Friday, February 27, 2015

The Great Barrier Reef (Cairns, Australia)

It's safe to say that the Great Barrier Reef finds a place onto most traveller's bucket lists, and perhaps a fair portion of people who don't even particularly like travel. It's one of those places that you accidentally come across when you're a kid, and know, just by its name that it must be something special. And, as with many childhood assumptions based on basically nothing, it was, somehow, correct.




The decision to head to Australia stemmed from the fact that my brother, Dave, lives in Sydney, and I don't think the promise of summer was too much of a deterrent for Bri and I either, especially considering the surprisingly cold Istanbul winter this year. We spoke with Dave a bit before takeoff and decided we could make the trek from Sydney to Cairns (about 3 hours by flight and very reasonably priced on Jetstar or Virgin Australia)  to catch a glimpse of the Great Barrier Reef during our short stint in Australia. The primary purpose of the trip to Australia was to reunite with my brother, who is arguably my favourite person on earth, but even he was telling us to catch a flight to Cairns, despite the fact that he would have to stay in Sydney for work. Well, we figured, it must be worth it.

Another recommendation that my brother made was to take the day tour of the Reef with Reef Trip. Since we were short on time, he thought it was a good company that did a quality job packing in the essence of the Reef in a day, and, for a very reasonable price. All things considered, he was really pretty spot on with that assertion. If you're looking for a longer trip, they've got you covered as well with Reef Encounter, and if I had had the time, I would have certainly done an overnight trip with them.

And so, in early February, we headed down to the harbour to catch our early morning boat for our Great Barrier Reef Cruise, Reef Experience, which offered both snorkelling and diving. Admittedly, they started off on the right foot, serving up piles of egg and bacon sandwiches, and the views on the way out to our first snorkel/dive spot weren't bad either. Not to mention, the second floor deck also served as a mobile tanning salon for all on board, none of which seemed to be paler than me.



Fast forward through a safety talk from a pleasant, comical Aussie chap and we arrived at our first dive spot.


We rented an underwater camera for the day, one of many extras offered on the trip. As we didn't have all that much extra cash floating around, this is one of the only extras we indulged in, and I would say it was worth the price tag overall. It was less than $50, and you could have the photos thrown onto a CD or keep the SD card at the end. Anyway, Bri had the camera on her dive first time around. Seeing as it was her first dive ever, she was pretty focused on surviving, but she did manage to snap a few pics along the way.








A little tired from combatting the wavy waters, we both rendezvoused back at the ship for lunch. Lunch, unexpectedly, was a veritable buffet of 5 different salads with three different choices of barbecued meat alongside it. I, of course, opted to try everything, in the best interest of preserving my energy, of course. Nothing to do with my eating habits, or my gluttonous tendencies or anything of that nature.

We cruised along to another spot after lunch, which I felt was much better than the first. Reef Trip offered the option to dive again for an additional fee, but Bri and I chose to snorkel together and see what we could find on our own. In retrospect, it was certainly the right choice for us. The reefs in that area were so close to the surface that, in some parts, you'd have to float along and hold perfectly still as to not interrupt anything below. We mostly got photos of the reef itself, but we were certainly surrounded by fish and sea life galore. A few of the shots below were actually taken by the photographer for Reef Trip, who regularly goes around and snaps photos of participants with a camera that looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

























If I do go back to the Great Barrier Reef, I would love to spend a few days and nights exploring all that there is to see, but, for now, I am perfectly satisfied with the notion that I've been there with my better half, and that we'll always have these dear memories. I can already imagine many of these photos adorning walls of our future apartments and houses in destinations I'm yet unaware of. And, I'll recall, politely, that my childhood intuitions couldn't have been more correct.
 

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