Our package deal includes two day trips, so after my big sleepy day of yesterday, I was up early for the a la carte hotel breakfast. COVID-19 has knocked out the usual buffet offerings but I probably wouldn’t have done it justice anyway, as for months now I haven’t been eating until around ten a.m.
It was only an omelette but my body was still trying to deal with the food when we arrived at the Great Adventures counter to gain our boarding pass for the Great Barrier Reef Adventure. The southerly wind that had sprung up the day before was still blowing, and sea conditions were described as moderate-to-rough. The company would offer a swap day but not until later in the week when we’d be gone. Bill and I worked in the shipping industry and are good sailors. ‘We’ll be right,’ we told each other. Yeah … no.
Anyway, we merrily boarded our catamaran, the Reef King, which would take us to Moore Reef, about two hours sailing time out of Cairns. This is one of the nearly three thousand individual coral reefs which make up the Great Barrier Reef situated in the Coral Sea of northern Queensland.
For the first fifty minutes, as we motored out to Green Island where we discharged some passengers and took on more, the swell was just plain rough, and as we continued on to our destination, a floating pontoon over the reef, it became very rough, reaching about 1.5-2.0 metres. We slapped down, up, and over the waves, all the time trying to watch informative videos. What the heck, that breakfast had never hit the right spot anyways. May as well be rid of it. Even Bill admitted to a slight queasiness.
Moving right along …
Once at the pontoon we decided against snorkelling, scuba diving or scooba-doo riding (check out the link – I’d never heard of this before). I’m not much of a water babe, and Bill just didn’t fancy the water temperature in such windy conditions, but plenty were enjoying the close-up view such water sports provided. Not that you can meander too far from the pontoon. The allowable area is marked out with ropes and buoys. However, on arrival, we scuttled straight off to the lower level of the pontoon which provides a glassed-in viewing platform.
Although it doesn’t show well in my photo, there were many bright blue clams on the seabed, and if you waited long enough, the viewer was rewarded with seeing them open and close. There were also many sea cucumbers. I watched one make its slow and steady crawl along, vacuuming up debris along the way.
Then believe it or not, it was time for a buffet lunch – and, believe it or not – I was ready for it! A pleasant mixture of hot and cold food, such as casseroles, salads, and prawns, with fruit to follow.
Next we scuttled off for a place on a semi-submersible, which takes the visitor for a half hour tour further out on the reef. The conning tower is above water, while the tourists sit below the waterline. (By the way, there are strategically placed sea-sick bags on this craft also. Very amusing. I think you’d have to be supremely sensitive to need them on this adventure).
Some on the other side saw a sea turtle. We had to content ourselves with the captain’s description. But it is interesting to glide along, seeing the various coral formations and sea-life. What we think of as coral is actually the skeleton with which the living organism surrounds itself. There are numerous scientific names for the structures, but the common names are derived from their shape, for example, the staghorn, pillar, table, or brain. Colour also can be a function of how much light descends to that depth, but I would comment, without any scientific knowledge or background, i.e. totally from the layman’s view, that I remember the reef being more colourful when I saw it twenty-five years ago. We were also viewing through thick tinted glass, so those who were snorkelling (not as far out as the submersible goes) would have had a different impression. Let’s just say, no tourist operator mentioned the words “coral bleaching”, but … It is not only ocean warming that creates this, cyclones too can have a devastating effect on fragile reefs. But then, one can argue that increasing cyclone activity is also a by-product of climate change.
Okay, this is meant to be a light-hearted blog, so moving right along …
The return trip was uneventful – if you get my drift – and along the way, hundreds of photographs were shown on a screen for tourists to buy if they wished. One of the stars of the show is this Maori Wrasse. This fellow is practically tame. He must have had thousands of photographs taken over the ages. My view through the underwater viewing platform was great, but does not show off his true colour as would be seen without the effect of the toughened glass and reflected lights.
It was around 5pm when we returned to Cairns, and on our stroll back to the hotel we headed for the Night Markets, open every evening from 4.30pm. Bill and I are not shoppers, but there was a wealth of tantalising goods on offer. We did a kind of reconnoiter, vowing to come back and spend real money, after we’d thought over what we wanted to purchase (no impulse buying with we two! – well, not often, anyway.)
We could have eaten at any of the food stall vendors, but I was in the mood for a comfortable seat and relax, so we headed back to the hotel, only to be reminded that on account of COVID-19, their restaurant is closed on weekdays. But the staff were happy to serve us in the bar, so over yet another complimentary drink, Bill enjoyed a Thai fish cake noodle salad and I threw caution to the wind with a burger. I’m not “supposed” to pig out on carbs – but what the heck. It had been an “interesting” day.
And so to bed …