AROUND THE WORLD.ORG

travelling the seven parts of the world
Mar 7th, 2008
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The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world, measuring 2400 to 2700 km, depending on who you ask. It is often referred to as the largest living thing on earth, because corals are very much alive, as we indeed came to witness.

The Great Barrier Reef is accessible from many places from along the North-East Australian coast, and we decided to go to the town of Cairns, as it was one of the most accessible places. Cairns was, indeed, perfect, the only thing that might've been better was that there could be a real beach (Cairns beaches are muddy). But you don't really need a reel beach here, because over here you're looking to spend more time under water than on land!



We took our first day in Cairns off as we thought the weather was bad (on the day we arrived the area around Cairns was pretty flooded), and on the second day, we decided to go out to the reef. Apparently a lot of the weather associated with Cairns stays in Cairns due to the surrounding mountains, and the reef, which is about an hour to two of a bumpy ride through the seas has completely different weather than Cairns itself - that is, mostly sunny.

We went off with Sunlover Cruises and these guys have a whole pack of things for you to do at the outer reef. First off they take you off to a private pontoon they have setup near one of the reefs, which can be seen above.



From there you can go snorkeling, all equipment provided. The views are absolutely fantastic, as the sun was shining in full force, and you could see all the corals, fish and turtles that live at the reef. They also have a guy with a camera down in the water taking some fantastic pictures of you.



These guys also have a semi-submarine parked at the pontoon for you to have a ride in. A semi-sub basically lets you view all the corals from a glass room that is underwater, while the whole boat does not go underwater. It wasn't a very good view as the water had mixed with freshwater coming down as rain, and the semi-sub can only go past corals and not actually on top of them.



To get some better views, they also have glass bottom boat rides. Since these boats run on very little water, you can go over corals and actually see them from the top, with very little water in between.



They also had a wildlife exhibition on the pontoon where they showed off some random things one girl brought up for us from the bottom of the reef, and you could pick them up and touch them. We were constantly asked not to touch them too much or harass these animals, as they are very much alive.



After that we decided to go for a helicopter ride on top of the reef.



The good thing about this ride is that even though its only 10 mins, the helicopter flies off from a landing platform near the pontoon at the reef, so you can see the reef from the top the moment you take off.



The helicopter flew at two different heights, one for viewing the big picture, and another for viewing smaller things. Apparently you can sometimes see sharks who like to wonder around the place from the helicopter, but we had no such luck. And yes, these are shark infested waters we were swimming in, but apparently sharks are not that common of an occurrence.



The end the first day at the reef, they did some fish feeding, which could be seen from an underwater viewing platform in the pontoon.



For the second day of adventure at the Great Barrier Reef, I wanted something different. Instead of going out on a big boat, we would sail off to the inner reef and Green Island on a sailboat, with just 14 other passengers, and a crew of just 3.



This was a really great crew to passenger ratio, and let us do what we really wanted to do for the day - do scuba diving!



SCUBA diving lets you go under water to see some of the better features of the reef. Since we had never dived before, we did the introductory course, which was a 25 minute long dive about 5-6 meters underwater. We were the only people on the boat who wanted to dive, so luckily we got the instructor all to us, and she was basically holding our hand all the way through the whole experience. This was definitely a good thing, because it is so difficult to orientate under water, I still have no idea how she knew where she was going and taking us.

I have to admit this was a bit scary. When I had to put on the whole diving machinery and step off of that boat for a meter long drop into the water, I was just standing there, hesitating... what the hell am I doing here?? I can't even swim properly!!



But off in the water I went, and the moment you realize you can breathe underwater is a moment of big relief. Diving is actually very easy (easier than swimming without the extra oxygen supply!), and you get used to breathing underwater in about 30 seconds. I mean sure you do, the only other option is that you don't breathe and die, which is really not an option at all.

We had an underwater camera with us, but the pictures came out pretty bad, and were quite grainy. The best part was this guy:



This is a live coral. It is about the same size as me, so its quite a biggie. The best part was that Liene touched it, and it moved, closing up! Wow, that really was an impressive sight. I remember myself taking about it for days afterwards.



After the 25 minute dive (and that was really long, I have to say), we went off to Green Island, a paradise in the middle of a paradise. Green Island has some fantastic beaches and a great rain forest, but unfortunately, the coral around it is no longer as colorful as the coral in the outer reef, presumably because of human activity.



They also have a whole hotel and a nice park in there as well, with a crocodile feeding show. I didn't quite understand whether crocodiles actually used to live near that island or something, but I presume they did not and just got brought here for tourist pleasures. This was a great show, because unlike the Crocodylus Park in Darwin, they made the crocodiles move on land to get their food, which makes you really appreciate how bloody big these animals are, and how lucky you are to be on the other side of the fence.



After that we were taken by boat back to our yacht for a 2 hour sail back to Cairns. The yacht also put on all sails and switched off all engines for a quiet ride home. Neither of us had ever been sailing, never mind an open ocean and no engine, so at first it was quite stressful, as the yacht was going forward in a 45 degree angle, bent so much that water was washing in on the bottom side, and us, sitting on the top side, had to lean our feet against the table to not to fall out of our seats.

The hotel we had in Cairns was a definite record breaker as far as the lengths of corridors go.



This is the longest corridor I have ever seen in my life. Our room was on one and, end the entrance was on the other, and it literally took several minutes to walk the whole distance!

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