First, the superlatives – The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,300 kilometres and, according to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, is the largest living structure on the planet. It is home to thousands of species of fish, corals, mollusks sharks, whales, turtles and is so large it can be seen from space. The list goes on and doesn’t need to be rehashed here. The area is huge, teeming with life, and extraordinary to witness close up. Getting to the reef is often not easy nor cheap, but the tour companies that ferry visitors out to the natural wonder try make the trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. Boat rides to the popular snorkeling and diving areas can take up to an hour-and-a-half one way, often in 15+ knot winds. My wife and I booked rides from both Cairns and Port Douglas and were treated to friendly and knowledgeable crews, lots to eat and drink, and a choice of sea sickness meds. Once at the reefs, the crew also offered wetsuits and life preservers to soften the blow of snorkeling in choppy, and at times windy conditions. I passed on the life jacket, but more than appreciated the wetsuit, which provided some buoyancy and kept some of the chill out. Gallery shots are from two separate trips – one to Moore Reef, the other to Opal Reef.