Australia Blog

Turtles and Dolphins and Sharks – Oh my!

It is our fourth day on Heron Island and I still can’t get over how amazing it is. There are beautiful sandy beaches and the water is so perfectly blue. The island is only about a mile around, but there is plenty to see! On the island, there are trees and birds everywhere. In the daytime, it is a beautiful sound…but when nighttime rolls around and the shearwaters move in, the air is filled with sounds that resemble a combination of small children whining and wolves howling. Seriously. They make these awful sounds all night and wake you up at the crack of dawn! When we wake up, it is already about 75 degrees, and it gets up into the high 80’s everyday. We are constantly lathering up with sunscreen to avoid getting burnt (but some members of the group have not been so lucky (cough cough, Ellen)).

So far, our typical daily schedule on Heron is as follows: breakfast at 8 am, lecture at 9, snorkeling from 9:45-11:45 a.m., lunch at noon, lecture at 1:00 p.m., afternoon group activity, a little bit of free time, dinner at 6:00 p.m., and a night meeting at 7:30 p.m. Snorkeling is by far the highlight of the day (obviously!). Everyone hops on a boat that is run by our guide Pete, and it’s usually a 5-15 minute boat ride to the destination he thinks will be the best that day. We have snorkeled along several parts of the reef so far. Snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef can never be topped in my book. There are so many different types of coral and fishes EVERYWHERE. We also see many sea turtles, sharks, and stingrays. You know you’re with a bunch of biology majors when someone yells “SHARK!” through their snorkel and we all say “Where?!”…not because we are scared, but because we want to catch a glimpse of it swimming near us! When the two hour snorkel time is up, we hop on the boat and Pete brings us back to the island. Today, as we were coming back in, Tanya spotted four dolphins swimming near the boat! It was unbelievable. At that point it was decided that Tanya was voted back onto the island for her awesome dolphin spotting, as we had previously voted her off the island (living on a 1 mile island is kind of like Survivor).

A note to any beginner snorkelers out there: DO NOT get the giggles while snorkeling in open water. Trust me. Lots of water leaks into your mask. This basically means do not snorkel with Sara Davis because her reactions to spotting cool things underwater will make you laugh unbelievably hard (especially if you see any REALLY big fish…or if you spot Nemo and his dad).

Heron Island has been a blast so far, but it is now time to start our research projects. It’s hard to believe that you still have to do schoolwork in paradise! Even though we only have 7 days to complete them, I think we will all manage to make time for swimming and snorkeling somehow. Wish us luck!

From down under,

Betsy Tuel