A helicopter to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef

I'd finished another speaking tour of Australia, ending up in Sydney with just over a day to spare. I decided to spend it on the Great Barrier Reef, on Heron Island. It meant a short plane flight to Gladstone, then a trip out to the reef. Short of time, I opted to do it by helicopter, a trip of about 20-25 minutes. As we sailed over the crystal-clear waters, the pilot spotted a giant manta ray below us and asked if I wanted to follow it. I readily assented, and watched the great creature swimming just below us, its wings rippling rhythmically as it glided through the water.

I spent my day on the Great Barrier Reef, doing a little snorkelling and seeing a Southern night sky more amazingly lit up than any I have ever seen. It was quite a thrill to see the Great Bear upside down on the horizon, with the two pointer stars indicating the direction of the Pole Star, always below the horizon

By sheer chance it was the one day of the year when the baby turtles hatched, and I saw them scuttling down to the water. Many would make it, but some would not. I flipped over one that had fallen on its back, wondering if I'd interfered with the course of nature. I needn't have worried, though, because I saw an American woman deposit a whole armful of them into the sea.