Coral Wars

The following touches on coral bio and the harsh relationship they have with each other – Kudos to Joe Pollock for his lecture.

First Off

Coral aren’t plants nor rocks…

…They’re actually animals. Along with being able to digest small marine life, like brine shrimp, coral are also photosynthetic, thanks to their relationship with algae.

This super fun/entertaining vid does a good job highlighting the relationship.

Coral serve as homes for algae, zooxanthellae, which in turn provides energy (photosynthesis) for coral. Thus, coral & zooxanthellae have a symbiotic relationship. Along with energy, corals get their color from zooxanthellae.


This closeup of coral (transparent) shows zooxanthellae in green

Not Friends but Anemones 


Coral are a highly competitive species.

Especially when in close proximity & threatened, coral will physically attack each other. They use long, microscopic stinging cells to pummel competing coral.

Here’s some great footage of coral unleashing havoc on each other. The real deal starts @ about the 1:20 mark.

Coral Stining Cells Screen Shot

Indirect competition also exists between coral. By using strategic growing patterns, coral are able to block sunlight from reaching each other. In general, coral can’t survive on a marine life diet alone.

plate corals

Plate coral are exceptionally suited in stealing sunlight due to their flat, broad tops


My GREAT Barrier Reef Experience

Lady Elliot Island

As I write this, I’m on a ‘tour bus’ back to Brizzy. The past three days I’ve spent on Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.

LEI Plane Wheel Wheel Edited

Lady Elliot is an atoll – a coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon (object to right is plane’s wing)

Here, I stayed at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, the island’s only accommodation – Lady Elliot is 100 acres, or small enough to walk around in 45min. Just like the island, the resort is humble in size. It bares the term eco in its title due to its efforts in sustaining Lady Elliot.

Andreas Solar Panels Cropped

Andreas Supper, manager, discusses the resort’s transition to solar power during an eco tourism walk/lecture

Joe Pollock, a scientist specializing in coral disease, accompanied my program group. Along with supplying his vast knowledge of coral reefs via lectures, Joe guided us on snorkels around Lady Elliot’s reefs.

Reef Walk Pollock Cropped

Joe guides my program on a reef walk our first day @ LEI

Island Lyfe

In total, I spent three nights & four days on Lady Elliot. Here are some brief anecdotes:

Saturday, May 31st

The flight 

I left Hervey Bay (mainland AUS) Airport ~8:30 AM by a nine-passenger plane to the island.

The plane ride alone almost rivaled the experience of my first snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef later that day.

~Video of flight on its way!~

Four of us from my program (including Dr. Kris) took one plane – the smaller one, and the other 11 & Joe took another.

First Plane LEI

Finally snapped a pic of the plane after landing on LEI

The flight was ~40min. After we took off from the airport, from a birds-eye view, I was able to witness Hervey Bay, who knows how many miles of Pacific Ocean and Lady Elliot Island of course.

Hervey Bay from Plane

Hervey Bay from plane

Window view of what looks to be storm clouds ahead (and the plane's wing)

Window view of what looks to be storm clouds ahead as I fly toward LEI

Much cooler than takeoff was landing on Lady Elliot. As much as I dislike using the word blessed these days, I felt extremely lucky/special seated on a small aircraft, landing on a half-mile (stretching it) sweep of grass on an island on the Great Barrier Reef, which only accommodates 41 rooms.

Welcome to LEI

Welcome to Lady Elliot Island

After landing ~9:15 AM, Joe took us for our first snorkel on the Reef, gave us a lecture on local marine life and later guided us on a reef walk. A general highlight of Lady Elliot was the resort’s buffet (which was prepaid for), open for brekkie, lunch & dinn.

On our reef walk w/ Joe (middle)

On our reef walk w/ Joe (middle)

Reef Walk Selfie Cropped

A beautiful selfie of moi during reef walk

 Sunday, June 1st 

The snorkel

Round 2 of snorkeling happened ~10:45 PM – This time guided by Fabrice Jaine, a doctorate in ­­­manta rays & resort employee.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an underwater device to record with…

ACTUALLY, I was given an underwater camera that I took many pictures with…while it was turned off


We traveled ~15min. to the snorkeling site by glass-bottom boat. This snorkel was more intense (deeper) than Friday’s – which was in the same spot we did our reef walk.

