Snorkeling in The Great Barrier Reef

Monday, May 23rd

When we were planning the trip to Australia, the family sat down and made lists of what they wanted to see.  Cairns was on the list for one reason only.  It was the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.  And if you're doing this big of a trip, you might as well do this stop.  Right??

Yes for half the crew on this trip.  Meh for the other half.

Neither Mom nor Elias swim.  They were basically along for the ride.  Dad and I were jazzed about an item being crossed off the bucket list.  So we both pushed for this stop.  Now of course we didn't expect tropical rain to happen while we were here.  But I've already gone on about that.

We knew we were going on a tour that involved snorkeling or not, depending on your interest.  What we didn't know was specifically how this was going to happen.

The bus for Quicksilver Cruises picked us up at 8a.  The bus was taking us from Cairns and dropping us in Port Douglas, about an hour away.  Easy, right?? theory, it would be.  The problem was there was apparently only one way from Cairns to Port Douglas.  A two lane road.  Which shut down about 20 minutes from the marina due to a horrible car accident.  We came to a halt on a scenic overlook, which was great.  But sitting in a bus for an extra hour was not cool.  Especially when you were already slightly anxious about the excursion.

Now "anxious" is probably not really the word.  But there was a small amount of something going on.  I didn't entirely know what was going to happen on the boat.  The weather was irritating me, I wasn't sure what I should or shouldn't have brought, and I was dealing with some female issues that made me not super jazzed about jumping into a body of water where sharks might live.

By the time we were able to drive again, we were late.  The boat was supposed to leave at 10a.  The street opened up a few minutes before 10a.  So our driver was rushing a bit to get us there so we weren't super late.  

Once we arrived, we were given our tickets and quickly whisked to the correct boat.  Of course the "good" seats were already taken, but we found comfortable seats on the upper level of the ship, on the inside.  It was still raining.  And while you would normally rather sit outside and soak in the warmth and sun, today was not the day for this.

The travel time to the reef was about 1.5 hours.  The ship sailed to the reef and would eventually dock with a pontoon boat, where people would go to snorkel, scuba dive, or travel in a submarine-type of boat to see the reef without dunking your head in the water.  At this point, all we needed to do was relax.

Easier said than done, honestly.  I don't usually have issues with being sick on a boat.  Though I am highly susceptible to motion sickness.  I can't do much on a bus.  Cars are a bit easier to deal with, but there is only a little reading I can do in a car as well.  Boats haven't been truly bad for me.  Though today...

The water was definitely choppy.  It was fine at first.  But then I went below deck to rent an underwater camera.  That's when things went bad quick.  I was nauseous enough that I spent the rest of the trip (at least an hour long) quietly facing the horizon, drinking copious amounts of water, trying to keep the waves of sick away.

As we docked with the pontoon, they set up the lunch.  And while it wasn't well received by the rest of the family, what I did consume was fine.  The problem was that I  couldn't eat much in my woozy condition.  They had salads and meats and prawns, but I ate bread and butter and rice.  Good times.

I knew I had to get out and deal with the fresh air.  That also meant I needed to out on a wet suit and jump in the water for snorkeling.  There are no pictures of that.  Dad and I made a vow.

Mom and Elias jumped on an underwater viewing station.  Dad and I donned wet suits, grabbed a mask and flippers, threw on a life jacket, grabbed a noodle and started towards the water.

This is the second time I've snorkeled in the last two years.  I have learned during this time that snorkeling is awesome, but I have a bit of a panic attack each time before I go into the water.  I think it's the mask more than anything else, but ugh, it sucks.  This time, it took me a little time to even go into the water.  I mean, it was choppy and the rain kept starting and stopping.  The whole thing was just a bit overwhelming.  Though once you got into the water, you didn't notice the rain.

Actually, once you got into the water, you couldn't really get out.  You couldn't look away, really.  Now I'm not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed in the clarity of the water.  But that was more of a reflection of the weather situation going on in the region.  It wasn't a slight over the Agincourt Reef.  And full disclosure, I rented an underwater camera, which was not as swell as I was hoping it would be.  Do I blame the camera itself or my ability to use this new camera under the water??  Maybe a bit of both.

But what I could see??  Amazing.  I was snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.  There were occasional people who would be a bit too close and would kick their flipper right into you.  Or maybe there was just one jerk.  I think the jerk was a kid.  The zone in which we were to swim wasn't crazy big, but there were about 30 people snorkeling at any one time, so there was plenty of room for everyone.  I didn't trust my ability (or my panic attack) so I kept relatively close to the pontoon.  I lost Dad quickly in our descent into the water.  It turns out wet suits with covered heads means everyone looks like each other.  As long as you didn't stray too far from the crowd, you were pretty safe.

There were plenty of other options on this tour.  If you wanted to take a helicopter tour around the reef, you could do it.  Scuba diving??  Sure.  Snorkeling with a Marine Biologist??  Of course.  Though you have to pay for these extras.  Obviously.  We didn't do these.  

We made it to the pontoon around noon.  We took off around 330p.  And really, that was more than enough time to see what we needed to see.  The boat was loaded back up and we sailed back to Port Douglas and then bussed it back to Cairns.  The water on the trip back was still choppy, but I took a motion sickness pill before we took off.  You could buy them on the ship, but Mom had some meds that would hopefully work.

Cairns was always going to be one of our stops because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.  And while I would have hoped the rain wasn't a thing that was happening during our visit (or the seasickness) we still had a lovely time on the reef.  


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