My wife and I just spent a night sleeping on the Great Barrier Reef. Well. more precisely on a floating
pontoon structure on Hardy Reef, 65 km from the Australian mainland and it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Every day at 9:00 AM, a group of intrepid discoverers set out from the sybaritic town of Hamilton Beach for an adventure on what is called Reefworld. After a scenic two hour journey, you arrive at the largest structure of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, floating right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. For the next four hours, everyone climbs into brightly coloured body suits to keep the stingrays at bay, dons masks, fins and snorkels and plunges (with appropriate guidance) into the 28C waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Even for total novices like us, it was a great experience, thanks to the crew, who were not only brilliant coaches, but astute marine biologists as well, helping us understand every anemone, piece of coral and exotically hued fish.
When your snorkelling wind wears out, no worries, mate. There's a semi-submersible sub with a glass-bottomed lower deck to prowl around the reef and show you more wonders. And the pontoon itself also has a glass-bottomed viewing room to keep an eye on our finny friends.
A generous BBQ lunch is served, more snorkelling, even scuba diving for the really brave, but by 3:00 PM, they're all gone.
Except for us lucky ones spending the night. There's a crew of five and two rooms that can hold up to six people. But there were only four of us that night: me, Pam, Grant from Scotland and his German partner, Etta. The two of them had quit their jobs with a major German communications firm to tour
the world. And there we were together.
For the rest of the afternoon, we snorkelled and swam on our own, had a private tour further afield with the sub and finally settled down to champagne and canapes the crew had prepared. A gourmet three-course dinner followed and the conversation sparkled like the wine as the sun set.
That's when the magic really starts. You're on the Great Barrier Reef, with no one around for miles and miles. You hear the fish leaping in and out of the sea, bigger ones chasing the smaller ones for dinner. The crew train a spotlight off one side of the pontoon so you can see the incredible aquatic life below.
Or you can do what Pam and I did: retire to the upper deck in total silence, watch the stars and listen to the sea.
Need I tell you that we slept like babies? Water babies, of course.
I woke up in time for a spectacular sunrise, then a full breakfast, a morning of more activity on our private reef and then, sigh, the next day's group arrived. After a last swim and another fine lunch, we climbed onto a helicopter and flew off to our next adventure.
Reefsleep costs between $460 and $630, depending on accommodation. That includes all transportation, equipment, private coaching, four meals and a night like one you've never spent. Check it out at www.fantasea.com.au
I think Luca Brasi just knew the wrong people.