Today was an antidote to yesterday – a day full of excitement and a bit of adventure! We’d booked a trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach. Run by a company called FantaSea, it involved a 2½ hour catamaran trip out to a floating reef platform moored just off reef miles out to sea. The first bit was okay, because it was within the islands, but then we emerged out into the open sea, and the waves started to get bigger, and we realised that taking a trip to the reef on a windy day – 20 knot winds meant 2 metre waves – wasn’t the best idea of this week. By the time we got out to ReefWorld, the floating platform, we were all on the verge of feeling seasick. In fact, I had the little paper bag in my hands, thinking that I’d be using it any minute. But fortunately we arrived in the nick of tine, and it all calmed down. The area we were visiting was in a narrow passage between two reefs, so it was calm, and surrounded by beautifully light blue water.
First off, we went to the underwater observatory, with huge thick glass windows looking onto the reef wall. Following the reef feature we’d attended in Cairns, Charlotte was keen to spot each type of fish and coral. The attraction of being fed meant that loads of fish swam past the windows, from weenie striped ones, to huge dark green wrass.
Then it was off to the semi-submersible – for the second time in 2 weeks. This time the coral was more impressive, as we were able to follow the wall, and were over quite deep water. The girls loved it, especially as they now had a greater appreciation of what they were looking at – Emily didn’t tire of shouting ‘parrot fish’, ‘soft coral’ etc etc (Don’t know what the ‘reef interpreter’ made of this, sitting alongside us trying to do a commentary!)
Then it was time for lunch, and then back out for a snorkel over the reef. Charlotte showed no hesitation in gearing up with snorkel, flippers and float jacket, and jumping into the ocean, 30 miles from the nearest land! We swam for about half an hour, with Emily happily sitting on Reefworld watching us snorkel around. Then Charlotte decided to dry out, while Sarah and I carried on snorkeling for another 15 minutes. And then Sarah went in, and I carried on snorkelling long enough to dive down and wave at them through the underwater observatory windows (after all, that’s the kind of things that Dads are invented for!).
Then finally, it was time for another trip on the submarine, before heading back on board the catamaran for the trip home. (By this time, you may be wondering what a ‘reefworld’ looks like, hence the very sad diagram below! Well, at least you now know.) Overall it was a fantastic day – not the kind of thing we’d have done if it was just two of us, but ideal with the girls.
The trip back was just as rough as the trip out, so we took the precaution of taking a motion sickness tablet, which worked a treat, and before we knew it we were back in Shute Harbour (well, it took about 2 ½ hours, but the girls slept right through, which made it very relaxing. At normal prices, it would have cost us AU$400, which is just over £160 – which we’d never have paid for a single day’s trip. But with our YHA cards, the price came down to AU$210, about £90, which didn’t seem too bad for the whole family, including morning coffees, lunch and afternoon tea with fresh fruit and chocolate cake.
We find that some of the things we could do in Australia, that we know the girls would get a lot from, are too expensive for our budget. And this day was a good example, because in Cairns the same trip didn’t have discounts, and so we’d decided not to do it. We were really pleased to be able to do it here, and the girls certainly enjoyed the day as much as we thought they would, and we’re sure it’s been an educational experience for them both, as well as a fun activity. I wasn’t able to stay for the second half of the reef lecture in Cairns, as the presenter didn’t like Emily moving around during his talk (she had spotted an open biscuit barrel in the room), so we had to leave halfway through. But Charlotte had obviously been paying attention, as she started to tell me things about the reef that I didn’t know, that she’d learnt during the part I’d missed. Charlotte’s classroom this year is definitely turning out to be in some interesting places!