Australia Trip Days 1-3 Cairns (Great Barrier Reef)

Carrie and I had planned on going to Australia for sometime as it was finally somewhat closer to where we lived and as many of you already know, we have a goal of reaching seven continents on Carrie’s current passport which expires in 2012. The trip to Australia was our sixth continent together (only Africa remains untouched by the Thorlitzers).

I had been to Australia twice before, in 2000 and in 2004 both very special trips: in 2004 my Grandpa took my sister and I as this was his trip to reach his seventh continent.

So I had high expectations and very fond memories of my prior visits to Australia. I had also covered a lot of the country before, but this time offered some new experiences and a great way for me to share my love of Australia with Carrie.

The adventure started late on a Friday night a 9pm Singapore time and we finally landed in Cairns, Australia (pronounced ‘cans’ for those non-Australian speakers) at 1pm.<<Carrie Side comment: something we learned was that all foreigners to AUS need VISAS, ones that have to be applied before you get there.  We are thankful we own iPhones and applied for them while in queue at the airport in Singapore!!  i was quite the adventure before we even got on the plane.>>

Cairns is located in Queensland Australia, a North-east state of Australia and the jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef. We were here to do a ‘two day, one night’ live aboard scuba trip that included seven dives and untold amounts of fun.
Our first half day was spent touring the small city of Cairns where we discovered just how starved of westernized society we had become in the last seven months. (Do not misread this as distaste for Asia but rather as a desire for the spice of life called variety).

Some of the items we really missed were wine and western food. However, Australia did have some quirks that were beyond our US expectations. See the picture below with comments to follow on one of our first wonderful discoveries in Australia.

This was a bottle shop that sells wine, beer, and spirits but better yet it was a drive through shop where you can get express alcohol if you really know what you want and they will bring it to your car window or you can browse if you are not sure what you want. Not only that but we went into the shop and saw bottles of wine for under $15 dollars (which is the cost of a glass of house wine in Singapore). We bought a bottle of wine of course, after we had already bought some cheese in the grocery store (because again cheese is not good and too expensive in Singapore). We figured that even if we only drank half the bottle it was cheaper than in Singapore and much better quality.

Following this we went down to the beach, drank some wine, ate some cheese and soaked up the fading sunlight while listening to the wild parrots (see photo below) serenade us on our first night in Oz.

The other thing we did that first night was order a steak sandwich and pizza and of course some beer and gin and tonics (all for a total of $20!!!), which were only moderately ok but required a picture because we thought at the time that this was the best sandwich and pizza we had eaten in a long time.

After our first night of luxury eating in Cairns, we headed off early the next morning for the Great Barrier Reef where we went scuba diving for two days. We dove with Deep Sea Diver’s Den on a boat called Ocean Quest (the day boat was Reef Quest). I would recommend this company for either a day trip or a one day trip.

Below are some surface pictures of the Great Barrier Reef and of Carrie and me getting ready to dive. Following that is a recap of our dives and dive sites with no pictures but descriptions but a final picture at the end to keep you interested.

We started at Norman Reef at a location called Table Top where we saw barracudas,
clown fish (think Nemo), giant clams, angel fish, and of course some corals as well.

Our second dive of the day was still at Norman Reef but at a place called Turtle Bay. Unfortunately though we did not see any turtles at this bay but again saw some great corals and some interesting tropical fish.

Our third dive of the day was off of the liveaboard boat, Ocean Quest, at Saxon Reef at a location called Coral Gardens. This dive had some strong current but again was a good dive with tropical fish, more coral, and the most interesting and new sighting of a Mantis Shrimp that scampered across the coral away from us.

The final dive of the day was a night dive, with flashlights/torches, as our only source of light. It was our first night dive ever and we were lucky enough to have a dive master with us on this dive (the other dives Carrie and I successfully navigated on our own). This was a great experience with Giant Trevally (very large silver carnivorous fish…they don’t eat humans though) out hunting for the night. Every where our lights shone had eyes shining back at us from hiding in the coral and the Trevally used our lights to assist in hunting and thus we saw some fast paced action. It was a great experience and I would do another night dive in the future, but I was a little cold after being in the water all day.

The morning dive the next day was at 6:30am and required a very early 6am wake up call. What a way to vacation! Again we dove at Coral Gardens and although the same location it was a different experience than the two prior dives. The fish were very active in the morning with some great schools of colorful and tropical fish.
The last two dives were at Saxon Reef at a sight called Twin Peaks. Again some tropical fish and interesting corals in this area. We also got lucky to see a white tip reef shark, but again no turtles while diving (we did see two turtles swimming on the surface though). We also saw some blue spotted sting rays and a bright yellow painted flutemouth fish(trumpetfish).

Overall as I said before I would recommend Deep Sea Diver’s Den and the Ocean Quest
for a liveaboard. The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable; they provided good pre- dive briefings so that we could navigate on our own. The accommodation on boat and the food was basic but good and the equipment provided for the diving was all in good shape. Also, the transfer process on boats was good and there was not an excessive amount of nickel and dime-ing on boat, except of course for buying alcohol which was to be expected and with all the diving, I did not drink at all anyways. The only major negative comment I have is that we did not move dive sites enough as we had three dives at Coral Gardens(which had decent diving) and I would have liked a different spot for diving.

<<Carrie side comment:  Some people say that you’ve ‘never dove’ until you dive the GBR….I totally disagree!!  Yes the coral structures are massive and amazing and I’ve never seen anything like it, but honestly didn’t have the wow factor I was expecting.  Much of it was dead or dying, which makes it turn white (ever heard of global warming and coral bleaching? this is what it’s talking about) and some places truely looked like a grave yard.  There wasn’t nearly the  wildlife I was expecting to see, but maybe that is because we were at high traffic dive sites which scares away fish.  I’m sure there are lovely sites, but with the 7 dives we saw, nothing was as fantastic as rumors and postcards had lead me to expect.   I’m glad we went, but I don’t think I’d fly all the way to Oz just for the diving….at least this is my personal experience>>

Following our liveaboard we headed back to Cairns and to our B&B for a sleep, a wonderful breakfast the next morning and then off to the outback …

Sunset over the Great Barrier Reef (just before the night dive)
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2 thoughts on “Australia Trip Days 1-3 Cairns (Great Barrier Reef)

  1. noone

    “…for a sleep?”
    you really have been living abroad for too long! 🙂

  2. Not to tell you where to go in Africa, but I would more than recommend South Africa for you guys. There is so much to see and do there, from the most beautiful city in the world in Cape Town, to the wine region next door to Cape Town, to the natural wildlife parks and to the beauitiful coast line that rivals PCH on the Indian Ocean side of South Africa. You won't be sorry!

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