Sea, land and air sickness...... 24 hours on the Great Barrier Reef

Published: August 7th 2007
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Having read almost every brochure about trips to the Great Barrier reef whilst I was in Cairns I felt just about ready to open my own travel shop..... to compete with the other 5000000 of them that seem to line the streets of Cairns. There are heaps of reef trips on offer here to suit all budgets and schedules - in the end I opted to do one from Port Douglas with a company called Haba who were great. The day started at about 6.45am with a drive up to Port Douglas, this time in the sunshine and with a bit of Kangaroo spotting on the way! A couple of American's were on the bus too along with another young English guy, David, that I ended up hanging out with for the rest of the day.... everyone else was staying in PD and already on the boat waiting for us when we eventually arrived a wee bit late (and no it wasn't my fault!)

I've never been a great boat person (I get seasick in a bath tub) but I can seriously say I have never felt as travel sick as I did on the way out to the reef that day. As we headed out to sea those of us doing a trial dive were called inside for a briefing.... and after about 5 mins of rocking and rolling as we crashed over the waves one lady started quietly throwing up in the corner. The smell and sound of someone else vomiting really isn't the best thing when you're feeling slightly green yourself! As to the dive briefing itself... well I'm sure it was great but to be honest I was rather more focused on staring out the window at the horizon (which worryingly seemed to keep disappearing) to catch it all - fortunately David gave me the highlights later! With the briefing over I made a dash for the back of the boat and some fresh air, fairly climbing over the oldies who gave me a sympathetic look as they blocked the doorway whilst chatting away and commenting on how sorry they felt for people got seasick... grrr. And I pretty much spent the rest of the journey outside on deck, with the guys who worked on the boat periodically asking me if I was OK... one even went off to fetch me a sick bag :0( Even they said it was a rough day but whether that was in a bid to try and make me feel better....

As soon as we arrived at our first dive spot the icky sea sick feeling went so David and I were pretty much the first ones off the back of the boat snorkelling. I've only snorkelled twice before so perhaps I'm not the best judge but I thought it was amazing. The coral wasn't as colourful as I thought it would be, although I guess my expectations had been set by all the vivid glossy brochure photo's that I'd seen - we were out on a cloudy day so that probably didn't help much, apparently sunny days are better because you get the light effects more. Ahh but the fish!! Of course everything we'd learnt at Reefteach about the names and ways to identify the different fish immediately went out of my head as soon as we hit the water but the colours, shapes, sizes and behaviour were amazing to witness. For the rest of the day we were both the first ones in and the last ones out of the sea, spending all the time we could just drifting along and watching life passing by under the surface.

Soon enough we were called back to the boat to get kitted out for our trial dive. We went down in groups of 4 with one dive instructor between us. First thing though was for each of us to demostrate 3 skills underwater... essentially removing and replacing your mouth piece and clearing your mask of water. Despite my lapse of concentration during the briefing I sailed through those no problem. What I struggled with was the breathing - I must normally breathe through my nose because breathing through my mouth just felt so wierd. And the sound of the bubbles of expelled air rising to the surface was just so loud! I'd never been diving before and whilst I love water sports, even the ones like surfing which I really suck at, I have to say I don't think diving is for me :0( But hey I can say I dived the Great Barrier reef - and if there was one thing I had to do on this trip then that was it!!!

After lunch we moved to another spot and the chance for a second dive.... both David and I opted not to do it. We both agreed that we were glad we'd done it - you get such a different prespectvie on everything, but to be honest if this was going to be my one trip to the GBR then I'd rather spend the rest of it relaxed and enjoying the snorkelling rather than being in a continuous stress about getting my breathing right or that my mask was going to come off!! One of the crew gave a guided snorkel which I kind of kept away from (picture 30 odd people swimming round together..... serious chance of some flipper injury!).... until I heard her shout 'shar'k!!! And of course the immediate response that you have when you're in the water and hear someone shout shark??? Well, of course it's to look down and chase after it!! I think afterwards we all thought hmmmm, maybe not the brightest idea ever but these were 'friendly' sharks (white tipped reef sharks) and as we swum after it to try and get a better look he just flicked his fins and sped off.... it seemed we just weren't that interesting.

The other thing I did in Cairns was to take a scenic flight over the reef. The sky was blue and the views were amazing - the colours of the sea, the boats below and as we dropped down to fly low over Bat Reef we even saw some rays swimming in the waters below - the tell tale sign of them being the trail of disturbed sand that they leave in their wake as they swim along.

Finally it was time to leave Cairns and start my journey south. First stop was back at Mission Beach for a days rafting on the Tully River. I really ended up doing this trip by accident - it wasn't one I'd planned to do but I'd made the mistake of commenting on it when I was booking my Whitsundays and Fraser stuff through one of the cowboy used car salesmen travel agents in Cairns - next thing I knew I was booked on. As it turned out it was one of the best days I've had! The scenery was stunning - blue sky (except when it rained!), a river that passed through a steep, green forested gorge, snakes snoozing in the sun on the rocks and beautiful blue butterflies and dragonflies that followed us along our route. Of course we all had several compulsory swims, both expected and unexpected, but it was a great trip!

Next up - cruising round the Whitsundays and sunrise on the beach with Kangaroo's

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