sustainability and environmental science is not my major. I learned different things about sustainability that can be a help to my major, and I loved having the opportunity to do some of the things that we did and the group of people I got do do it with. I hope that someday I can come back to Australia, travel more throughout it, and learn more about Australian culture.