Day 17 & 18: Port Douglas & Great Barrier Reef

July 9th – July 10th

We started out early (big surprise) and caught a flight to Cairns.  We finally got all bags checked in after a major luggage jam somewhere on the belt.  We boarded and then sat  at the gate for over an hour while waiting for 39 students from LAX to get through customs and trek over to the flight.  Clearly, they didn’t book enough time between flights!  Then we sat on the runway for over 30min waiting to take off.  Flight was uneventful and pretty fast after that.

We gathered up all of our luggage and hopped on a shuttle to our hotel in Port Douglas – 1hr away.  The road was very curvy and interspersed with breathtaking views of the beach and mountains.  The kids all fell asleep – maybe a blessing since the road was so curvy.

The accommodations are really quite good –
lean, spacious, 2 bathrooms, quiet and a quick 10-15min walk to the beach and a 5min walk to the bottle shop!  The owner, Tanya, is very friendly and helpful and even loaned us a stroller.

After getting all settled in we took a late afternoon stroll down to the beach.  The weather is perfect and the beach is beautiful.

Lincoln jumped into the ocean – completely clothed – and played for a good hour in the surf.  It was awesome.  We wandered along and tried to have dinner at a restaurant, but they were fully booked (popular place during school holidays here).  We ended up getting sushi take away back to the house and headed to bed early!

For once our morning departure was not absurdly early, but rather a leisurely 9:30am.  Our destination – the Great Barrier Reef.  I think we’ve all really been looking forward to this particular activity.

The company proving the tour is Quicksilver.  Extremely well run – like a well oiled machine.  Churning loads of people through a variety of activities with the greatest of ease.  First, we boarded a pretty large ship for a 1.5 hr cruise out to the large dock where everything occurs.

Quicksilver – Great Barrier Reef Dock

Me, Bryan, Tip & Kendall opted for the guided snorkeling tour while the Simpsons, Mom and Lincoln decided to eat lunch first.  The snorkeling tour was awesome.  The water was cold, but we managed!  We saw loads of fish – Sergeant Majors, Parrot Fish, Clown Fish, Red Sea Bass, Chromis, Sheephead Parrot Fish, Fusilier, Coralfish, Butterfly Fish, Angel Fish, Humphead Maori Wrasse and on and on.

The Coral was vast and much less colorful than I expected.  Staghorn Coral is the fastest growing and covers a large part of the reef.  However, it is very brittle and strong waves will break it and it will fall to the ocean floor – thus providing a base for other types of coral to grow.  We saw mushroom coral, Brain coral, Sea Fan, Anemone, Encrusting Coral, Murex shell, soft coral and table coral.  Some of the corals grow quickly (20cm/year) and other very slowly (1cm/year).   Some coral will create a type of sunscreen that they will secrete when exposed to the sun at low tide.

At the end of our tour, we saw a white tip reef shark swimming just below us.  So, now we can say that we swam with sharks!  The girls did great, and I think we all enjoyed it!

After our tour we had a quick bite to eat, and then Bryan and I got Lincoln into the water.  I forgot to mention that everyone had on a lycra suit – or a stinger suit.  It’s a thin lycra material that covers your whole body – protection from the possibility of jellyfish stings and keeps you slightly warmer – only slightly.  Lincoln got geared up with snorkel, life vest & mask.  Swam out while holding our hands, quickly put his face in the water, and then he was done!   Mom hung out with either Declan or Stella so Phill & Emma could take the kids in the water too.

After the snorkeling, we went on the semi-submersible boat and saw many of the same fish we saw before as well as turtles and a HUGE Bumphead Parrot fish and many, many unicorn fish.   Mom and Lincoln had gone earlier with the Simpsons, so they didn’t go with us this time.

I purchased some cards to help me remember all the fish and corals we saw:


It was an awesome day.   I just wish I had more pictures.  I was afraid to take my phone out for fear it would end up in the water!

We went to the store and got a few things for dinner.  Quickly grilled some burgers, scarfed them down and headed to bed for an earlyish night.

Up next…last couple of days!


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