Published: January 31st 2009January 11th 2009
our dive master feeding some of the fish
I arrived in Cairns January 1st. The flight was uneventful and I arrived well after dark, but the humidity slapped me in the face as soon as I stepped out through the airport doors. Even in the middle of the night it was shocking. All I wanted to do while I was in Cairns was dive. It had been my big dream in life, for as long as I can remember, to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef and I decided that I was going to spend my last 10 days completely in the water - no partying, no late nights, no crazy antics.
Cairns is basically a boring town. You are forbidden from going in the ocean off the shore because of the stingers, and frankly its a gross looking beach anyway. The humidity is so heavy that its almost impossible to move. On top of that, there really aren't any sights to see because the entire town is built around tourism in the reef. So apart from the time I spent out in the ocean, I just sat around the hostel reading and writing postcards and enjoying the air conditioning.
My first day in town I
this fish was practically as big as I am!
found the most reputable dive company in Cairns booked a refresher course for the next day and 3 dives out in the reef for the day after that. I was scheduled to leave the day after my dive trips. The refresher course turned out to be really easy - I remembered a lot more than I thought I did, but I think it was a good idea anyway since it had been at least 4 or 5 years since the last time I had been diving. The next morning I got my boat at 8:30 in the morning. It was so much fancier that I imagined - the cabin was air conditioned and we were served tea and cakes and a buffet lunch. We didn't have to put together the equipment or take it apart, all we had to do was show up on time. The dives were spectacular! I saw fish of every size and color, some as big as I was almost. I saw the most beautiful coral and clams, sea turtles, and even some reef sharks! By the end of the third dive I had taken over 250 photos with the underwater camera I had rented and
clown fish in an anenome
was exhausted and starving, but so satisfied. I wish I could describe it better, but it was really was the kind of experience that made me speechless. On more than one occasion I almost lost my regulator (the mouth piece) when I wanted to gasp at something amazing.
I left Cairns on the 5th of January. I was meant to fly out of Brisbane on the 10th and wanted to be there by the 9th to be on the safe side, which meant that really I only had time to stop in one other city on my way down the coast. One thing that I hadn't had a chance to do yet and was regretting not doing, thinking I would never make it, was go to the Whitsundays, which is a series of beautiful islands and beaches about half way down Queensland which you access from Airlie Beach. So Airlie Beach was where I went. I spent roughly 10 hours on the bus and arrived early evening in Airlie Beach, giving me just enough time to walk around town before it got dark and take a look at the beach, which was pretty pathetic looking considering they've got the
word 'beach' in the town name. I went to bed early.
While I was in Cairns I booked a boat trip out of Cairns to visit the Whitsundays so that I could go diving. The boat was called New Horizon and the trip was three days and two nights and was geared towards young people, which was nice. It was more of a snorkeling trip, but there was a dive master on board and they provided all the equipment, so we could go diving if we wanted to. When I went to check in the lady pulled up my name and then announced that she was going to give me my money back. My first thought was that I wasn't going to go on the trip, but it turns out that they had over booked the trip and had given me volunteer status so that I could still go. What that meant was that I got the entire trip for free as long as I washed the dishes after lunch and dinner and the only cost was that of the dives and the reef taxes. It was an unbelievable deal.
The boat trip was fun. There were only
4 certifed divers on board and 2 of them weren't very good (we had to end our dive early because they were using up their air too fast), and I was the only person interested in the second dive so the second dive never happened. The first dive was nice, but not quite as nice as Cairns. The boat trip was great though - we slept on board and ate on board, got to go snorkeling and visited White Haven beach (the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world, we were told). I didn't make any strong bonds with anyone, which is a shame, but there were some nice people. I even met two Belgian guys who live in Tokyo and said they would show me around when I got to Japan. We had perfect weather and I got a terrible sunburn, but it was fantastic.
The same day we docked back in Airlie Beach I had booked a bus ticket to take my down to Brisbane. I had a few hours to spare, so I showered at the public toilets and sat by the lagoon until it was time to go. The only bad thing about taking the
the sun setting over Whitsunday Island on our first night
bus from Airlie Beach to Brisbane is that it takes 20 hours - I got on the bus at 5:30 in the afternoon and arrived at noon the next day. I had all kinds of plans for when I got to Brisbane, but I was so tired I felt sick and all I could do was shower and sleep. Simon and Lauren picked me up and took me to dinner with some of their friends, which was nice.
My last day in Australia Simon and Lauren (who took me to the Australia Zoo back in October) came down to spend the whole day with me, which was so lovely. We had sushi at Simon's Japanese restaurant and then played some video games. Then they drove me out to Wellington Point and we went fishing. I caught the first fish! But it was so small and insignificant, we threw it back. No one caught anything we could keep that day. We went for dinner at a burger restaurant and I had one final bottle of my favorite Australian beer and then they drove me to the airport. I almost cried when I hugged them good bye - it was hard
White Haven Beach
me at the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world. i don't know what the first is.
leaving them and it was hard leaving the whole country and all the friends I had made there. But I checked in and got on the plane and then that was it, I was on my way to Bangkok for a whole new adventure.
I had the most wonderful time in Australia and would go back in a second for a second go round.
There are more photos below