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The Big One - a day on the GBR

Sunday 20th September 2015

sunny 27 °C

Today was going to be one of the big days of our trip as we had booked to go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. We had booked the trip with a company recommended by Cheryl and Richard from our B & B in Tambourine Mountain, and we had also arranged a transfer with them from Kewarra up to Port Douglas. This meant that we needed to have a fairly early breakfast so that we were ready for our pick up at 8:45am. The coach arrived at the arranged time and we were the last to be picked as we were staying in one of the northern resorts. Richard our driver and guide for the transfer was very informative and gave us quite a lot of information about the area. It took us about 45 minutes to arrive at the port and the group was then divided between those that were going on the larger boat to the outer reef and the remainder who like us were going to the Low Isles.

Once on the boat we were given refreshments and shortly after we were on our way.

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Our boat was a sailing catamaran but in reality although the sails were up for the whole journey we were propelled in part at least by engine power. We were given a leaflet and a bit of a briefing about the day and some tips about snorkelling from the onboard marine biologist and safety information by our lifeguard who was going to be stationed on the beach of the small island that would be our base for much of the day.

The island was a small coral cay with a lighthouse on it and had another island fringed by mangroves nearby.

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We were transferred to the shore a few at a time on small glass bottomed shuttle boats. Slightly disconcertingly we saw a number of small black tipped reef sharks swimming by the boat, but we were assured that they were perfectly safe. Both Nigel and I, along with many others, had opted to hire Lycra swimming suits as protection against the sun and any stingers (box jellyfish) that might be present although it wasn't really the season for them. We got ourselves kitted up as soon as were landed on the beach and were soon in the sea and snorkelling. For a while we joined a largish group of people who were snorkelling with the marine biologist and it was interesting to listen to him talking about the coral and other sea creatures but it was quite hard to concentrate on what he was saying and snorkel. In the end we went off on our own, although it was hard to keep track of where Nigel was ( and visa versa probably) as so many we were wearing the Lycra suits that also covered the head. We stayed in the water for ages, and saw lots of different types of hard and soft coral, as well as a couple of giant clams quite a few different species of fish and I also saw a turtle. The reef wasn't quite as spectacular as we had hoped, the water not quite as clear as it could have been and the fish not as impressive as we had seen elsewhere, but we had seen a great variety of coral and the clams were really impressive. I guess there are just lots of variables in nature, and sometimes it exceeds your expectations (as it has many times since we have been in Australia) and sometimes not.

In all we were probably snorkelling for about an hour or so and my eyes were starting to sting a bit and I was getting quite tired so we decided to get out and go onto the beach. It was a good job we did as we were then told that we were in danger of missing lunch if we didn't go back to the boat almost straight away. The food was a delicious buffet of prawns, cold meats and salad and was most welcome after the mornings exertion. As soon as we had finished I went out in one of the glass bottom boats to look at some more coral, while Nigel stayed behind and then got a later one straight to the beach. Once we both met up again, Nigel went on a short group walk around the island with the marine biologist while I did a little bit more snorkelling and swimming but sticking to the shallow waters as I had handed back my Lycra suit at lunchtime.

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There was just enough time to lay on the sand and dry off a bit before Nigel came back from his walk.

There were the best part of seventy people to get back onto the catamaran in the small shuttle boats holding about fifteen or so people, so we thought we ought to get our stuff together and make our way back. As we were leaving a few people had seen a turtle in the shallow waters and had waded out to see it. After our experience seeing a mating pair in Dalyan I'm not sure anything will ever match up to that. Once back on the boat we had some more refreshments including some cheese and biscuits. Once everyone was on board there was some housekeeping chores for the crew, such as hosing down and mooring up the shuttle boats, and some adjustments to trim the sails and we were on our way back to Port Douglas.

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There was a bit of a wait until our coach was allocated a driver but then we were on our way and being dropped off first certainly shortened the journey. We had booked into the hotel restaurant for a meal and once again this was delicious. We both agreed that it had been a great day despite the reef not being quite as spectacular as we had hoped.

Posted by Gill's Travels 15:45 Archived in Australia Tagged australia great_barrier_reef

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