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Apparently the coral that you see in postcards, like for Ningaloo and The Great Barrier Reef, only grows millimetres every year. So a beautiful reef system such as the Great Barrier Reef would have been slowly, delicately and beautifully formed over thousands and thousands of years.

Last year while snorkelling on a part of the Nigaloo Reef in Coral Bay, I found myself being pulled away by a sudden swell. I grabbed onto a rock to keep myself from drifting away, only to find that it wasn’t a rock. I had pulled away a bit of the reef! It was soft, and it crumbled in my hand. I cried out. I felt TERRIBLE!

This week I had the awesome privilege of snorkeling on the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef, in a tour group with about 80 others. It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time, cruising around looking at amazing fish and coral formations. My new-found-friend Penny spotted a humongous Rock Lobster and we had a good old gawk at it while it minded it’s own business.

I was keen to share the experience of the rock lobster with other snorkelers so I beckoned over another man and pointed excitedly toward the critter hiding under a rock shelf. To my horror, my wild gesturing caused me to whack my pointing finger into a piece of stag horn coral and I heard a snapping sound, and watched as about 25 years of coral growth fell sadly to the sea bottom.

Whoops, I did it again. I am a reef killer. I don’t deserve to snorkel again in my life.

I felt sick at what I had done, and to punish myself, I got out of the water and waited on the boat (I also had some wicked foot cramps.)

We ate lunch and headed off to a new site. I managed to talk myself back into the water (“it was an accident, Vet, you didn’t mean to do it”) After a few minutes of snorkeling, I saw a Pommy man and his kids rather close to the reef. Then I noticed that the dad was touching the reef, not just touching it, manhandling it (idiot-handling it, really), and pieces were breaking off. He was doing it on purpose! I waited for the instructor, who was nearby, to tell him off, but he didn’t. But then I heard newfoundfriend (growing in respect and admiration by the minute) saying “dude, stop touching the reef!”

His reply was to yell at her “I was not touching the reef, I was merely steadying myself. How about you just mind your own business, and I will mind mine,” which carried across the water nicely, so almost everyone heard it.

It made me feel sad- that this man had no appreciation of the precious and delicate nature of the reef, and his effect on it.

Clumsy, well meaning people like me visit the reef every day, and so do ignorant, uncaring people like the pommy man.

I really hope the reef is still there when my grandkids visit.

NB This is an ancient post I migrated from an old Tumblr account for posterity’s sake.