Hi friends! I'm assuming you're here because you know who I am, but just in case you're a stranger, here's the rundown: My name is Carly Payne, and I'm going into my third year at Utah State University. This summer (aka right now) I have the MOST amazing opportunity to attend a study abroad on Heron Island. Heron is a tiny island located off the east coast of Australia in the Great Barrier Reef. It holds a research station run through the University of Queensland, and we get to use the facilities to do our own research for two weeks! It's pretty incredible.
My new friends Holly and Riley and I spent the week before the trip traveling through Sydney and Brisbane. It was really fun and we did so many cool things. As a group we met in Gladstone (a small mining town) last night and spent the night in a hostel. Today we packed up and loaded on the Heron Islander ferry. It was a two hour ride, but the water wasn't too choppy, so it was fun. I've only seen the ocean a handful of times, and I've never been surrounded by seemingly endless water before. It was definitely a new experience.
When we neared the island, the tide was so low that the reef was above water. We could see insane amounts of coral, and some sharks, turtles, and sting rays were swimming around the boat channel. The island itself is insanely green. I've never really been anywhere so lush. The plants are large (I mean really large) and vibrant, and I can't wait to explore the forest. The water makes the term "crystal clear" make more sense than ever before. Everything here is so beautiful and exciting. I can't believe I'm actually here. This whole thing is really making me think I should've watched Barbie Island Princess in preparation for the trip.
After we disembarked the ferry, one of the workers from the research station introduced the facilities and our accommodations (average dorms). We fitted up with wet suits and snorkel masks and took care of some small business, then we walked down to the beach at the jetty to watch the sunset. Heron Island is far enough from the coast you can watch the sun set over nothing but water. It's absolutely stunning. I'm so used to living amidst mountains that watching the sun set over a flat horizon is kind of strange, but crazy beautiful.
After that we ate dinner together. The chef here is fantastic! I think it's safe to say that the island food is far better than anything I ate in college. We've got downtime right now, and I think I'll probably hit the sack early tonight. We've got our first reef swim tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m.! I can't wait! This is a dream come true.