It is really hard to decide what pictures to attach to a post. In any given day I take more than 100 shots. I download them to my iPad at night and then try and choose a few for the blog. When I have a few chosen I then have to reduce their size and resolution as they will not send if they are a very large file size.
Today’s blog adds a few more pictures from our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. Stinger suits are rented to everyone that wants to go in the water to prevent jelly fish poisonous stings. The stinger nets as show in the previous post go all the way to the bottom preventing any type of jelly fish or other organisms from getting in to the swimming areas. Unfortunately most individuals do not swim within the designated areas. Bottles of vinegar are strategically situated along all the beaches as an antidote for a bite.
I couldn’t figure out why all the snorkelers also wore life preservers. It is a regulation that you cannot touch the coral reef in any manner. With a life jacket on you can view the reef but not get down to the bottom due to the jacket’s buoyancy. The bottom is less than a metre deep so you can see how easy it is to stand on the coral.
You can charter any type of vessel to get you out to the reef including a fleet of helicopters that land on small floating platforms on the water. The bird life and fish life in and around the reef and adjacent rain forest is spectacular and like nothing else that you have seen before.
We are now making our way up to the tip of Australia where we will then turn to port and head for Darwin. The water is a deep green, very shallow and we still have the reef pilot on board to guide the ship through the very treacherous waters. Once we make the turn to Darwin we can speed up.
For many years, the idea of actually going to the Great Barrier Reef was only a dream. On our last trip in 2013 the ship travelled clockwise from Sydney, Australia going around the southern end of Australia and up the western side. This time we left Sydney and travelled north up the east side. This route took us directly into the UNESCO Heritage site and the Great Barrier Reef.
For most of the trip to date we have been travelling in water over 1000 metres in depth. As we travel through the Reef the depths are dramatically different. Most of today, for example, we are in water less than 30 feet deep. Travelling this area we needed to take on a Reef Pilot (different from the various Port Pilots that guide us and take us in and out of their respective harbours). In a presentation to the passengers he noted that in many spots we would have less than one metre clearance under the ship, hence his assistance was vital to our safe passage through these waters.
The two main harbours that are the jump off points for the Great Barrier Reef are Townsville and Cairns; two relatively small towns north of Sydney that during the Second World War played major roles in the battles of the Pacific.
Both these towns were immaculate in their appearance; each had waterfronts that were catering to the walking tourist and economies based on the export of coal and sugar cane and the tourist. As with New Zealand, it would be very easy to come back and spend months further exploring.
To get to the Reef for exploring we took a high speed catamaran from Cairns some 50 minutes northwest. There we had an opportunity to wander through a rain forest that has developed as more and more vegetation grew up on the coral, and experience some of the finest beaches we have ever seen. It is, however very, very hot and too many tourists. We have been told that, like Antarctica excursions, there will come a time, very likely within the next few years, when trips to the Reef are no longer available. As we were walking from the catamaran to the shore with our bathing suits at the ready a shark swam by and that finished us for the snorkelling. We were content to walk the beach, and sample the underwater scenes from the safety of a glass bottom boat.
Stinger organisms are also present here in the water and swimming areas are netted off to prevent entrance by these poisonous creatures. Divers and those going snorkelling rent “stinger suits” similar to wet suits to prevent such injuries. Read the warning on the sign and one of the photos shows the netted off area for swimming on shore.