|Hot and bright sunshine today for going to the Great Barrier Reef. The cruise dock in Cairns (pronounced Cans) is in a very nice waterfront area, next to the CBD (downtown) and casino. Another ship, Artiana, is parked behind us. The announcements from the Artiana sounded German as we walked by.
The marina for our excursion boat is about ¾ mile down the waterfront. Its already 85 with 80% humidity. Good thing we are wearing our bathing suits as we are already dripping sweat walking to the boat. The boat is a 3 level Catamaran, similar to going to Catalina Island, a bit bigger than a Mackinaw Island boat. The 1 and a half hour ride takes us out to a permanently anchored platform that has all the stuff you need to snorkel or dive. It also has a glass bottom boat, underwater observatory and a semi-submersible for those that don’t want to go in the water. All the food and bathrooms are on the boat so they can go back to shore.
It takes about 30 mins to get all your gear and another 15 mins to tug/squeeze/wiggle into your stinger suit. The suit includes a hood and mittens so only a small portion of your face and feet are exposed to the jellyfish stingers. Yesterday at Hamilton Island, I had been stung 4-5 times in the hour I was in the water. Felt like a sharp needle that hurt for 1-2 minutes. I did not say anything to Mel until after we were out of the water as she would have bolted out immediately. Thankfully, She had not gotten stung. The stingers at the reef were supposed to be a more dangerous type, hence, we all looked like fat, black seals in our suits.
The snorkel area was pretty crowded for the first hour, until people got out to go back to lunch. I signed up for a snorkel tour with a marine biologist. She took us around the area and pointed out various corals and fish. At one point she picked up a small, fist size jelly fish (not the dangerous type) and passed it around the four of us. She also brought up a sea cucumber, big, ugly, brown skinned. It was rough and not slimy as I thought it would be. Think miniature Jaba the Hut.
The coral was pretty in various shapes and colors with lots of different fish swimming in and around them. The giant clams, 2 feet across, were the most colorful in orange, blue and purple . Watched a school of black fish swim around the coral and periodically stop and attack one spot. A couple of star fish were also very colorful peeking under the coral.
Got the underwater camera working and took several videos. The most stunning is of a big jelly fish. I was coming back to the water entry platform at the end of the day. Just as I looked up to see how close to the platform I was, I almost ran into this big, 12 inch jellyfish, pulsating right in front of me. I backed up quickly and pulled out my camera. At first it just stayed right there in front of me, almost transparent, gently waving up and down. I could see the inner organs and the light shining through it. A couple of small fish kept diving in and around it. I was being bounced by the waves near the platform and tried to keep the jellyfish in the frame and not run into it. It then turned its underside toward me and the most incredible lacey, crystal pattern I have every seen, appeared. It turned right side up again and sank gently to the bottom. It was breath taking. I had to shorten the video so it would upload on Facebook. Its too big for the blog site. The light flashing you see on the video is the sun coming through the water and striking the jellyfish as it contracts and expands to move. The jellyfish did not flash on its own. I have some more videos and am working on how to convert them to a smaller format to be able to upload. Otherwise, you may need to wait until we are back and hold a post cruise party to see them.
The boat ride back was very steamy as the air conditioning went out on the boat. Clouds threatened over Cairns but never amounted to any rain.
For dinner, Mel and I went to one of the waterfront restaurants. As we were walking we noticed lots of birds in the sky and finally realized they were fruit bats going out for their nightly foraging. The bats formed a stream over our heads. We sat in the lounge area of the Dundee restaurant as it was Chinese Lunar New Year and everything was crowded. We were happy with our Chicken Wings, Pork ribs and onion rings. I had a Pipsqueak Hard apple cider because I liked the name. There was supposed to be fireworks for the New Year holiday, but Mel and I came back to the ship and crashed.
It was a bucket list day! Great Barrier Reef, incredible marine encounters and waterfront dining.
Happy New Year of the Dog!