Saturday, July 7, 2018

Cairns: Esplanade and the Great Barrier Reef

We flew into Cairns yesterday, but by the time we arrived at our hotel, our options were limited (anything we'd want to see wouldn't be open by the time we got there, or we'd have to rush through), so we hung out until dinner. Our hotel is right on the Esplanade, so we had a walk by the harbor on our way to dinner.

The primary purpose of our visit to Cairo, though, was a reef day cruise of the Great Barrier Reef; we had an opportunity to snorkel at two different places along the Breaking Patches Reef. This is a relatively shallow reef, only a maximum depth of just over 52 feet, and features hard and soft coral including Staghorn coral, Black Coral Trees, and Sea Fans.

Unfortunately, my own snorkeling experience was a bit of a bust. I had bought prescription goggles before we left, but they didn't work well with the gear, and my eyesight is too poor to go without prescription goggles or glasses. The tour we'd chosen did actually offer prescription goggles, but they weren't strong enough. I did try to go in - twice - but between some choppy waters and an inability to attach the snorkeling gear effectively to my goggles, I kept going under. The result of all this was that I hung out on our boat and took pictures. I felt slightly ridiculous not being able to snorkel, but the general response was very relaxed and nonjudgmental.

On our way to the reefs, the crew gave a short introductory talk about marine biology, and were consistently helpful, professional, and relaxed. And Ed was able to snorkel both times, and saw some pretty things especially during the second trip. The colors of the ocean were really beautiful, alternating between a very deep, inky blue, lighter blues, and greens; one could easily tell where the reefs were based on the color of the water.

snorkelers during the first excursion

We also happened to see some whales breaching, some dolphins jumping alongside our boat, and, during one of the diving and snorkeling excursions, some fish being fed.

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