When I was younger we went to the beach a few times, but from about 15 onwards I rarely swam if at all. So much so that when someone would try to get me to go to the beach, I would go into a long and boring explanation of why the beach was crap. I was pale, self conscious, and not a very good swimmer.
I visited Queensland where I now live on holiday when I was 19 or so, and only set foot on the beach once, at about 2am. Some of the best beaches in the world, and there was something in me that couldn't really see their beauty, a beauty I could immerse myself within.
Then seven years later, I moved to Queensland. I think it might have been on a trip to Byron Bay, where I naughtily took the QUT student guild van, that things started to change. Probably the final event, when I saw an image of paradise in the sandy beaches of Queensland, was on a trip to Moreton Island my friend and work colleague Mark organised.
I sat under an umbrella, with all these beautiful healthy people sunning themselves or surfing in the waves, with a deserted beach as far as the eye could see. The water was fifteen translucent shades of blue, and I splashed around in it for hours, the sky was perfect, and I had this overwhelming feeling of contentment in that moment. I thought, this moment extended to infinity might be something like heaven.
On perhaps the last day, we went to Tangalooma. I was very fearful of the wide channel we had to swim across, but Toby lent me a life jacket, and as Mark said, a number of the guys with us were surf lifesavers. I sat on the edge of the shore to put the snorkel and flippers they lent me on, and even sitting there some little fish came up to investigate. I thought this was magical. Finally I fell forwards into the water, and tried to get the hang of breathing through a snorkel, which is of course very easy.
Some of the crew started swimming over to the wrecks, so I swam to follow them. After a few minutes of swimming a school of fish surrounded me, and ignoring the wrecks for a moment I just followed the school. I remember being so excited I laughed and accidentally swallowed some sea water.
Finally we got to the wrecks, and saw the life there in all it's glory. It really was one of the most beautiful and joyous moments of my life.
Ever since then I have loved snorkelling, and loved going over to Moreton Island. To have this natural wonder on our doorstep, only a couple of hours by taxi and boat from my home, is such a blessing. As I said to people in London, I don't live in paradise but I live quite close to it.
Our good friend Jeremy, a fellow Moreton lover, snapped this picture of me in the wrecks. We've done a couple of wonderful trips to Moreton together, the first of which he bought a Bunya nut, which was a wonderful and unique experience in itself.
I hope to be on Moreton many more times in the future, because if you ignore the jetskies, quad bikes and cars tearing up the beach, it is a little image of the world less tamed, in its former glory.