Friday, 3 May 2013

Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

As our trip was coming to an end we made our way to Cairns (pronounced “cans” by Aussies), and our last major destination. We had over a week to enjoy Cairns and we really liked the food, nightlife and, of course, the proximity to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

Our first tour to the GBR was through Down Under Dive on the Osprey V. The boat was perfectly setup for the trips to the reef and the crew was genuinely excited to take us out and let people explore. There was a huge mix of people on the tour, ranging from trained divers to seniors. We had booked a deal that included a helicopter flight over the reef. We visited two outer reef locations at Saxon Reef and Hastings Reef.

Pictures really do not capture how beautiful and full of life the reef is. It seemed that every time we turned around we discovered a new creature or saw a breathtaking view of the coral. We were the first in the water and last out. The highlight creatures for us were the clown fish, tuna, Maori Wrasse, giant clams, hump headed parrot fish, squid and a white tipped reef shark (not pictured).  

The Giant Clams were fun to dive down and touch – they closed right up every time I did this. 

The Tuna appeared out of nowhere stopped for a photo then blasted away. It was the fasted moving creature that we came across.
After the novelty of seeing the clown fish as the stars of “Finding Nemo” wears off we found them to be totally captivating because they are very photogenic and fiercely protect their homes. They would race out and challenge you then retreat back and do it all over again – unfortunately they do not realize how adorable they are and they think they are tough.

The hump headed parrot fish were probably the ugliest fish we saw. The school that passed us could be heard chomping on the coral and stone, then they would crap a dusting of white powder – this is where white sand beaches come from.

Jess had been dreaming of coming across a Maori wrasse after we heard about them as we moved up the coast. They are massive fish that are fairly friendly with people. Being the first off the boat was advantageous because the wrasse came right up to me and let me pet it. Jess was so shocked at the sight of it she froze and didn’t get a picture. The detail on the fish and colors are really pretty if you can get over the initial ugliness.

The squid were even more alien looking than the rest of the creatures and just hovered in a pack until they were startled and rocketed off. The shark was maybe a meter long and just cruised by without paying any attention us. We starting chasing it to get a photo and then came to our senses and decided maybe chasing a shark isn’t the best use of our time or lives.

By the time we were loaded on the helicopter our camera was on the last bars of battery so we could only snap a couple photos. From the chopper we saw 6 dugongs/sea cows and got to see how huge the reef actually is. If we could have we would have done this tour every day! 

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