The next day we all got up early, packed and headed to the airport to meet our flight to Cairns. It was my last morning in Sydney and I left it on a cold and dreary day. Thankfully, when we arrived in Cairns it was bright and warm. We were picked up from the airport by a Sun Bus shuttle driven by a very talkative Australian woman. On the 45 minute drive from the Cairns airport to the Meridan hotel in Port Douglas she talked all about the amazing diversity of wildlife to be found in that region. We heard about venomous spiders, sting rays, jelly fish, crocodiles, and snakes. It really made all of us enthusiastic to spend time outside. By the time we got to our hotel and checked in the day was winding down, and even though the temperature was in the 80′s it was still technically winter, so the sun started to set around 6pm.
After checking in we headed out to the beach, about a two minute walk from our hotel, to take in the last remaining half hour of sunlight.
Having had a late lunch in the airport we weren’t terribly hungry, so mom went to the grocery store to buy some munchies and a cheese plate for us to snack on, and dad went to the bottle shop to get a bottles of liquor and a bottle of tequila. Since Julie is of legal drinking age in Australia, dad was fascinated by the idea that he could do shots with his youngest daughter, so once he got back to the hotel with his bottle shop purchases he started pestering Julie to do a shot with him. I think he had anticipated Julie being unable to throw back a shot of tequila without wincing, but once she agreed to do a shot with him, she did so without even flinching. Clearly that side of the Lapointe family can take their alcohol, I can’t say the same for me and mom. Once the novelty of this had passed we snacked and watched some movies on TV before all turning into bed.
The next morning we were up quite early to meet a shuttle that took us to the Marina so we could meet up with Sailaway, which was the boat service we booked for the day to take us out to the reef. Sailaway is one of the smaller companies that does trips to the reef from Port Douglas. They use a small catamaran boat that takes about 30 people out each day, and they sail out so its a very green operation. The ride out was a bit chilly since it was so early in the morning and it was a bit overcast, but by the time we got out to the low isles where we would be snorkeling, the sun had come out and it had warmed up quite a bit.
We were given wet suits, fins, and snorkel gear and then shuttled out to the islands in a small glass bottomed boat. On our way to the island we were able to see all that was below us through the window in the bottom of the boat. We saw all sorts of colorful coral in all sizes and shapes and all manner of wildlife. There is a very large sea turtle population on the reef, and as such they are a big draw for tourists, but we were cautioned not to get to close or to touch them at any point. Our tour guide said “Sea turtles can get to be hundreds of years old, and the last thing you would want if you were a hundred years old would be someone chasing after you in a funny looking mask.” Point taken.
We managed to see quite a few sea turtles and they were HUGE. We also spotted some clown fish, and they were much smaller in person than I thought they were going to be. Mom and dad set out together and looked quite comical trying to get out to the deeper water in their flippers with their pool noodles in hand. Dad was especially uncoordinated, and towards the end of the day his noodle started to get away from him, and in diving after it he got too close to the coral and impaled himself on the reef. He was ok, and just kept laughing about how of all the dangerous things in Australia that could have attacked him he ended up bleeding because he ran into a stationary object. Julie and I fared a little better, although Julie was a lot less daring than I was when it came to getting close to the reef.
We snorkeled for about three or so hours, taking breaks whenever we needed them. Around 2pm we loaded back into the glass bottomed boat which took us out to the bigger boat where we had an amazing lunch of shrimp, kebabs, fresh fruit, sandwiches, beer, wine, salad, and assorted deserts. It was such a relaxing way to end a wonderful day. We could not have asked for a better tour company or better weather. As we were finishing up lunch some of the smaller children that we hanging around the back of the boat noticed that we had attracted some friends. Three or four black finned reef sharks were circling our boat, so we began to throw them the leftover shrimp shells and heads, which of course only attracted more marine attention.
Once back in Port Douglas we headed back to the hotel to shower and change, and then walked up the main street to find somewhere to eat dinner. We landed on this rowdy bar/brick oven pizza restaurant called Rattle and Hum. Since we had a big lunch we all ordered light meals and drinks. I had to assist Julie in ordering a cocktail since she had never done it before. I started her out on a Cosmopolitan, a nice girly classic. After a long day out on the water none of us were up for too much excitement after dinner, so we all went to bed fairly early.