Disclaimer: All pictures on this post are taken by me except the underwater photos which are taken by the boat photographer. Photo credit: Down Under Dive @ Great Barrier Reef
I lost a day in Cairns when my flight to Australia is cancelled. Luckily I am able to reschedule my great barrier reef cruise to my last day. Visiting the great barrier reef is a bucket list item. The way we destroy our planet there probably isn’t much time to still see the reef in all its glory. During my sabbatical planning I almost passed up this opportunity because it is supposed to be stinger season and a bad time to go (jelly fish are supposed to be abundant). On top of the stinger the weather is questionable in December. Luckily the cruise, Down Under Cruise and Dive, has stinger suits to borrow to prevent stings by jellyfish and it happens to be a lovely day at the reef. I really couldn’t have picked a better day to go. Lucky me!
Growing up near water I never had a urge to scuba dive (like surfing) but for some reason during my travels it is something I really wanted to tackle. Due to health issues it is a questionable activity for me at this time and since I don’t really have time to clear it with my doctor I decide to play it safe and snorkel instead. Note: When I return the USA my doctor tells me that scuba diving would be ok for me – DARN. MAYBE NEXT TIME.
Don’t get me wrong, snorkling at the Great Barrier Reef is amazing, but there is so much more to see at the deeper lengths (Clownfish for one).
As the cruise starts we go in the dining area inside to get instructions and a safety spiel. We will stop at two reefs and have a lunch buffet in between.
We get fitted for the equipment and I take the optional stinger suit just in case. We are assigned a cubbie hole to hold our borrowed equipment.
We have a little time to enjoy the cruise before we get to our first stop.
Stop 1 Saxon Reef
We are almost at our first reef to explore. I put on my stinger suit and get my equipment ready. I am not sure what to expect down below.
The water looks amazingly clear. I jump in.
There is a roped area that we are supposed to stay inside. Also there is a flotation device in the middle if you need to rest. Once I stick my head in the water I find I don’t need the flotation device. I spend my time floating face down marveling at all I see. Saxon Reef is full of vivid and beautiful corals. I don’t spring for the underwater camera nor could I find the photographer to get a photo of me this time around. Below is a selection of some of the shots from the photographer that are included in the pictures I purchase on board.
Below is more examples of corals I see. I do notice some bleaching of the corals but I am amazed of how good the corals do look. I see very beautiful colors. I mostly keep my head face down in the water only bobbing up when the lifeguards give the whistle to do a safety check on us. I am notoriously bad at hearing the safety guards but only once I am whistled at for getting too close to the outer barrier.
We return to the boat to eat lunch and travel to our next location.
I relax a bit on the top deck.
Stop 2 Hastings reef
Even though there don’t seem to be any jellyfish out I wear the stinger suit once more just to be safe.
I really notice the reef decline at Hastings reef. Parts of it are vivid in color and beautiful but a large part of it looks dead. I can see lots of coral bleaching. I also notice bright purple and bright yellow coral. I see white coral with blue eye tentacles, many striped fish, and polka dot fish. Bright blue and purple fish. The fish come right up to me.
Example below of bleached and dull reef.
These are neat. Also look at that rainbow fish!
I finally find the underwater photographer to get some photos taken.
When I return to the boat I order a celebratory beer for the trip back.
We arrive back at the pier.
The pier is not too far from my hostel so I decide to walk back. In my walk I see mud flats and do some birdwatching.
I stop at an outdoor restaurant on the waterfront. It is here that I realize there could be a communication issue in this country even though I technically speak the language. I order fries (chips) and ask for ketchup with my fries. The server has no idea what I am asking for. I finally realize that ketchup is tomato sauce in Australia. Something to put in my memory banks for the next few weeks.
Today has been a great day. I love my great barrier experience and would love to come back again and scuba dive so I can see the fish at deeper lengths.
My visit to Cairns is short and tomorrow I head to Melbourne to start my adventures down south. I am excited to see things in other parts of the country.