Snorkelling. If you pick your spot, snorkelling can open an underwater wonderland of multicoloured fish and astonishing coral formations. I get it. Yesterday we arrived at Tangalooma, just off the coast of Moreton Island. A gaggle of wrecked old steel boats that had been put in place as an artificial reef. The water, when we arrived, was a spectacular shade of aquamarine. As we anchored I could see fish flashing in the depths, each a silvery flicker drawing sunlight like a magnet.
We anchored in between the wrecks and the shore. The ferry was about 100 metres behind us — it surprised me, seeing it jammed up on to the beach — reminding me of the island trader vessels we saw in Vanuatu — only in this case, instead of fruit, vegetables, people, animals and machinery disgorging, there was a line of four wheel drive vehicles lining up to board it, some with old school caravans behind them — I suppose you don’t trust your new model $75,000 home away from home to a run along the sand when your only way home is via a ferry.
Anyway. The snorkelling. I remember my dad taking me snorkelling when I was quite small — out from Quiet Corner in Beaumaris, or Ricketts Point. Our masks were made of glass and black rubber, I presume the snorkels were the same. I have a vague memory of green flippers that I wiggled my toes into which strapped around the back of the foot. I remember stingrays…
When I go snorkelling now, I experience the same feelings. The knowledge that I SHOULD GO. I submerge myself and experience the beauty of the underwater world. The colours, the fluidity, the strangeness. I see it and experience it, but… I’M SO GLAD WHEN IT’S OVER! My key parenting moment of the past 24 hours was saying to Small Z, “I know you don’t want to get in the water and go snorkelling…and neither do I. But the Tangalooma wrecks, they’re supposed to be amazing, so I’m going to get in the water and check it out, and you should too.”
We all went for a family snorkel, from the top of the Tangalooma wrecks, to the bottom end, where we had anchored Bella Luna. I wear one of those weird alien full face masks that incorporate an a snorkelly thing like a crazy antenna — this is because normal snorkels make my jaw hurt. Despite treating it with no-fog spray several times before my submersion, there’s a point at about four and a half minutes underwater when the whole wall of clear plastic surrounding my face fogs up and the multicoloured underwater world becomes monochromatic.
After those four and a half minutes have elapsed, I continue swimming, and every 30 seconds I gently create a gap between my mask and my forehead, letting a stream of water sluice the inside of my mask, giving me a few moments of Jacques Cousteau clarity; repeat, repeat, repeat. For someone who isn’t wholly convinced they want to be there in the first place, it is somewhat demoralising.
But one must do one’s best for one’s slightly reluctant offspring. Small Z, I know, would equally adore being left on her own to devour a good book, but will investigate underwater with the best will in the world. DB, who loves the underwater scene, turns a fetching shade of blue after about 11 minutes and sticks next to me like a remora — her own mask looking like mid-winter London — she stops to sluice it every four minutes while I hold on to her. She’s so slight that it feels as if any current will draw her away from me.
We follow the flippers of M and Small Z, powering ahead. Somehow their masks are unsullied, each has a full view of the black and white striped fish, the brain shaped corals, the rusted out portholes of the wrecks. As always, I try to enjoy it because I am certain that it is expected of me — and I do appreciate the splendour of the underwater world — but oh — I am so glad when it is time to clamber back aboard the boat, mentally counting down the minutes until I’ve wrapped myself in a towel and have a hot cup of tea with a spoonful of honey mixed through it.