3 August and 4 August 2013
Okay, so my birthday is 3 August - and we had a lovely relaxing day with reading by the pool, walking around town, eating well, that kind of stuff. We wanted to go out on a sail and snorkel trip, my present from my sweetie - but they were booked for Saturday. So okay, no problem, the birthday trip will be Sunday.
We booked with http://www.sailtallarook.com.au,
out of Port Douglas - they had half day trips instead of whole day
trips, they didn't worry about giving you a big posh meal, and they're a
smaller operation. Plus a sailing trip, instead of a big motor boat -
so fewer people, and better for the reef. (This is a photo of their sailboat, from their website - gorgeous, huh?)
WONDERFUL! The weather was warm, sunny, blue sky, calm seas, enough
wind for the sail but not enough to make huge waves. Perfect day for a
sail and snorkel.
went to the Low Isles, a group of islands in the middle area of the
Great Barrier Reef off the northern part of Queensland, just a bit north
of Port Douglas. Basically, the reef consists of the outer reef, where
it drops off to open ocean, and the inner reef, which is all the middle
area between the land and the outer reef.
So, the reef
really does look like the photos you see. These are all lifted from the
internet, I don't have an underwater camera - but this is what it looks
like. Colors might be a bit more muted, since we were snorkeling and
looking at everything through several meters of water - it really does
change the colors of the coral.
- we had about an hour sail out to the Low Isles, with the naturalist
on board talking about the reef system, how it's living coral, and the
only LIVING thing on earth that is visible from space. THAT is how huge
the reef system is!
we suited up (Richard and I rented wetsuits, the 22 C water - 74 F - is
still cold to us after years in the USVI) and jumped off the back of
the boat. What a shock! There's that initial thrill of entering the
new world, of being buoyant and weightless - but there's also that
moment of cold enveloping your body and suddenly freezing your blood and
organs - so it took a few minutes to calm my breathing and feel
confident in however deep the water was where we moored.
And then we
were off, a group of us following our French Basque dive leader, as we
snorkeled around and over and through groups of coral, with all kinds of
shapes and colors and waving fronds. With little fish darting in and
out, schools of turquoise and fushia parrot fish munching on the coral,
fabulous pink anemone fish (the pink equivalent of Nemo, a clown fish!),
even a stingray hiding under a rock. A batfish, which has such giant
fins that it really resembles a bat! Coral in Dayglo yellow and orange,
pale mint green, dusty rose, umbers and siennas, even lavender! It was
so beautiful, so magical, and so lush! Absolutely gorgeous!
a turtle! A wonderful green turtle, swimming along right below me! He
disappeared into the depths, and we headed back toward the boat. Then
another turtle, bigger (though both adolescents), just swimming along,
minding his own business, off to tour the world and have his or her own
turtle adventures! (When scientists talk about sea turtles, they talk
about hatchlings, and juveniles, and then breeding pairs and nesting
females - the years in between juveniles and breeding/nesting are
referred to as the "lost years" because no one really knows where the
turtles go, or what they do. So we've decided they just go off and see
the world before they settle down in their adult years. Right?)
Back to the boat,
happy but chilled, and that horrible moment of leaving our mermaid and
merman existence and returning to gravity - I swear, the most difficult
part of snorkeling or diving is getting out of the water and back into
the boat, when gravity hits and you feel like you weigh about 10 times
what you really do - I hate that moment of re-adjusting to gravity, of
losing the weightlessness. But, well, I'm not a mermaid, Richard isn't a
merman, and we have to get back on the boat.
We headed back
under sail, with stronger wind and bigger waves. A few dolphin swim
by, ignoring us and intent on their dolphin business. Everyone is
relaxing with some fruit, cookies, water, tired and happy. And then a
shout goes up - "Whale! Whale!"
were two adolescent humpback whales, frolicking in the waves, slapping
their tails and leaping in the air and splashing back down, looking like
two little kids having fun! OMG, WHALES! The naturalist on board said
that this is how they learn to communicate, all this leaping and
splashing and tail flapping and practically standing on their heads
underwater. The skipper turned off the engine, and we sailed up - and
the whales noticed us! They actually swam over to the boat, swam
alongside, then dove under and reappeared on the other side of the
vessel!!! Some more slaps and flaps, with pectoral fins waving and
tails flipping, and even a few spy-hopping moves, where they bob up head
first and then fall over sideways, in a breach, so close I could see
the striations under their necks - they were funny, and thrilling, and
it was one of the most exciting displays ever! Plus one of those
animal/human interactions, where they really seem to know that we like
the whales, and they want to show off - like little kids, "Hey, look at
me! Watch this!" They were just having fun, or learning and
practicing, and we were lucky enough to share this moment with these two
As I said, it was wonderful! (And the crew were all just as excited as all the customers!)
back in our campervan, warm and dry after long hot showers, filled with
memories of just a fabulous day on the water, the Coral Sea, the Great
Barrier Reef. This is why we're travelling, this is what our rolling
luggager life is all about - moments like these.
And, what a way to spend a birthday!