Hostel seems nice, staff are friendly and helpful advising on the best tours to go on. In a small 3 bed room, better than the cell in Townsville. Its seems to rain quite a bit in the evenings and early mornings, but during the day wasn't bad, cloudy but still hitting 30 degrees. Had a look around town, its a fairly big town but without seeming too big or too busy. Despite being a popular destination on the coast, Cairns doesn't have any beaches, there's some you can drive to but the town itself has none. Probably a good thing, i've seen plenty of beaches already. To compensate there's a public lagoon by the sea front. Airlie had something similar, possibly because the coastal sea up here is too dangerous to swim in as its jellyfish season, and other dangers...
Got back in the afternoon and booked a trip to the great barrier reef for wednesday, a boat that's been highly recommended. In the evening there was a barbecue put on by the hostel, featuring some unusual food. On offer was kangaroo, emu sausages, crocodile and barramundi (a type of fish)... oh and apparently salad too. The kangaroo looked and tasted like steak and the barramundi was just like fish. The crocodile was the strangest, an odd mix between chicken and fish. Its a white meat that looks slightly like fish but is quite tough, not much flavour. The emu sausages were also nice.
The owner of the hostel then told a few stories and taught a couple of people to play the didgeridoo. Australia is possibly the only country to eat both the animals on its coat of arms, the kangaroo and the emu. Both of these animals can't walk backwards and are meant to signify australians always moving forward... apparently.
Ate far too much...
Not much happening today, still full from the barbecue. Rained a bit during the day, I just spent some time sorting out stuff for New Zealand. Got an early-ish night for the tour the next day.
Was up early for the tour, the hostel bus took me into town to the harbour at half seven. Paid and boarded the boat, called the SilverSwift, a large catamaran taking us out to the outer barrier reef.
Took just over one hour to get out there during which time our instructor went through what we'd be doing on the introductory dive. The boat goes to three different reef sites and I was in the group scheduled to dive at the second site. So at the first site I snorkelled. There was plenty to see, it wasnt too deep so you were just over the coral, which is hard and sharp but breaks easily if you were to knock it with your fines. Hundreds of fish around the coral, which is a living thing, you normally see the fish feeding off it or hiding in it. While the large fish hang around the boat. After this we got back on the boat and headed out to the second site.
Made the mistake of taking the wet suit off, the journey wasn't that long so I had to struggle to get it on again, whilst not falling over while the boat was moving. The instructor tied some weights round me and strapped me into a tank thing, which was surprisingly heavy. Went through some techniques before getting in, like how to empty your mask of water, breath properly if you lose the respirator and various hand signals. After that you hold your mask and respirator and jump clear of the boat.
Holding onto a rope four of us and one instructor descended to the sea floor, remembering to equalize your ears every meter (holding your nose and blowing). The instructor also let some water in our masks to check we could clear it, also practised taking out the respirator. Took a few minutes to get used to the breathing, but once we had got to the bottom I was used to it. Whilst descending a reef shark swam under us, harmless but large enough.
You begin by linking arms with the person next to you or holding onto the instructor, but once they know your fine with it your swimming on your own, following them. They seemed to know where we were and pointed out things they spotted, which was good because I had no idea, seemed like we were going round in circles. Knelt next to a giant clam, which when you touched it flinched and closed. Also saw a couple of clown fish in a sea anemone... yes like the famous animated one. Didn't see any turtles though, though apparently some of the certified divers did.
It went well so I signed up to do it again at the last site. Also because you weren't allowed to take cameras on your first dive, but you were on the second, once they knew your could cope with everything. We had lunch before the third site, and it turns out diving causes you to have a large appetite. A short trip and we got kitted out again.
As it was the second dive the instructor was happy for us to swim alone, as long as we stayed close to them. Was also allowed to take the underwater camera I had rented and got some good photos. Saw a small ray, though no manta rays. The instructor was also happy to take photos of each of us. Each dive was around 30 minutes, though it felt a lot longer. After coming up from that dive there was still time to snorkel again. We only saw a small part of the reef, but you could still come to the same spot again and see something completely different. Unfortunately some of the coral had been destroyed by the recent cyclone, though I couldn't really tell, it still looked impressive.
An hour back to land and we were finished, complete with certificate of the dive. No better place to learn to dive.
Days after long day trips seem to be followed by days of inactivity, like today. Just finished sorting out my plans for the arrival in Christchurch. Pizza and beer night tonight at the hostel.
18th - 19th March
Couldn't do the tour I wanted to as they weren't running on friday or saturday, so I just spent friday in town. Wandered round and got my diving photos sorted out. Turned out to be a nice day, after rain in the morning. Saturday is washing, charging and packing day before the flight to New Zealand on Sunday. The end of my time in Australia.