Cairns, Australia. February 24, 2011

 

IMGP4290We picked up the reef pilot very early this morning as the approach to Trinity harbour is incredibly difficult.  We sail from the Coral Sea through the narrow opening in the Great Barrier Reef.  The narrow openings are very well marked with buoys and lights ensuring the ship can safely pass through surveyed areas with sufficient depth and width of the ms Amsterdam.  We’re here until midnight so we’ve a full day.  It is raining so the photo opportunities were significantly reduced. That did not however damping our fun.

Cairns situated on the indigenous Australian people’s tribal lands of the Irukandji, is located on the east coast of Australia between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range.  The northern part of the city is located on Trinity Bay, which is were we plan to dock and the city center on the Trinity Inlet. 

 

A century ago, Cairns was a “wild north” style gold rush town.  Prospecting supply shops and saloons cropped up as fast as hopeful gold seekers arrived at the port and some rough around the edges characters were frequent visitors.  The pioneer legacy lingers in the city’s airy, plantation style buildings, but modern Cairns also has a first class wharf (there is awesome shops) and the international airport is just a short drive from the city.  However, what Cairns is really known for is the stopping off place for tourist interested in snorkelling or diving on the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.

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Today we’re going to the Reef with 6 other friends from the ship on a privately arranged tour (not from the ship – the ships cost for the tour was $260 per person and we’re able to get this tour for $140 per person plus lunch).  We walk from the ship in POURING rain and get to our catamaran.  The news that the tour may be cancelled was unfounded and we’re off right on time at 8am.  The  ride to the reef was VERY ROUGH.  This time round Gert fed the fishes, which surprised me a lot given I’d partaken in last night free wine quite a bit.  (now I know what to do in future).  The first reef (we were going to 2) was just amazing.  We took a glass bottom boat to the small bird sanctuary that the boat owners rented a small portion from the owners.  There were hundred if not thousands of birds on the island.  They were nesting and mating – it was just amazing.  Interestingly they were not afraid of us walking around and just sat on the sand.  I also saw some sand crabs coming in and out of little holes in the sand.

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As part of the snorkelling the company who’s boat we were on “Passions.com” had everyone wear a blue head to toe “smurf”  suit, this would protect us from sting rays and other spiky type of beings.  I took a lot of photos of Gerrit and he really does look like a smurf.   Plus I think it was so they could keep an eye on us all.  The snorkelling was just amazing.  We will definitely purchase an underwater digital camera either in Hong Kong or Singapore.  The colours were not as bright as they could have been given it had been pouring all morning, but it was still an absolutely great adventure to see all the wonderful coloured fish, the various sizes and I even saw a stingray. 

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The second reef, just after a wonderful lunch of salads and a warm dish of either taco with chicken sauce or vegetarian sauce was just a short boat ride away.

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This reef was just amazing.  The colours again, could have been better but the colours and sizes of all the fish were just fascinating.  We saw clams about 2 feet by 1 foot wide – they were just huge.  It was an amazing day.  The waves were quite high at times and it was almost easier to be snorkelling rather than trying to swim.  I took extra precaution and wore a belly belt (yellow) just in case I got into trouble and I was really glad of it.

 

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The ride back to Cairns was uneventful and of course as we came in to the dock it started to rain like crazy.  After we got back to the ship, showered and changed we went out to eat locally.  We’d heard of a great restaurant called the “Raw Prawn” so went investigating – I was really hoping they had more than prawns as I’m really allergic to prawn, crab and lobster.  On our way there we found the Asian night market.  What a blast, of course we bought MORE honey.  Prices for souvenirs were a lot less expensive here than in town or at the wharf shopping area. 

 

The meal at the Raw Prawn was just amazing.  I had fish and chips while Gerrit had a fish celebration.  Basically, it was crab, prawn, scallops and other fishy delicates washed down with the local beer.

 

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IMGP4292And it kept raining and raining.  We can honestly say that neither of us have ever seen rain like it.  We both had umbrellas, but by the time we walked back to the ship (15 minutes) we were both completely socked through to the skin.  So another shower before we headed to bed.

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It was a GREAT day.

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