February 29, 2012 – Cairns, Australia – The Great Barrier Reef
The first thing to learn about Cairns is how to pronounce it. It is pronounced “cans” as in beer “cans”. Nothing will identify you as a tourist quicker than saying “carnes” or “cairns” – it is “cans”.
The second thing to learn is that the main claim to fame here is the Great Barrier Reef” which extends the length of this part of Australia some 1500 miles or more and is a major destination for divers and marine wildlife lovers. The reef is an Australian national park and is tightly controlled and protected from any sort of damage or pollution. Tours and diving trips to the reef are licensed and a substantial portion of the fees for these trips go directly to the preservation and protection of the reef.
Our tour to the reef was aboard the catamaran, “Reef Magic”, a 60 foot boat with A/C, comfy seats, and a bar which pulled up alongside our ship as it was tied up, and we went directly on board the catamaran. Unfortunately, no amount of luxury can calm the seas and several people were losing breakfast on the way out, a trip which took about ninety minutes.
Our destination was a pontoon platform permanently anchored on the reef, named “Marine World” and owned by the tour company, as was the catamaran. The platform was specially constructed for diving and snorkeling and had several semi-submerged platforms to make it easy to get your fins on and get into and out of the water. Since there are “stingers” in these waters, which are very small jellyfish which can sting you, everyone had to wear a lycra diving suit – very flattering!
We snorkeled for a while over the coral and among the thousands of fish, and then went on the glass bottom boat and the semi-submersible boat which provided great views of the coral and the fish. There is also an underwater viewing area on the pontoon platform, which provided great views of the reef, and allowed the photographer to take a picture of us watching her.
Us watching the fish watching us from the underwater observation area. The fish is a Napoleon Maori Wrass – pretty isn’t he?
After returning to the ship and changing we went into town in the middle of a driving rain storm, with some shipboard friends from Idaho. If you come half way around the world, you can’t let a little rain stop you. We found an Aussie pub, called the Aussie Pub, for some beer, burgers, and fish & chips, followed by some shopping in a place called “Night Markets” which is supposedly modeled on a market in Hong Kong – we shall see in about a week. Believe it or not, we just strolled through the casino – not participating in their games of chance. We sail at 3:00am – I think we will miss this sail away party.