The Great Barrier Reef

Down the baking Captain Cook Highway to Ellis Beach on the Coral Sea. Not so Jolly Roger (earring but no parrot) in charge. Breeze through palms and across surf and sand but still hot. We are booked in for a reef snorkelling trip to the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow morning. We take a run into Cairns to suss out the area. Undiscovered Cairns surprises with its elegant, modern quayside. Sea wood and stone and concrete poetry and upmarket restaurants.
Next morning the terminal is bustling, everyone’s a rushing to see the reef before it disappears. Soon we’re through the formalities and ushered onto the boat which is a sleek and seaworthy looking catamaran. Ninety minutes through bright sun and spray takes us to the station moored over the reef. We join the throng to be issued with Lycra suits, flotation gear, flips and snorkels. We don the unflattering gear with a sense of going over the top. Into the sea a little awkwardly off what looks like a vegetable tray.
Jack the instructor is a lady of Aussie directness and gives us a quick but informative tour round the reef holding on to a life buoy. Mysteriously glowing colours of the reef and the fish mesmerise as we drift above them. A sense of magic as the gorgeously coloured and boldly patterned fish gather round us bidding us good morning. We are introduced to a sea cucumber, a permanent employee of the reef with the cleaning and maintenance department. He salutes us with a squirt of clear water. Wally appears, the master of ceremonies. He is a large wrasse in stunning aquamarine and yellow livery with a quoiff of deeper blue and large amber eyes. We pat his head. He circles in a courtly manner before table hopping to another snorkelling group.
We are deemed seaworthy and set loose to float free above the multicoloured bed. Lunch is served by the multitasking crew. They strike me as too young for the responsibilities of this business. Says more about me than them. Back in the water we float timelessly. We miss the glass-bottomed-boat but no worries. It is super-relaxing. I recall as a kid looking at pictures of divers in mysterious green depths, surrounded by the denizens of the deep and sunken gold. Pretty much where I am now but the colours are more vibrant.
Diving is tricky though I nearly get to the bottom. The sun shines on through the afternoon. the swell increases but just adds to the fun. All too soon last orders are called on the Boat of Many Colours.
Back through afternoon sunlight to the distant green hills of Cairns. An English lady swam with a turtle, lucky her. But we saw the eclipse, she didn’t. Honours even. Back through holiday town Cairns. Lots of people out in the park and the esplanade, an artificial beach a la Brisbane. There are groups of upmarket backpackers who look like a fashion shoot for a line of vagabond chic.
Home at last through the tropical twilight to our cabin on the Coral Sea. A magical end to our Aussie adventure.


2 thoughts on “The Great Barrier Reef

  1. Brilliant- this sounds an amazing trip! Snorkelling must be fantastic, sounds like you both really enjoyed it. I am now going to google what on earth a wrasse is….great pic of the smiley snorkelling lady! Xxx

  2. Yeah, an eclipse or a turtle, the choice is difficult to make ! But you never know, you’ve still got lots of opportunities to meet a turtle, whereas an eclipse… We both know it’s much rarer and therefore precious !

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