It seems like all of my life since I started traveling in college, I have always heard of the Great Barrier Reef. It is like one of those “far away places” that they write songs about. Well, it is far away….but today we got to see if firsthand, and it is everything that I had hoped for….absolutely a world wonder. I can’t say nearly as much about the Reef as does Wikipedia….so will just go over our day…as it was a fantastic day.
1, We were picked up by the Quicksilver Coach-Bus at 8….and as we picked up others at other hotels…the driver started talking about facts about Cairns, etc….and that we would be traveling further north for about an hour to Port Douglas, where we would board the boat that would take us out to the Reef. So, as we left the City we followed the Espalade which runs right along the water. Many very nice apartment and residential areas…leading out past the airport….and then past the air terminal for the SkyRail….and then on to the highway that runs right along the water. This is like California highway #1 along by Big Sur…only much larger and more dramatic as the Rain Forest comes right down to the beach. Just a gorgeous15 mile stretch that takes us directly into Port Douglas, a city founded some 50 years ago by a man that saw what a perfect little town could be like…and to this day…it is just that…an absolutely beautiful town with small shopping areas…all greatly influenced by the tourist trade. It has become the main port city for the boats that go out to the Reef. We were dropped off literally at the entrance to the Port area…and proceeded to board the 400 passenger catamaran …..which was like a new boat….spotless and modern….and greeted by uniformed crew all welcoming us and offering coffee, sweets, etc. Just a great beginning.
2. We were first on so got a seat right up front in the covered area and proceeded to watch introductory videos…take a tour of the boat…and just get ready for the hour journey out to the Reef. We had our initial briefing on the Reef by a young Marine Biologist that was born in New Zealand and got her PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Florida. Very bright and informing as the boat picked up speed to about 35 knots….and we were “on our way”. As we approached the Reef….we could see the large permanently anchored docking area….and pulled right up to it to transfer from the boat to this dock area. A big 3 level dock, it serves as the point from which you can do the snorkel, the diving , the helicopter rides, etc the submersible “sub” that is their glass bottom boat, which we immediately got on and down we went to see the Reef. The coral is just amazing, and is everything that I had ever heard about it. It is massive, running about a thousand miles north and south along the line where the Pacific Ocean drops off dramatically. The Reef itself is only about 30 feet below the surface….and the sub moves in and out of a section of the Reef and you can see fish and coral very clearly right from the Windows. A great 25 minute underwater ride. We then went back up to the dock for a big buffet luncheon…then had the next 2 hours to look at the underwater viewing room….and just enjoy being literally “on top of the Reef”. A large number of the passengers went diving…and the Quicksilver company, the owner of all of this, including the buses…provided everything needed to go in the water. Very impressive.
3. At 3 PM, we headed back to Port Douglas….more videos…and more time for me to find out how the entire operation works, in terms of how they keep the dock out there, etc….a very impressive operation. We got back to the Port on time….then had a quick bus tour of the town…almost an unreal looking town and area…clean, neat, pretty, modern, quaint…..clearly one of the most beautiful town areas we have ever seen. Tropical magic in a storybook looking setting…..huge palms and trees and plants and all so orderly ,neat, an orderly. VERY IMPRESSIVE.
4. Got back at 6 and decided to go out for a walk along the water…found a great little restaurant right on the Esplanade …. Walked back to the hotel….a wonderful day…one never forgotten…seeing and being on THE GREAT BARRIER REEF.
OFF TO Sydney in the morning…Monday, for Day #4.