It was never going to be a big day in terms of covering any great distance, but in others ways it was a big day. How could I go all the way to Far North Queensland without at least glimpsing the Great Barrier Reef, the ‘world’s largest coral reef system’, so big and impressive it can be seen from space? People travel to Australia especially to visit this Unesco Heritage Site, to snorkel and dive in tropical waters, to observe the corals and sealife, to drink in postcard appropriate scenery. Tropical, beaches, warmth? Try stopping me.
After a too-short sleep and a wake-up coffee with the stranger, L-man, D-man and me stuffed bags into the car, said goodbye to temporary housemates, and drove away from the farm to meet back up with other friends and seek out a Great Barrier Reef daytrip deal in Port Douglas.
The realistic option in terms of time and cost was a tour on the Wavedancer, a ‘luxury sailing catamaran’ which would take us out to the Low Isles for AU$161.
Within an hour of north east sailing we were mooring up in calm waters next to a teeny slither of palm trees and golden sand. It was the stereotype. Would the ocean deliver the same or had it already been too damaged? (Was I, I suddenly wondered, in fact contributing to further damage?)
The next few hours passed in a stinger suited blur of guided snorkelling and solo floating about. Occasionally I lifted my head to check I hadn’t drifted miles out to sea, never to be found again, but mostly I just bobbed around and explored and marvelled at underwater spaghetti.
It was pretty, undeniably, but like so often can happen, documentaries and coffee table books show it better, at its best. The colours weren’t quite as vivid as anticipated, the fish not quite as abundant. And, I can’t help but feel that the Low Isles experience was far less impressive than that of the Outer Isles.
But I’m not complaining. It was beautiful, the whole experience was beautiful, particularly when I imagined it was just me and a companion or two hanging out on this 4 acre coral cay. Whilst others might tell you that the onboard lunchtime smorgasboard was a highlight of the day, I’d probably say a giant clam did it for me.
Later that evening, camped up a little further down the coast near Palm Cove and sitting on fold-up chairs in a circle around a stove, I looked over at my friends and thought, ‘yeah, I love hanging out with you guys. What a day. Last minute decisions, sunshine, laughter, underwater play and explore, new sights, new sounds, boat time nodding off, after cruise oysters. The Great Barrier Reef. Yeah. And now chats about childhood and life and all that stuff. Good times. Great times’.
I’ll lift a plastic beaker with some left over wine to that.
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (gbrmpa.gov.au)
- Great Barrier Reef loses more than half its coral cover (guardian.co.uk)
- Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia (weeklyparadise.wordpress.com)
- Great Barrier Reef in danger: UN (news.smh.com.au)
- Campaign to save Barrier Reef from industry (terradaily.com)
- Potential uranium port sparks fears for Barrier Reef. (abc.net.au)
- Australia: ‘Death By a Thousand Cuts’: Coal Boom Could Destroy Great Barrier Reef (abcnews.go.com)
- UNESCO issues fresh warning over reef’s health (abc.net.au)
- UN plans to list reef as endangered (smh.com.au)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 1: The issue of not being on time (travelola.org)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 2: Fluid definitions of friendliness (travelola.org)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 3: The need to budget for health whilst travelling (travelola.org)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 4: Going big (travelola.org)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 5: And the heat and beat build (travelola.org)
- Art, consciousness and a whole lot of doof at Eclipse 2012 festival (travelola.org)
- Total solar eclipse: the power of the universe puts things into perspective (travelola.org)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 6: Forty minutes, maybe, at Mossman Gorge (travelola.org)