Great Barrier Reef

Natural Wonder : The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns 2014-12-24 010 - Copy

 

Hi everyone!  Juz here…

 

My mum came to visit us in Cairns during the Christmas period, and while she was here, she wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  I was also keen to see the natural wonder so a booking was made with Ocean Spirit Cruises.

 

The day started early – we needed to be at the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal by around 7:30am to board the catamaran by 8am.  We had our bags packed with all the essentials – togs, towels, thongs, tonnes of sunscreen and an underwater camera we hired from a shop in Cairns for $45.

 

Great Barrier Reef
The boat took about two hours to get to our destination, so we did some sunbaking, watched a presentation about the animals that we might see, and we were treated to complementary morning tea.  Michaelmas Cay is a small sand island surrounded by reef, about 41km from Cairns.  It’s actually a national park and is a protected sanctuary for around 23 species of migrating seabirds like sooty terns and boobies.  The boat was anchored about 100 metres from the cay and after a quick fish feeding session, a shuttle boat started to taxi people to the island.

 

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With 4 hours to spend on the reef, we spent as much time as we could in the water, looking at colourful coral and watching the fish.  The parrot fish were particularly memorable, especially in big groups – if you held your breath and listened, you could hear their hard beaks crunching away at the coral.  Other highlights included seeing a green turtle, giant clams with fluorescent colours and tiny clown fish.

 

Great Barrier Reef

 

After a few hours of snorkelling, it was time for lunch.  We caught the shuttle boat back to the catamaran for a full buffet lunch that included chicken, prawns, ham off the bone, vegetable curry and various salads, and for dessert, there was fruit salad and carrot cake.  Everything was absolutely delicious, and due to our severe food coma, we didn’t go back to the island.  Instead, we went on a tour of the reef in a semi-submersible coral viewing boat before collapsing in the lounge of the catamaran with no more energy to move.

 

It was at this point that I realised that I must have been sitting down when I applied sunscreen, because my butt and lower back were burnt to a crisp. The two hour journey back to Cairns was spent on the verge of napping, but we held it together for a complementary glass of sparkling wine.

 

Great Barrier Reef

 

Once we got back to Cairns, we went to the store where we hired to underwater camera to retrieve our images, which were handed to us on a complementary 4GB SD card.

 

All in all, it was a fabulous day.  Seeing the reef was a humbling experience, especially from within the semi-sub.  When you see portions of the reef as big as houses and consider that it stretches for 2,600km and is an ancient platform for an abundance of life, you truly appreciate why it needs to be protected.  Ocean Spirit Cruises are a great way to go out and see the reef, but if you can’t afford the $188, there are budget tours for around $99.  If you plan to visit any of the towns and cities along the coast that call themselves the ‘Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’, I highly recommend that you allocate  some cash for a  day on the water.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

 

 

Thanks mum!  I had a great day on the Reef, and my bum didn’t peel one bit!

 

Excape Backpackers YHA

Excape Backpackers YHA, Exmouth

A great option for budget accommodation is located conveniently within the Potshot Hotel Resort.  Enjoy the laid back, social atmosphere in the common outdoor area or head to the pub for a beer.

 

Exmouth is the perfect place to base yourself as you explore the Ningaloo Reef.  Book a tour to swim with whale sharks and manta rays, go snorkelling or head west and explore the gorges of Cape Range National Park.

 

 

FACILITIES

Dorm rooms, twin, double and single rooms available, all with an ensuite bathroom and air conditioning. The common areas include an undercover outdoor BBQ area, a spacious kitchen, laundry, and lounge with internet facilities.  All of this is next to the pub, which has a swimming pool and great Asian-style beer garden.

 

THINGS NEARBY

A quick 5 minute walk will bring you to the town centre, with two supermarkets, a pharmacy, bottle shop and more. Also, if you’re looking for a cheap dinner, Planet Burgers parks their food van behind the pub in the evenings.

 

 

Ningaloo Reef

A short drive north will bring you to the Ningaloo Marine Park boundary.  Learn about the turtles that come here to lay their eggs before you explore the beautiful sanctuary zones and go snorkelling at Lakeside or Turquoise Bay.  You will see the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station and Vlamingh Head Lighthouse on the way.  Make sure you head up to the lighthouse – the view is fantastic.

 

Cape Range National Park

If you want a change of scenery, check out Cape Range National Park.  Walking trails and lookouts allow you to appreciate the mangroves, gorges and rock formations.

 

 

THE ESSENTIALS

The Excape Backpackers YHA is located in the Potshort Resort complex on Murat Road, right next to the Potshot Hotel.

 

Phone: 08 9949 1200

Email: exmouth@yha.com.au

Website:  http://www3.yha.com.au/hostels/wa/pilbara/exmouth/

 

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

 

Coral Bay - YAY SNORKELING!

Experience : Coral Bay

One of the locations that we were told about over and over and over again was Coral Bay.  Apparently we had to go there, so as we made our way north from Carnarvon, it would have been stupid to not stop and see what the fuss is all about.

 

After we got a picture of the Tropic of Capricorn sign and the huge termite mounds that lined the highway, we pulled in to Coral Bay at about 10am.

 

Coral Bay

 

Coral Bay is barely a town.  It’s made up of two small groups of shops, a few tour outlets and the rest consists of caravan parks or resorts.  The main attraction is Bill’s Bay, a picturesque sheltered beach that’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling.  The Ningaloo Reef is only a few meters from the shore and Juz took the opportunity to check out the colourful coral and fishies.

 

 

After lunch, we headed over to the boat landing and fished off the breakwater.  After pulling out a few colourful fish, which we promptly threw back, Dave landed a black bream.  We were stoked and took it back into town to fillet it and cook it up on the BBQ.

 

 

At about 3:30pm, we wandered back down to the beach in time for the spangled emperor feeding.  A uniformed chick was providing information about fish while a small boy was being surrounded by a swarm of this variety snapper.  We got the opportunity to feed them and feel them swim past our legs, and sometimes in between them!

 

 

We bumped into our friends Mark and Alexis, who we had the pleasure of meeting down in Margaret River, and once we cleaned ourselves up, we sat down to a bottle of Marri Wood Reserve and chatted until the sun went down.

 

Coral Bay - sunset

The perfect day…

 

Coral Bay - Alexis, Dave, Juz, Mark