By WENDY SQUIRES
Never have I looked less attractive and never have I been happier to appear so. Dressed in a pink stinger suit that makes me look like a novelty condom from hell, I am in underwater heaven, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
But it gets better. There is no one out on the reef with me other than trillions of irridescent fish, clown-mouthed clams and every other type of marine wonder that live in the magical water wonderland.
You see, I have stayed behind on the FantaSea Reefworld pontoon after the ferry carrying the day explorers returned to port. Which means one of the seven wonders of the world is my private playground. What’s more, when I wake up in the morning, it shall be all mine again.
There are only two rooms on the entire Great Barrier Reef available for the public to stay overnight in and I am booked in to stay in the best one, the King room, on Reefworld. So, as I finally and reluctantly leave the reef for the evening, I know that what’s ahead won’t be the massive anti-climax an ordinary bed on dry land would be after such an incredible day as a musk stick looking dolphin. And it’s not.
Dinner is set up in the underwater viewing observatory on Reefworld, served by a marine biologist whose passion for the life around us is as infectious as it is admirable.
As we tuck in to a three-course meal of fresh deliciousness in the submerged glass-walled room, Reefworld’s famous resident George, a Queensland Groper the size of a truck, looks on at us as we delight in him. Along with his fellow homey Groupers and a posses of silver fish darting like bullets in the Matrix, the view is so mesmerising it’s mediative.
It is hard to sleep when you know what is happening all around you on the reef but with the sound of the tide lapping below while snuggled in a king-size bed, rest finds its way.
Morning and it’s more food, conversation and snorkelling (or diving if you prefer). Lost again in the unimaginable beauty of the reef, I snorkelled for hours until the ferry arrived once more with a fresh load of day-trippers.
After a huge barbeque lunch (you will never starve with Fantasea), it was fun to enjoy the Reefworld pontoon itself, skidding down the slippery dip from the top deck into the transparent water below, marvelling at George through a viewing hole, taking a ride on the underwater submarine and- best of all –a helicopter flight to see the world-renowned heart reef from above.
It was ironic that, after catching the ferry back to port in Shute Harbour, my fellow travellers and I were keen to eat again.
This is because we were staying at Peppers Coral Coast Resort in Airlie Beach and, apart from my plush room being the size of my apartment, its restaurant, Tides, is superb.
There were some guilty looks as we all ordered the chef’s seafood special. Sorry George, but we just had to.
Wendy Squires has been a journalist for more than 20 years, starting work at News Ltd as a cadet journalist before moving to New York to work as a freelance writer. She has edited Cleo and Australian Style magazines as well as holding senior positions on Elle, Mode, Who Weekly, Madison and the Australian Women’s Weekly, where she is currently associate editor.
How would you feel about spending an evening sleeping and eating underwater?