Tag: Marine Life

The scary ocean critters of New Jersey’s beaches

I’m reminiscing today of the time I spent living on the east coast. I essentially made it my bitch, spending every day off from the restaurant I had foraging, exploring, finding new hiking trails, beaches, hidden swim holes, you name it.

A friend came and visited me in Philadelphia for the summer and we spent our time exploring Mother Nature together, one day taking a drive out to Cape May, New Jersey for a day at the beach.

I’m currently living in Hawaii and have yet to see any scary critters or sharks that have made me refrain from getting in the water. But Jersey’s another story. It’s scary, real scary. Not only does it suck to drive there, but their beaches are loaded with the strangest, most fascinating, and in my opinion, the scariest creatures that stop me from diving in head first.

This particular afternoon, we looked around the sleepy beach town that was full of typical posh urbanites pushing around their designer children in their designer clothes. The Victorian houses were beautiful, but I was growing tired of the east coast snobbery and crowds, ready for a reclusive stretch of beach.

My friend Colleen, her boyfriend Ryland and I found Higbee Beach, the perfect little retreat for us. It’s a mile and half long stretch on the tip of Cape Island on the Delaware Bay. It’s actually a former nude beach (leave it to New Englanders to get their panties in a bunch) but the scene remains quiet, peaceful and serene.

“Now this is what I’m talking about!,” I thought when we arrived. Our own little slice of solitude.

Higbee is a bit rough and wild, though and I noticed right away that there were trees jutting out from the water. Beyond that though, it was the site of these massive horseshoe crabs washing up to shore that made me think twice about getting in the water:

Photo by author

As if these horseshoe crabs weren’t enough, (*I’ve actually attended a scientific study on the beaches of Jersey tracing their mating habits in conjunction with the full moon…fascinating, albeit weird*) soon came the HUGE jellyfish. I’ve always had a fear of jellyfish. There’s something about these though that has me singing a different tune about a dip in the ocean:

Swimming? Nope.

Depending on what beaches you frequent on Jersey’s coast, you will surely see these scary ocean critters. I know horseshoe crabs are harmless, but who wants one of those brushing up against their legs during a moment of tranquil floating? Nevermind those ethereal jellyfish. The picture does all the explaining.

Critters used to be my number one ocean fear, but living in Hawaii has taught me about respecting your body and the tides. There’s nothing like getting beat to shit by an undertow/wave combination. Alas, a new ocean fear has arisen in me! What sorts of irrational (or rational!) fears do you have about the ocean?

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

This has been an incredible year of seeing things and trying to knock items off my bucket list, one by one. When I took my month-long trip to Australia, I hadn’t initially planned to visit the Great Barrier Reef. . It was my stay with my host family in Brisbane that convinced me to ditch my plans for Byron Bay (feel a bit bad because I knew I’d love it there) and instead jumped on a Virgin Australia flight up to Cairns.

Cairns turned out to be my favorite part of my trip, hands down.

While in Cairns, I couchsurfed with a guy named Nevan in Kewarra Beach. My reason for my trip up north was for one reason and one reason only: to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea. To do the damn thing!

My ride.

While weighing my options for a snorkeling cruise, it was Nevan who talked me into the Green Island Reef Cruises. Green Island is located about an hour off the shores of Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, so it’s a relatively short trip out to the reef. Plus, it’s the best bang for the buck. I paid only $79 for a 5 hour snorkeling day, whereas other companies were offering tours to the outer reef for $200. Nevan told me that in order to reach the outer reef, you spend most of your time crusing back and forth to the snorkeling spot, leaving less water time. I wanted MORE water time!

So long Cairns, hello reef.

Green Island tours operate all sorts of packages and options, from half days to full days, to lunch and a glass-bottom boat tour. The best thing about Green Island is that you snorkel right off the beach, so you can choose to soak up the rays on the beach or spend all your time in the water (like I did!) You can also do a rainforest walk on Green Island that highlights different fauna and plant life endemic to the area. Score!

Photo by author.
The view from Green Island.

While snorkeling, I did wear a lycra suit to protect me against box jellyfish, aka KILLER jellyfish that inhabit the Cairns waters. One sting from them can be fatal. Believe it! It was an extra $8 to rent the suit, but the peace of mind was worth it. Plus, it helped me look like a professional.

Me just after snorkeling for hours in my lycra suit. No box jellyfish for me!

Some might argue that you get a better experience on the outer reef, but I was floored and fascinated by all I saw off the coast of Green Island. I saw TWO sharks (!), tons of beautiful fish, GIANT CLAMS and even swam with 3 green sea turtles. The marine life was second to none and this day made up for more than my fair share of shitty days in the past. I would reccomend anyone to see the Great Barrier Reef in their lifetime. After all, it IS one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World!

Photo by author.
I could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.