Monday, June 11, 2012

Spotlight: Cairns - Reef and Rainforest

Two of the great highlights of Cairns, Australia are the reef and rainforest:
May 12th - 16th 2012 in Cairns, Australia

In May 2012, We went on a Quick Silver Cruises snorkeling tour of the Great Barrier Reef out of Port Douglas. We chose Port Douglas because those cruises access the less congested outer reefs. We rode about an hour through the mountains to Port Douglas on narrow windy roads that made us glad we didn't drive. We boarded a large, modern, catamaran yacht.

The crew and boat were fantastic. The passengers were mostly divers. Only six of us were snorkeling. The crew was very professional and safety-oriented. The water was a bit choppy so they offered us ginger or anti-sea sickness pills before we left. We both took them. It was a bumpy ride and a couple people were looking a little green. We battled the wind up on deck which helped a lot. We rode about 90 minutes out to the outermost reefs. We could see the waves breaking on the shelf which is a sheer drop off at the edge of the reef. The crew said this was the best spot to dive and snorkel because the deep water comes in over the edge of the reef with all these nutrients to help feed the coral.

We went to three sites and had at least an hour at each site. The reef is amazing. Most sites were about 20 - 30 meters deep with coral coming up to with a meter of the surface in some places. The colors of the coral are just incredible. The fish were great and I even saw a sea Turtle and Nemo.

The boat had morning and afternoon snacks and a very nice buffet lunch. We left the hotel at 645 am and returned at 6pm. This tour is definitely for people who are serious about snorkeling. The seas were a big rough so it was hard to snorkel the full time in each of the spots. One of the couples on the trip skipped the third stop entirely because they were tired. Some other trips in the area offer a boat ride out to a platform where you can sunbathe, snorkel or eat at your leisure. The platform cruies are a good option for people who just want a taste of snorkeling the reef.

We booked a tour with Wilderness Eco Safari. We headed out on a 4 wheel drive Eco tour of the rain forest. It was us, another American couple, and our guide. We picked this one because it was small and that allowed us to get into harder to access areas. We were not disappointed.

One note about the vehicle: You board from the back so you will have to have enough mobility to climb up and into the truck. If you can get into the back seat of a minivan - you will be fine. If you cannot, you might to mention it to the guide at time of booking to make sure you get the front seat. If you get car sick, you should also take some anti-nausea medicine before you depat.

We drove over two different mountains. We got to see lots of amazing plants and tree. One type of tree grows around a host tree and chokes out the sunlight so the host tree dies. Then huge roots shoot down form the top of the tree. This leaves a void in the middle.
The guide set out lunch in the middle of the rain forest. It was a terrific experience.

We covered a lot of ground and got to see a lot of the rain forest. By the end of the day, we were both itching to get out of the car. I would highly recommend the tour.

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