Archive for January 2006

Reef Madness

According to my Lonely Planet guide book, “If you can’t find tourist information in Cairns, then you’ll never find porn on the Internet either.”  And in Cairns, all that tourist information is about one thing, trips out to the Great Barrier Reef. With so many parts of the reef to choose from, I decided on an all day trip out to the Agincourt ribbon reefs, located at the outer edge of the reef where it meets the continental shelf. The boat departed out of Port Douglas, about 30 minutes north of Cairns, and after an hour and a half at sea, we reached our first stop. Seemed like a good choice


A massive field of coral rising up out of the ocean some 50 km offshore. The coral is so shallow that waves actually form and break over it


It is over 3000 of these coral reefs stretching out over 2000 km that form the Great Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately the disposable underwater camera that I bought doesn’t do a great job conveying the beauty and colors of the coral and fish. Next time I’m here I will definitely have invested in an underwater digital camera. Nevertheless, a few shots:

Fields of multicolored coral stretching endlessly





Fish everywhere




A cool starfish


Lots of giant clams between two and three feet long, both dead


and alive with amazing colors




You kind of get an idea here about how the coral rises up from the ocean floor


And when you turn around it just falls off into the abyss of the continental shelf


And we all know what lives down in the abyss, but just in case there was any doubt, a local resident swam my way


Fortunately just a nice little white tipped reef shark, small enough for me to stay composed and snap a photo.

Over the day we made three stops, snorkeling about an hour at each one. Full body wetsuits were highly recommended as this is jellyfish season. Two English guys laughed off that advice on the first stop, and came back covered in red rashes from stings. We all burst into laughter as one of the guides told them the best way to relieve any pain was with vinegar or urine, and there was no vinegar on board. They both went straight for a wetsuit fitting.

At the end of the third and final stop, I found myself wanting to stay longer, and was the last person back on the SilverSonic


At 29 meters, the SilverSonic is an ultra modern catamaran that cruises at over 30 knots. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer ride or a more enjoyable day


Heading back to Port Douglas, more surf crashing over reefs


Later in the day, on the ferry back from Port Douglas to Cairns, the coast line makes you realize why this region is called Tropical North Queensland. The rain forest here grows all the way to the sea where it hasn’t been chopped down



Speaking of rain, it turns out I have arrived here during the rainy season, and despite climate abnormalities everywhere else in the world, no such luck here. It’s been raining most of the time that I have been here, which has prevented local exploration of places like the Atherton Tablelands and Cape Tribulation (so named by Captain Cook because “it was where all my troubles began”). Although given the insane summer heat and humidity right now, even with cloudy and rainy skies, I can only imagine what it would be like in the scorching sun. Sounds like Captain Cook found out.

By day, the massive salt water swimming lagoon along the Cairns Esplanade is a good place to relax, even in the rain


And with greats such as Albert King and Junior Wells having graced the stage years back, Johnos Blues Bar was a good call at night


Tasty 4X Gold Lager served inside – not adult entertainment.

I was thinking about leaving yesterday, but instead went back out to snorkel the reef again. Left from Cairns this time on a boat called the Tusa out to the reefs off of Michaelman’s Key.  Really nothing more than a sandbar


surrounded by more amazing reefs, and because of the location in the middle section of the Great Barrier Reef, no great jelly fish threat


Some pretty amazing days, and with my reef curiosity satisfied, I’m heading south to the Gold Coast. Next stop, Surfer’s Paradise.