06 September 2009

On the Sea, in the Sea, by the Sea!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Bright and early we were up, ready to grab a quick bite at the bakery on our way to catch our boat to the Great Barrier Reef.  Wearing our swimmers (bathers if you live in Victoria, swimsuits or bathing suits if you are in the States) and sunnies (sunglasses) and lathered up with sunscreen, we were on our way for a walk from the north end of the island (where our room was) to the south end and the bakery and boat dock.  On the way we passed a huge lizard our sunning himself on a big rock, and we took a look at the kids’ playground (way cool!), the tennis court, and the basketball court.  Once on the south end, there was a small shopping area (souvenirs, apparel, and the bakery), a health food (sort of) shack, another pool, a wedding chapel, a bar & grill called "The Fish Bowl", another live reef, a miniature golf course (more on that later), a water sports center (jet skis, snorkels, etc.), an outdoor movie screen, and the boat dock.

I was psyched for the bakery – they do all of the baking for the island and the breads we’d had so far were yummy.  I was sure there would be scones!  And there might have been, once it opened at 10 AM!!!!  What self-respecting bakery doesn’t open before I wake up?  Since our boat was due at 8:10, it seemed like breakfast might be today’s daydream, and you can probably tell that I hate to miss a meal!  We strolled on down to the dock, sort of expecting a crowd there, even though we were early, but there was no one in sight except for some birds.  I was almost about to think we were in the wrong place when a family of a mom and dad, two young girls, and a little boy arrived, followed closely by a couple with a baby in a stroller.  Before too long, our CruiseWhitsundays boat was pulling up to the dock. We were in the right place, and off to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world!

It would take us several hours to get to the Knuckle Reef, where there was a huge pontoon anchored as a permanent station full of diving and snorkeling gear.  In addition, there was an underwater observation station, a semi-submersible submarine, and a glass bottom boat.  On the way out, we heard from several crew members (they even had a masseuse!) about what to expect (whales!) and a bit about the nature and wildlife on the reef.  And then it was time for morning tea – we wouldn’t starve after all!  What a spread!  We took our goodies up to the open top deck of the boat and enjoyed the immensity of the Pacific Ocean and the spectrum of colors that surrounded us.  I’ve never seen such deep blues, greens, teals, and everything in between!  It wasn’t long before a few spouts were seen off the port side of the boat.  Whales!  We didn’t get too close though, and never got a good look at those.  Maybe later.  We had a chance to visit with the family we had met on the dock – they were on holiday from London, and their kids were cute and very well-behaved.  As we approached the reef, the color of the water changed again, lightening up as the water got shallower.  It was stunning!

Once we docked next to the pontoon, the divers were scrambling for position – they couldn’t wait to get suited up and in the water!  We got wet suits that fit (gotta grab those long ones first!) and staked out a table.  Most families with kids headed for the glass bottom boat, and there was a line of snorklers jockeying for position, too, so we just wandered down to the underwater observation area.  That was great!  Not only could we see lots of fish and coral, we could see how the pontoon was anchored and then we saw the divers stepping out into the water.  It was cool!  They had displays set up showing the kinds of fish we could expect to see, so that was good, too.  We took the second glass-bottom boat run and got fantastic looks at gigantic clams, multiple varieties of coral, and many schools of fish as well as singles and smaller groups of fish.  Now we could hardly wait to get in ourselves!

We snorkeled for over an hour (water was a little chilly when we first got in, but it wasn’t bad) and covered the whole cordoned off area that we were allowed in.  Words are not enough for this experience – you’ll have to see the photos and/or come see it for yourself!!  Big fish, little fish, colorful fish, scary looking fish, brain coral, branch coral, mushroom coral, anemones – it was spectacular!  Shelley had lent us an underwater camera, so we had fun with it, trying to capture the undersea wonderland beneath us.  We were not disappointed with Knuckle Reef!  Once we got out of the water, we dried off and visited with our London friends, and then we went over to the boat for lunch.  What a spread -again!  Bright pink prawns with heads, cold cuts – roast beef, turkey, and ham – cole slaw, German potato salad, cheeses, tossed salad – there was plenty of food to keep us going for the rest of the afternoon.

Back on the pontoon, we went up to the top deck, where I got comfy and warm and enjoyed a little sunshine and read on my kindle while overlooking the crystal blue and green waters of the reef.  Rex went back in for another short snorkel, and all too soon it was time to head back to the island.  We had excitement on the ride home – we saw lots of whales!!  Not many up close, with one notable exception!  We evidently crossed a pod of about a dozen humpback whales who migrate north to warmer waters from Antarctica, and one of them came up out of the water just off the port side of our boat!!  Thankfully he didn’t come up with the boat on his back and toss us over.  We made some jokes about the “three hour tour” and I swear that I expected to find Gilligan and his mates on one of these exotic tropical islands!   The captain had to practically stop the boat for a while until the whales got safely past us.  And vice versa!  I was sorry that I had not brought my good camera with the big lens on it, but I am thankful that I at least got some spouting shots on Shelley’s camera.  Oh, almost forgot to mention that there was afternoon tea, too!  I don’t know how anyone ever loses weight here!  I have certainly found many of the pounds I just got rid of before I came!!

Once back on land, we cleaned up and tried to get to dinner in time for our movie date.  Our little London friends were insistent that we attend the outdoor showing of “Surf’s Up” with them on the beach.  Talk about the world’s coolest drive in (or walk in) movie – it is on Daydream Island!  We ate supper at The Fish Bowl – I wanted steak and Guinness pie but I got fish and chips, which were tasty and exactly what I expected.  Rex had a chicken Caesar salad – nothing too exciting tonight.  The movie was just underway when we got out there, but all the good seats were taken.  We pulled up some chairs from the patio dining area and laughed ourselves silly.  I think every beach should have a movie screen like this one!  Such fun!  And so ends our day at the Great Barrier Reef.  Rippa!

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea,


1 comment:

KT said...

And swimmers/bathers are called "togs" in Queensland. ;) And suitcases and school bags are ports. :)