July 24, 2009 started bright and early. That Friday morning, my family and I woke up just in time to watch the sun rise in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. It resembled sunset, only the sun was moving in the opposite direction: upward, marking the beginning of a new day. Looking out from the hotel balcony, I could see joggers and bikers making their way along the beachfront. Waves crashed, as seagulls scattered into the sky.
During the previous day, my family and I spent most of the day in a plane. We took off from Sydney, made a couple-hour layover stop in Brisbane, before finally landing in Cairns at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Just as we were circling Cairns, my father pointed out the airplane window and told my brother David and me to look at the vista; it was breathtaking. From the air, we could see the colorful coral reefs, the sandy-beach islands, and the clear turquoise water.
Slightly fatigued from the traveling, we hurried to check into our hotel, the 181 Esplanade. In Australia, what people there considered a hotel, we considered a fully furnished apartment. The hotel room had two LCD televisions, kitchen, living room, bathroom; David and I even had our own rooms. By the time we settled down, it was already pretty late, so we just ordered some take-out Chinese food at Chopsticks Express just next door. Although it wasn’t anything close to fine dining, it was still enjoyable to sit down on the beds and footstools and eat together as a family. I went to sleep happy, looking forward to the plans we had for the next day.
After gazing at the sunrise that Friday morning, my family rushed to board a coach bus that drove us to a dock along the coast. From there, our Sun-lover’s Reef Tour began as we took a small cruise ship to Moor Reef, a small section of the Great Barrier Reef. The boat ride took us to a larger pontoon boat anchored in the middle of the reef. I soon found out, the activity of the day was snorkeling. After a brief instructional video on how to snorkel, I was ready; I quickly grabbed all my gear: medium flippers, a life jacket, large goggles and most importantly, a snorkel. As I stepped down onto the platform, about to plunge into the water, I could feel the sun beating on parts of my body not covered in my oversized floatation device; the a mist of ocean water splashed on me, I could almost taste the slight salt in the air. I jumped in, expecting the cold chill of a swimming pool, only to be embraced by the temperate waves of the warm water. Schools of colorful tropical fish swam every which way. A tour guide actually helped us navigate around the reef; she emphatically pointed out the hard coral which looked like a brain (brain coral) and the soft coral which looked like spaghetti (spaghetti coral).
But one part of the coral reef she pointed out had a profound impact on me; it was the dead coral. Though the clear water, I could see a mass graveyard of what used to be a vibrant community teeming with life, and now what remains: only the calcium skeletons of the pale white coral. I was shocked; directly seeing the effect that pollution has on the environment made me more aware.
I really enjoyed my vacation, but it also opened my eyes to the fact that in the future, someone else might not get to enjoy the same experience I had.
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