If the Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, then spending the night on a boat above it should be the eighth. Unlike other live-aboard experiences being offered up and down Northeastern Australia, Fantasea Adventure Cruising is less about how many dives you can log a day and more about having a good time. The docked pontoon is located 45 miles off the coast of Queensland and sleeps a maximum of six guests. Every Reef Sleep booking comes with your own host who is on hand to prepare your first-class meals and to organize activities (snorkeling, scuba diving, or extras like helicopter rides and massages). The Fantasea is also open every morning to a boatload of day-trip guests shuttled from shore to the pontoon, where they can explore the reef and enjoy the submarine viewing station, waterslide, and buffet meal. But when the boat pulls out after lunch, the only people left are the overnight guests.
My husband and I did this during our travels through Australia, and because of the unseasonal weather we had the place to ourselves, with the exception of the staff. One staff member was a 27-year-old American who had been living in Australia for the past six years, the last three working as Fantasea's onboard marine biologist. We asked Dominique about her experience and what it was like living and working Down Under.
What brought you to Australia?
I came here for school. I'm originally from Tucson, Arizona, but I did my post grad and two masters (one in ecotourism and the other in marine biology) nearby in Townsville at James Cook University.
Why the interest in marine biology?
I've wanted to be a marine biologist since I was six. My family saved up for a trip to Sea World in California and I was hooked.
What does your job entail at Fantasea?
I give presentations about the area to guests and run guided snorkeling tours of the reef. I also help the government with marine research.
What is the best part of your job?
Interacting with the people. Getting them excited about something I'm passionate about.
What is the most challenging part?
Interacting with the people and the different cultures.
Has it taught you anything?
I'm now a better tourist because of it. I'm more tolerable of differences.
Do you think you'll stay in Australia long?
No, my working visa is up in November. But I've started applying for aquarium jobs in the U.S. where I'd be involved with education and conservation.
What will you miss about Oz?
The Aussie people. It's such a welcoming culture. Oh, and the Vegemite. (It's a food spread made from yeast extract.) It took four years to acquire the taste, but I've already started shipping jars home.
It's a lot easier now with the new work/holiday visa. It gives tourists between the ages of 18-30 up to one year to work and travel. Do it!
Lisa Costantini is a writer/editor currently traveling the world with her husband working on a project about sport and culture. More information can be found on their website at www.whysportmatters.com. Lisa will be blogging from the road for us as she and her husband travel through Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe over the next several months.
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