Jim Beam recently gave us the opportunity to make a Bold Choice, and with your help, we selected a mission to dive the Great Barrier Reef. It was an amazing, fantastic, extra-superlative experience that’s hard to put into words. Here’s my attempt to some up this once-in-a-lifetime slice of awesomeness.

When Captain Cook first smashed his ship on the Great Barrier Reef in the 1700s, he probably didn’t realize that he was hitting an underwater structure the size of California. I mean this is the largest thing ever created by living beings on this planet. It’s over 130,000 sq. miles of non-stop life blooming in every direction.

The whole thing is just one big submarine playground of fractal aliveness. Soft coral, hard coral, schools of neon fish, stingers, sea turtles, giant clams, sea snakes, sharks… the Great Barrier Reef is like the largest, most elaborate/expensive fish tank you’ve ever seen. And you can see the thing from outer space, man.

During my SCUBA and snorkel dives, it’s like everywhere you turn there’s some sort of otherworldly creature occupying the same space as you. You’ll see fish that resemble small dogs. There are spectacular tree branches of purple coral and underwater formations that look like tiny human brains. You’ll see jumbo versions of cellular structures like mitochondria the size of your kitchen table, ribosomes bigger than a Smart Car or a person-sized Golgi Apparatus just chillin’ out. It’s really a trip.

So reefs have been around for 100s of millions of years, but the Great Barrier Reef is only about 500,000 years old. The dive guides claimed that the Great Barrier Reef is responsible for producing 25 percent of the world’s oxygen. I’m not sure where that figure comes from, but when you see the saturation of life that exists just a few feet below the surface, you’ll believe just about any stat they throw at you. I mean, just look at this stuff:

The Great Barrier Reef is a system of about 3,000 distinct reefs that hugs the northeast coast of Australia. We used Port Douglas, which is about an hour north of Cairns, as our base of operations for the dive trips. We took a trip on the Calypso tour which was not-overbooked and included three great dive spots full of colorful coral. We also took a trip on Aristocat, which was borderline-overbooked, but still amazing. I saw more sea life at the Agincourt reef spots we visited with Aristocrat, but the coral visibility was better with Calypso.

This spot is truly one of the great wonders of the world. If you have the opportunity to visit the Great Barrier Reef in person, I highly recommend it. I chatted up a sea captain who had last visited the Great Barrier Reef in 1986, and he said that the reef you see today is nothing compared to the scenes you could witness back in the day. I tend to believe him. I’m not sure what’s going to happen once the source of 25 percent of the world’s oxygen population becomes endangered, but either way, go visit the Great Barrier Reef while you still can. If you take a long time to schedule your trip out here, it might not look the same when you arrive.

Anyone who I’ve talked to who’s been to Australia has sold me hard on the idea that it’s an amazing place. I was able to visit Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland in the north during my trip, and I was impressed with everything. The cities are fun, the women are gorgeous, the beer is tasty and everything just appears brighter, bigger and more vibrant.

When I was first approached about the Bold Choice opportunity, I was definitely excited, but I didn’t know what to expect. After experiencing my Bold Choice, I have to say that I feel more fired up about life and I have an extra layer of happy memories that I’m going to carry with me for awhile. I want to thank Jim Beam for making this great experience possible.

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