Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Great Barrier Reef (Day 4)

Let me start off by saying that our 26 days did not continue in the same vein as our first four. For those suffering from sensory overload, spare a thought for us, who had to try to take it all in first hand! The rest our stay is not as well recorded and not as diverse. Sydney is just another big city with sky scrapers etc. (I could imagine I have just offended it's 4 million inhabitants.)

So day four had arrived and after our early start on Day 3 you would imagine we had planned a nice sleep in for ourselves. But no, it was up at 6.30 am again and another bus trip, this time, to Port Douglas where our boat would set sail.

The Great Barrier Reef was the second World Heritage Site we were to visit on our travels and as the name suggests it was great! In fact if ballooning was one of the highlights of our stay in Australia, then this was the highlight. We might be peaking a little too soon here but stay with us, there are plenty of other experiences in our time in Australia that were highlights too.

You get picked up about 6.30 am in Cairns and head for Port Douglas, from there you take the boat to the docking station. We choose to go to the outer reef as you could snorkel there even if, like me, you couldn't swim.

We arrived around 1.00 pm to the docking station where you have a choice of activities. The boat returns to Port Douglas at about 4.30 pm so you get about 3.5 hours. The first thing we did was go into the underwater lookout from where you can see the various sea life. After that there are semi submersible boats that leave every fifteen minutes (there's two of them) which go around the barrier reef for around 20 minutes. Here's some pics we took.

The picture above is significant because it is a good representative view of the coral reef, as you will experience it, whether in a boat or out snorkeling. I had this image of magnificently coloured coral in all the vibrant colours of the rainbow. But it's not, and if that's what you are expecting it can be a bit disappointing. The reef itself is quite monotone, but to be fair some of the fish are magnificent colours.

The reef however comes into it's own from the air. Sharon nor I had ever been on a helicopter before and when the opportunity arose to experience two firsts in the one day, we just couldn't resist. We thought long and hard about it, as it's not that cheap. In the end we opted for the 10 minute, as opposed to the 30 minute flight. In my opinion it was the best value for money of the entire trip, even taking the high cost into account, and raised the Great Barrier Reef from being "one of the many highlights" status to "the highlight." If the coral is a bit of a disappointment close up then it comes into its own from the air. Here's a few pics of the helicopter and us to whet your appetite.

And here's the pics you really want to see. The Great Barrier Reef from the air.

But our day didn't end there, there was another first still waiting to be ticked off our list, snorkeling! As mentioned I cannot swim very well, but absolute beginner's can snorkel in the great barrier reef. They give you a lift jacket and there are ropes that stretch out away from the docking station which you can use until you get a bit more confident. Before our time was up I had gained confidence and was happily snorkeling away from the rope. The only down side to snorkelling is that you have to be prepared to look like a smurf! I mentioned stingers before and, guess what, there's plenty of them around the reef. Not to worry though, you can hire their blue Lycra stinger suits. The great barrier reef is not a place for vanity or pride it would seem, as the next few pics demonstrate.

The things we do for this blog! Anyway the above were brought to you courtesy of an underwater camera which we purchased before our trip. They are also available on the boat but at an inflated price. Here's one taken from the water looking back towards the docking station and one we tried to take of the two of us in the water - not our best photo ever.

Our tour operator Quick Silver Cruises was aptly named, as it seemed all they were out for was your silver. The trip itself was great but the amount of "up selling" was just uncomfortable. What I most took exception to was the videos they played during the cruise which were not so much based on informing us but selling us their various products.
All told it was our most expensive day of the entire trip, and knocked our budget way off.
It was worth every penny.

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