Bestworst holiday

10th August 2007 at 01:00
Best Swimming and me have never been the best of friends, but when presented with the opportunity of snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef you have to just grab the flippers.

The four-day boat tour included opportunities to travel in a glass-bottomed boat, see giant clams, marvel at the turtles and find the real Nemo. I was transfixed by this silent coral world where you could suddenly find yourself gazing into a crystal clear, 15 metre deep cavern filled with thousands of multicoloured fish.

By the third day when my husband had finally stopped laughing at my attempts to swim in flippers, we had progressed to diving or in my case jumping off the back of the boat, and were snorkelling on our own about 400 metres away.

I became aware that I was being watched and, presuming that my new husband was looking lovingly towards his bride, I turned and attempted to look cute in a borrowed wetsuit, flippers and snorkel. But his eyes were looking past me. Instinctively, I turned to take on my rival for his attention and saw a sleek, swiftly gliding shark homing in on me.

It was the elegance of the creature's movement that surprised me most, and then my lack of a film star reaction. We have all seen Jaws and, therefore, know how we are supposed to react. But as the five foot reef shark swished past me, I simply thought "Wow!"


By 6pm we had already decided not to stay in the bedroom even though we had barricaded the windows and secreted all our belongings under the basin in the ensuite.

As we explored the eerily empty corridors our senses worked overtime. We alone were using the stairs of the 16 floor building; people were still preferring to chance the elevator and on entering the stairwell we discovered why. Sauna would not be accurate enough to describe the stifling heat, yet I knew if this concrete and metal struct save our lives we would endure it.

The staff were suspicious of us using the stairs and walking the corridors, but an explanation of "English" invariably caused the corners of their tired mouths to flicker slightly, and they would return to their work. I envied them their work. They had a distraction, we just had the waiting.

We found our refuge on a seventh floor corridor, high enough to avoid the flood waters, but low enough to have a chance of escaping if the building caught fire. The corridor was silent. If I lay on the floor the bombardment of noise from outside reminded me of the soundtrack of a half forgotten war film and fear would annex my stomach.

What I didn't realise then was that surviving until morning would just be the first stage. We would then have to find a way out of New Orleans. I am yet to convince my father of the benefits of holidays that involve flying

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