Australia, Byron Bay – Swimming with Sharks and Jellyfish Encounters

Some of you may know by now, but I’m currently in… Australia!  This trip has been a long time coming; I decided I wanted to head over here three years ago, and I’ve finally made it here.

And as with most of my travels, this trip hasn’t gone without it’s fair share of drama and adventure.  Although based in Brisbane, myself and a few friends made a trip to Byron Bay, around 2 hours by bus from the city.

IMG_5650We decided to take a snorkelling trip right out into the bay, and we were told by our guide that we had picked the best day; the sun was shining unencumbered by clouds, and the sea was crystal.

Clad in some fetching wetsuits, flippers and snorkelling gear, we jumped into the boat – I wish it was that simple, but my entry into said boat was flopping myself belly first on to the side of it whilst two friends pulled me by each arm, beached whale-style. Sexy.

A few minutes later and we found ourselves at Julian Rocks – we jumped into the sea to follow our snorkelling guide.  The sea was a little choppy, but nothing we couldn’t handle at that stage.

IMG_5743As I looked down, I realised I was absolutely surrounded by a school of fish, unperturbed by me.  As I wondered whether fish actually did bite, our snorkelling guide pointed downwards to a shark, resting on the sea bed beneath us.  We had been told about these sharks before, but I was taken aback by the sheer size of them.

As I trod water and watched the shark, I realised that the group had already made their way back up to the other end of the rocks, leaving me without company.  As I looked back down to check on the status of my stationary sea friend, I watched it slowly rise from the sea bed and start meandering it’s way – upwards.  Towards me.

As it dawned on me that this sedentary creature was actually moving, another joined it and fairly soon, both sharks were no less than a metre and a half below me.  I decided that it was time to make a move.

As I rejoined the group, I felt an immediate searing sting across the front of my neck.  With warped logic induced by the pain, I somehow thought my metal necklace had caught an electric current, frying me across the gullet.  I soon came to realise that I had actually been stung by a Blue Bottle Jellyfish, a small but vicious kind of jellyfish commonly found in the Queensland area.

As the pain mounted in severity and my sense of rationale decreased, a friend called the guide who swam me back to my boat.  In my panic, I realised I had opened the front of my wetsuit up, allowing the jellyfish entry to the back part of it.  It had stung me all the way across my neck and the back of my shoulders, and I can only describe the pain as

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being similar to having an open live wire dragged across my skin.

I never got to see my own battle wounds, but my friends reported seeing big, white welts appear across my collarbone, and weirdly enough, I thought I had been stung in the armpit too.  Our skipper told me that the body sends pain signals through the nearest gland to be processed and to, hopefully, get rid of it.

A few minutes later, and a few of our snorkelling comrades made it back on to the boat, but this was far from the end of our adventure.  The sea, mildly choppy before, had become quite aggressive.  As two of us sat with jellyfish stings across our necks, me with ice in hand, we watched as not one but FOUR of our group turned green and in succession, began vomiting over the side of the boat.

On our way back, our skipper turned the engine off so that we could see a mother dolphin and her two calves jumping through the water – although this was exciting to only two of us and not to the rest, who still remained green-faced and eager to get their feet on solid ground again.

We hopped out of the boat and silently waded our way back through the shallow waters to the beach, a scene not too dissimilar to the White Walkers entering battle.

I think it’s safe to say that we haven’t quite adapted to the Australian lifestyle just yet.

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