Sunday, June 21, 2009

Port Douglas and The Reef

With a very early pick up in a Lincoln style 'car', Melissa took me out to the airport for us to meet our flight...with me feeling every bit of my accidental large night just hours before. Double peg legs on for the flight up to Cairns from Melbourne, we were grossly over-dressed the moment we hit the tarmac and took in the sunshine and high 20C of Far North Queensland.

This trip is actually the result of Melissa achieving Employee Of The Year last year. A package of accommodation and assorted tours was her prize. Wow! And given that Cairns is the last pocket of Australia for me to visit, I had kind of invited myself along! A much needed winter escape for both of us.

We picked up our brand new hire car from the airport, and made the one hour drive up to Port Douglas. Checking into our home for the next three nights on the main street of town, our apartment at Ville San Michele was over-looking the pool below. After finding something for lunch, and getting a lay of the land along the main street, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking along Four Mile Beach.

Dinner last night was an 'intimate dining experience' with Flames Of The Forest. We were picked up from our hotel, and driven to the outskirts of Port Douglas to rainforest and bush area. Here under a canopy, we were seated and the wine started to arrive. Canapes soon arrived, before entree arrived as a Chef's plate, with crocodile, duck and prawn bits of goodness. Main was a choice between trout and sirloin, and then an amazing group of little desserts arrived on the table. The wine was constantly topped up. And all this while sitting in the middle of the forest surrounded by candles, fairylights and the stars!

The Quiksilver bus picked us up from our hotel this morning, and took us the whole block (maybe two!) to the jetty where their cruise leaves from. Here we boarded our boat out to the Agincourt Reef, which is part of the Outer Great Barrier Reef.

Melissa and I checked out the fishes and what all the fuss is about about the Reef in the underwater observatory once we had arrived at the Quiksilver platform over the reef. Awesome. But then it was time to prepare for the plunge, get wet and amongst the fishies....for two non-swimmers, this was a little daunting!

Collecting flippers, and snorkel mask, we ventured down to the submerged platform...and I quickly decided that I would take on the wetsuit like bright blue suit on offer, to shield from the cold water. Not Victoria cold, but I was just eliminating any issues apart form the fact I cannot swim!

Back to the water, we sat at the edge and loaded up with our equipment, trying to reassure ourselves that we wouldn't be breathing in water, and that we could both do this. Sticking my masked face into the water for a peek and test was a full anxiety moment for me.....but just had to harden up and get out there. Paddling out into the Coral Sea, and finding the space away from other people, we both got used to the whole swimming, and breathing, and snorkeling....and took in the breathtaking world that was below us! So amazing!

After being blown away by all the fish, and the colours, the coral, and the activity below the water's surface, we eventually made it back to the platform, and had a taste of the buffet lunch back on board the boat. But with much to do in our afternoon, we soon got back to the platform, and took a seat on a semi-submersible tour, for a guided trip over the coral and through the waters, with fish and other life forms pointed out and explained by the marine biologist.

Such an amazing experience, and a well organised day tour. I was totally blown away by the reef and it's living world out there. Wow! And so very proud of us both for venturing out with those funny breathing masks to take a look!

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