Australia - Cairns, Great Barrier Reef & Cape Trib
December 29, 2006
After arriving back in Sydney it was time for a nights sleep and to get back out there.
Morning flight up to Cairns to do the Great Barrier Reef and the Rain Forest.
Caught a shuttle bus into Cairns from the airport and got out on the Plannage. Walked straight into a nice looking seafood restaurant and enjoyed a delicious red claw lobster salad while I figured out where I wanted to go.
Decided on a cheap motel and wandered up the beach front in search of it. Turns out it’s quite a walk in the sweltering heat and a backpack. Finally arrive and book in for a night. The woman running the place was very friendly and made some suggestions on the best way to see everything with her preferred (backhander friendly) tour providers. Settled with her recommendations because they actually looked the best out of all of them anyway.
The plan was one day on the reef and then a 2 day tour with an overnight stop at Cape Tribulation. Spent the rest of the day swimming in the salt water lagoon and sun bathing before going out for Mexican food. Had a massive meal and drank lots of margarita’s while calling the office to defuse a few issues.
Early start for the Reef from the pier. Travelling on a smallish boat with about 10 other people which seems like a good size party. Some of the other tours had up to 200 people! Reef was a good 2 hour journey out from Cairns. I’d naively thought that you could just swim out from the beach…not that you can swim in the sea there since it’s Croc and stinger infested. Had booked 1 introductory dive for the day and once we arrived at Michaelmas Cay I did some snorkeling whilst I waited for my groups turn to dive. The Cay is reserved for 40,000 or so wild birds. The smell was pretty bad, not what I was quite expecting!
Amazing to be actually on the reef! I have been talking about this for so long. The guides throw food into the ocean around the boat while we’re snorkelling so loads of fish come and greet us. Spend a while remembering how to not breath water but still having problems with all the waves.
Saw some amazing fish and just to see the reef itself was spectacular. Got back to the boat and kitted up for the first dive. The dive master spent about 30 minutes on the way over explaining everything and then only about 5 minutes in the water before we start descending. Seemed slightly cowboy at the time, but the guy knew what he was doing and it’s far better to get down there and learn as you go along. Can’t imagine doing that back home. I’m sure health and safety would suck all the fun out of it.
This is amazing! The water isn’t as clear as I was expecting, but just to get down and see the coral is out of this world. It’s so crazy this stuff. Each coral is much larger than I expected. Such a variation in the shape and types of coral and fish. This is another situation where words, or at least my words, really can’t describe this experience.
The first dive was a little frustrating because we all linked arms and swam together, which quite difficult when there’s 5 of you in a line. Once you’ve been down for a few minutes it feels so natural that you don’t really notice that you’re not just breathing water.
Delicious lunch on the boat whilst we sailed to the outer reef for the second stop. Quite a few people are starting to feel sea sick, thankfully I’m all right just feel a bit weird. On the way the dive master wrung some more cash out of us for an additional dive…but after coming all this way you’ve just got to do it.
Arrive at the second stop which is out in the ocean and not protected by an island so the waves are pretty choppy. It’s a strange place because the water is so shallow that it doesn’t feel like you’re 30km out from the land.
Go snorkeling again whilst waiting for my groups turn and can see that this dive is going to be special. Much bigger coral, thousands of fish and deeper water. End up spending loads of time messing with my snorkel to avoid breathing water in the larger waves. Can’t wait to get the scuba gear back on.
Once kitted up and back in the water we descend about 5 metres or so and start swimming around, this time we’re allowed to swim separate within the group so it’s much more fun and you can concentrate on the scenery more. So spectacular. We swam all the way to bottom and knelt in the sand around a giant clam, those things are giant! Swam all around the area at varying depths and through a tunnel of coral at one point. Utterly brilliant, such an excellent way to be introduced to scuba diving and the reef.
Back on the boat we took it easy for the ride home. Met an English couple Matt and Kaz who I end up drinking beer with on the sun deck exchanging travelling stories.
Seems to take a lot longer to get back to Cairns on the return but luckily the supply of VB doesn’t run dry so we struggle by :)
Get back to the motel for a shower and take it easy for a while before heading back into town to meet Matt and Kaz for more drinks. We’re all feeling pretty exhausted after the long day but after a few beers we catch a second wind and stay out drinking and watch a rock band play in an Irish pub. They’re playing all covers mostly but all my kind of music. Reminds me that I haven’t listened to anything for weeks, should have bought my iPod with me, but the battery life is rubbish…might have to look into buying myself an Xmas present…
Rolled out of bed into the tour bus at 7am and we headed towards Cape Tribulation and the Rain Forest.
There’s only 3 girls on the trip with me so we get a good tour on the way up.
First stop is for Breakfast at a wildlife centre to look at Cassowaries, Kanga’s and croc’s. Take some breakfast here.
We stop and walk through the Rain Forest and the mangroves for an hour while the friendly tour guide explains plenty about the forest and mangroves.
You’ll have to wait a while for the pictures. I took a disposable camera down, so need to get it developed. Hopefully have some interesting shots though.