Posted by: travelrat | July 13, 2011

Glass-bottomed boats; Mombasa, Aqaba and Cairns.

Glass-bottomed boat, Mombasa

Great Barrier Reef: 19th August 2010

After the semi-submersible, I thought the glass-bottomed boat might be a bit of a come-down. We’ve been on such vessels on two occasions before, and, each time, we saw more by just leaning over the side. Not here, though … either they use a different kind of material, or just keep it cleaner. Of course, it isn’t really glass … I don’t think I’d be too happy sailing near a coral reef if it was, but ‘transparent plastic bottomed boat’ just doesn’t sound right, does it?

Or first experience of the GBB was in Mombasa in 1994, when we sailed in the sort of craft that has you surreptitiously counting the lifebelts, and comparing your count with the number of ‘souls on board’. The skipper let us out to walk on the reef, too … that would be a strict no-no here; the rule is ‘Look with your eyes, not your hands’

The Reef, Aqaba

The cruise at Aqaba in 2001 was different … yes, we saw coral, and, when I remarked that there was just as good a view over the side, the skipper jumped overboard with a car windscreen wiper, and cleaned the bottom off for us. It wasn’t much of an improvement, though. I did see a coral formation that looked very much like a ship. Just wait a minute! grinned the skipper, and showed us another formation that looked just like … an Army tank!

He explained that various bits of machinery had been sunk for the coral to establish itself, and create what amounts to an artificial coral reef. If there’s any other explanation, the driver of that tank is probably still in the brig!

Back to the Barrier Reef, though. There’s nothing artificial here. I was going to put up a slide show, but it would be pretty much the same as the one from the semi-submersible last week … the video was better, anyway, so I’ll put that up next week.

Update: I’ve been informed that the ship and the tank off Aqaba have been joined by …. a C-130 cargo aircraft! 


  1. Hi Keith,
    Isn’t coral wonderful, it can be so beautiful, so many different colors, I have always admired the coral reefs. I have only seen the reefs here in Queensland (Australia) but nature has sure done a wonderful job on this coral.

  2. My memories of school holidays in Cairns are completely associated with glass-bottomed boats (and Doris Day.) They really are wondrous things and you can see so much. The coral is amazing. Fantastic post!!

    • I did remember there was a film called ‘The Glass-bottomed Boat’ but couldn’t recall who was in it or what it was about. Maybe I didn’t see it?

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