Friday, 6 March 2009

Good Grief - It's The Barrier Reef

Warning to some of my more sensitive readers (you know who you are Paul). The following post contains scenes of me topless.

One of the things you have to do whilst in Cairns is to visit the Barrier Reef. A small catermaran with about 15 other like-minded people was just the thing for us and with a blue sky and a fair wind we were all set. After a relaxing couple of hours sailing out to the reef, the mainbrace was hoisted, the anchor dropped, and the poop deck was... well you get the idea.

The plan was for us to go snorkelling before lunch and dive afterwards. The "fair wind" had turned into a "gentle gale" and the sea was a bit on the choppy side so we were given some buoyancy aids called noodles - we looked like we were in a junior swim class.

As PADI-Qualified Advanced Open Water Divers (just showing off there) it would seem silly to visit the Great Barrier Reef and then just go snorkelling - although, apart from one other guy, we were the only ones who thought so. So the salty sea dogs who ran the boat helped us on with our scuba equipment (very nice - you usually have to do everything yourself and are exhausted by the time you hit the water). We plunged into the ocean (nice and warm, around the 30 degree mark) and after a final safety check, descended into the depths of the Barrier Reef. The visibility wasn't as good as we've experienced elsewhere, probably not helped by the gentle gale I mentioned, but we still saw plenty, including turtles, sea slugs, squid, brightly coloured fish, giant clams and lots and lots of coral.

After a 45 minute dive, we were led back to the boat by a huge batfish (this is not a fish which dresses up in leather uniform and a cape, and it does not have a sidekick called Robin-Fish).

As we arrive back on the boat, the weather (which had improved considerably while we were under water) took a turn for the worse. The blue sky had turned a darker shade of grey. I quite like a bit of drizzle (I'm from Manchester - it's what we do best) so I was happy to sit out on the hammock-nets at the front of the boat while everyone else sheltered inside. Soon the hailstones started. The weather improved gradually (although the sea was still rough) and soon I was joined by some of our European friends who clearly were feeling embarrassed about an Englishman looking crazier than them. Every wave soaked us with warm sea water as we were thrown around on the nets. It's the first time I've found myself lying half-naked alongside two wet, screaming, German girls - and it will probably be the last!

Oh, travel tip number 2. If you are going to dive the Barrier Reef and then lie out on the front of the boat being showered in sea water and, like me, you have the skin complexion of an English Rose... put lots of waterproof sunscreen on first!

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