LEI from First Plane 4 Mapped

Here’s where Fabrice took us snorkeling Sunday. Friday’s reef walk & shallow snorkel took place on the upper-righthand side

At this site, I’m guessing the ocean floor was ~15-20ft. below sea level. Beside beautiful coral, which I could now somewhat classify kudos to Joe’s lecture earlier that morning, I saw at least one sea turtle and stingray.


Pic I found that closest resembles what I saw while snorkeling

The most memorable parts of this snorkel occurred when I dove under and swam over coral on the relatively deep ocean floor. Because of my swimming background, it just felt good to dolphin kick while straining my lungs as I held my breath, propelling underwater.


Me being a pro snorkeler – Photo Cred: Rachel Robillard

After lunch, a smaller group of us snorkeled again with Joe, close to where Fabrice took us earlier that day. Rather than boating, we walked/swam to the site this time.

Monday, June 2nd

The dive

I’ll cut straight to the chase and direct you to my fellow divers’ blogs for footage – All of them had GoPros :/

Rachel Robillard/Camille Garcia/Mikayla Martinez/Julia Noel


I feel his pain

I was scuba certified ~2006; and because I hadn’t dove in years, I was required to take a refresher course. Said course happened at 10 AM in the resort’s pool and was painless. For an hour, my lovely Austrian dive instructor, Diana, & I went over basic skills such as regulator retrieval, mask clearing & weight belt removal/reapplication (extremely hard when done underwater).

At 12:45, all of the divers from my program were at the dive shop strenuously suiting up in full-length wetsuits – We were used to the half-length ones (wetsuits w/ short sleeves and cut off at the knee).

Dive Shop

Where dreams come true

We were in the water ~1:30 (LOL). I believe there were 11 total divers including several dive masters and even one unbelievably talented free diver.

Hands down, the highlight of the dive was witnessing manta rays. Just the night before, my program attended a manta ray talk hosted by Fabrice. We learned just how precious, smart & new (very little is known about the manta) they are – Mantas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Wiki).


The reef manta is only the second confirmed (in 2009) species of manta

The dive lasted ~40min, not nearly long enough. Beside the majestic mantas, I saw a couple sea turtles, a stingray covered in sand and a glimpse of a shark as it swam away from us – It must have been a reef or nurse shark.

Tuesday, June 3rd

This isn’t goodbye


Between brekkie & lunch, Joe & a small group of us went on our last snorkel. It was the same site as our first (Lagoon), so it was a little sentimental – Idk, it just felt right to do one more.

During this snorkel, I kind of branched off from the main group – like I always tend to do, but this time more than usual. I tried snorkeling/swimming as far as I could from the mainland until I hit waves – The lagoon is protected from waves by its extensive reef (I think); so you’ll only encounter them if you swim out ~half a mile.

Lagoon Reef 3

LEI Lagoon during low tide aka not when I snorkeled


Lady Elliot Island is everything I love, without everything I despise, about paradise: It’s beautifully tropical, perfectly wild, very comfortable BUT doesn’t boast an enormous amount of guests.

~video of LEI Eco Resort on its way~

Also, it’s an eco resort! There’s much to learn about and appreciate here – the wildlife, the sustainability measures, the knowledgeable & caring staff. I left with a genuine feeling that the island & reef are in good hands. I wish I could say every vacation I will take could feel as environmentally conscious as my time on Lady Elliot.

Pathway to Cafe Dark

My favorite of LEI’s paths – which coincidentally leads to the buffet

Not gonna lie – I was sad leaving. Time doesn’t seem to go by when you’re in paradise (especially if you’re disconnected from Internet). It seemed as if time back on the mainland/home must’ve been going by in slow motion or not at all. I would’ve liked to stay at least another five days.

Lagoon Beach Foot

My foot on the last day of LEI

Besides missing the slow island life, there are certain attachments I made with memories/people on the island that I’ll hopefully hold dear forever.

ILY Lady Elliot


Cam, Jules & I walkin’ the reef