Thursday 19 February
Nothing to eat on plane whilst those with flexible fares at least get a sandwich of sorts. Lady next to us flying to Cairns to pick up a steam train that is taking her to Brisbane and taking 7 days to travel back.
It was the last opportunity to ride behind this engine before it is put in a museum and only steamed on a short track. Very envious I was!
Leave Cyclone Martha behind – it hit land about 1000k South of Cairns the following morning, and pass over some of the reefs on the way into Cairns airport. Impressive or what?
Transfer to Novotel Oasis hotel by taxi and room which had a slight damp smell about it even though it was on the first floor. The bed was so soft you sunk into the middle!
The area around the Novotel has many trees, all frequented by noisy squawking bats which we understand are protected so no one can do anything about the noise.
They are regular visitors to Cairns but are not always found at the same place we understand.
Dinner in Villa Romana on the Esplanade and retire to hotel lobby to fight with the Internet.
Friday 20 February
Breakfast in same restaurant as last night’s dinner and off to Coral Princess cruises. Join about 30 others on a three day cruise to various Islands on the Great Barrier Reef.
After briefing and lunch (so much to eat) our first stop is Normandy island and we take the 2nd tender out.
Deirdre snorkelled and dived, whilst both Sally and Richard tried a quick and very near the foreshore snorkel before Richard joined John in taking pictures.
The island is a coral reef with trees and what looked like volcanic rock inside and a beach not of sand but of coral in all shapes and sizes.
Colour wise, they all looked sandy coloured but under the sea they would have all been different colours.
Wow what a dinner, seafood banquet with Red Snapper, salmon, and many other plates.
Cold overnight as air conditioning blowing very cold air but we did sleep. Moored at about midnight at Hinchinbrook channel.
Saturday 21 February
Early start for breakfast at 7 am followed by a talk on deck about the mangrove system. There are 59 varieties of mangrove trees of which over 50% are to be found in Australia, 7 species of turtles, of which 6 are in Australia. They are of course protected.
Lots of jumping fish which are acting more like how you would skim a stone. They bounce about 5 times before swimming away in readiness for their next set of jumping.
Also spotted was a humpback Asian dolphin but it only showed a couple of times and was obviously camera shy.
Met couple at breakfast from Henfield, near Steyning where we used to live – how strange is that. Boat meanders through the Hinchinbrook Channel and out past the pier at Lucinda.
The pier is for the export of sugar and is the longest pier in the Southern Hemisphere at 5.7k.
You can see the curvature of the earth by following the pier if you look at it from either end.
Moor just off Pelorus Island for lunch, with a walk around the outside of a private house’s garden watching loads of butterflies followed by another wonderful spread for lunch and a snorkel with Sally donning her sexy sting resistant suit.
Richard also has a go, something he would have thought not possible a few years ago.
Some medium sized fish swimming around our legs even though we were quite near the shore – Six Barred Angel Fish.
The cartoon fish, Nemo, would not swim like it does in the cartoon as it is in the middle of a Clown (Crown?) Anemone Fish.
Room still cold at night with cold air funnelling towards our pillows but warmer than last night.
Sunday 22 February
After another 7am breakfast, early morning stroll on a “rainforest” path at Dunk Island. Tender gingerly creeps over a shallow passage before dropping us off and we await the 2nd tender before setting off.
Keeping close to the shore we head on an overgrown track up and down the terrain passing many dead trees and seeing a few butterflies but unfortunately little else of note.
Come out of path dripping wet from sweat and it is not even 9:30am and back to the ship for a welcome fluid intake.
Talk by Kristy on the Coral Reef system and she explained that the Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy or Germany or Japan. It is the largest Barrier Reef in the world, the 2nd largest is the Belize Reef at about a tenth of the size of the Great Barrier Reef. The third largest is off the West coast of Australia.
It contains over 3000 species of reef and stretches anything up to 150 km out from land and is about 6 to 8 million years old.
Over 50% of the Coral has died in the last 27 years the most common cause being Cyclones, although spawning of new Coral is being formed each year after the full moon during October / November.
It needs a Neap tide and 27degree water temperature to begin the process. It is, of course, a living creature!
We also learn that Green turtles are not green but the name relates to it’s colour when cooked. White tipped and black tipped reef sharks are generally harmless about 2.4m long.
Moored up at Nathan Reef – not another boat in sight – and a glass bottomed boat ride with masses of little fish and Coral on display.
Back to main boat and we get costumes on for an attempt at a proper snorkel.
Waves, tide and nearby movement of tender don’t help and we soon return minus one snorkel which sinks but was retrieved by Alice, one of the divers, later.
Deirdre however is in the water most of the time snorkelling away, had a wonderful time and has masses of pictures of fish she saw.
Room slightly warmer tonight after engineer places card in vent to stop air flow onto pillows but noise level increases so not so much sleep tonight.
Monday 23 February
Another 7am start and off to Sudbury Cay which is nothing more than a sandy bar.
It is about 100meters long by about 5 meters wide and 1metre high.
There is only sand there and lots of birds nesting at one end.
Evidence of crab and turtle holes and a few broken coral washed up but nothing else.
Must be something to do with the Bugger All to Do Club. Glass bottom boat transfer to see more Coral and it’s back to Cairns for a disembarkation after another filling meal.
The food on the Coral Princess cruise has been wonderful and everyone, crew and fellow passengers have been so friendly.
Check in again at the Novotel and collect our bag we left there before the cruise and another meal at Amigo’s – we are creatures of habit – but this time the staff are rushed off their feet and whilst initial service OK, getting the bill took time.
A stroll past the open air swimming pool but not enough time to explore the area much – perhaps next time.
Tuesday 24 February
Those bats!, noisy or what!! It is said at they like the trees around the Library and the Novotel and guess where we were staying? They aren’t a permanent fixture and often are not in the town at all.
Breakfast in same place as last night’s meal and off to airport for our next adventure – to Uluru. Driver friendly and provides facts about Australian wildlife including the attempt next week to poison all the feral cats in the country – quite a task – and the dingo barrier.