I FOLLOWED the slender finger past the manicured nail and saw a creature that had eluded me for years.
The incredible lion fish hovered above the coral looking as majestic as I had imagined it would.
It became the first of three lion fish I saw up close on my sixth Great Barrier Reef trip, my third scuba dive.
I also hung out with Nemo the clown fish and watched his soft anemone wave protectively in the gentle current.
I watched as a purse-like giant clam responded to our increasingly close proximity by snapping closed in short, quick movements.
My reef experience continued when I was introduced to the Christmas trees of the ocean.
Like fibre optic lamps protruding from rocks of coral, they zipped back into the coral the minute we got too close.
Trumpet fish were also floating about in their yellow glory.
After a delicious lunch picked from a hot and cold range, I exchanged the scuba gear for my snorkel and had encounters with a black-tipped reef shark, giant wrasse, parrot fish, angel fish and so many more.
On this occasion, I was on the giant Quicksilver catamaran out to one of the Agincourt reef activity platforms on the outer reef about an hour from Port Douglas.
It was a miserable day but the water temperature was a balmy 29C and I had few complaints.
While it was a big boat and a little impersonal, the cat attached itself to a huge deck permanently at the reef and offered many options for those on board.
My friend headed out on the submersible and saw some turtles and amazing fish he had not seen snorkelling.
With guided commentary from reef biologists, the dry tour is a great alternative for those sick of the water or feeling a little tired.
You can also pay for a snorkelling tour with similar running commentary, and you're more likely to see a clown fish and a lion fish with someone who knows where they like to hang out.
I have also been snorkelling on the Low Isles on a sailing catamaran with the sails dictating our speed, and to other sections of the Agincourt Reef, but I must admit this experience outweighed those because my diving guide made this dive much more interactive.
Don't forget to pay $5 for those sexy stinger suits – it's worth it. And hire an underwater camera.
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