The Sea Was Angry That Day

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hi, I'm Ken. You might remember me from such previous travel blogs as Dave & Amy Go to Iceland and Dave & Amy Go to Katz’s Deli.  I’ll be your guest blogger today.

We woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel, then took a walk down the Esplanade on the way to the Cairns Marlin Marina for a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef.  The Esplanade wasn’t too crowded at 7:30 in the morning, and the tide was in, making it all very picturesque.  After arriving at the marina, we quickly found the correct pier and our vessel for the day, Reef Quest, which is operated by the Deep Sea Divers Den tour group.  After standing outside for a bit, the crew invited everyone on board to check in.  The three of us had signed up for the Introductory Dive and Snorkel Package, but due to her sinus infection, Amy was not going to be able to SCUBA dive due to the change in pressure.  We were then each issued a snorkel mask, flippers and a wetsuit, and then Dave and I got our SCUBA tanks, which were left on a bench for us. 

The vessel departed and we settled in on the upper deck for the hour plus cruise out to the reef.  The water was somewhat choppy, and many of the other people on board (there probably around 35-45 total divers/snorkelers) took ill. Thankfully neither Dave, Amy nor I lost our breakfast, although Amy said she felt a bit queasy for a while.  About halfway to the reef, Dave and I got called downstairs for a brief scuba lesson.  We learned a few basic handsignals, such as the ones for I’m OK; Lets Dive Lower; Shark; and I’m Out of Air.   

We finally made it to the reef, and Amy went off to snorkel, while Dave and I threw on our Scuba tanks.  I think I understand now why usually when they teach you how to scuba they do it in a pool or shallow water.  When you get into the water and its 40 meters deep, and choppy, and you are not used to only being able to breathe out of your mouth through a little hole, it gets claustrophobic really quickly.  After having us swim under a rope to the side of the boat, the instructor had us about 5 feet below the surface and tried to get me to do a few maneuvers which I failed miserably.   I kept getting tossed into the side/under the boat, and really had a hard time breathing.  After a few attempts the instructor suggested that maybe I return my tanks and try snorkeling instead.  I felt kind of bad for a few minutes, but then as I was heading back I saw that Dave was following me, and learned later that half of the other group of intro divers didn’t last long either, so apparently this was quite common.  Not sure why the tour offers something that half the people who try can’t even do. 

After shedding our tank and other scuba gear, Dave and I joined Amy with the snorkel group.  The Great Barrier Reef is amazing to see up close. There were all different types of fish feeding on the coral, and you could see giant towers of coral rising almost all the way to the surface from deep below.  The guide made a good suggestion and told us to not only look straight down, as some of the fish might be right in front of you.  He was absolutely right as some of those fish have no problem getting inches away from your goggles.  After a while out there, it was time to get back on board for lunch and so the Reef Quest could move to its next site.  You don’t realize how exhausting it is to be swimming in open ocean for that long until you get back to the boat and just want to sit down.   The next site we stopped at had some pretty rough seas, but equally inspiring coral.  It felt like if you just put your foot down you would be standing on coral, but they advised us not too as the coral is very sharp and can really injure you.  The one issue is that the current was really strong.  At one point Amy and I tried to swim farther out to where one of the guides was, and after some strenuous swimming for several minutes, we turned around and were shocked to see we were maybe only 10 or 15 meters from the boat.  That’s an angry sea. 

At last it was time to head in, our snorkeling (and SCUBAing, or lack thereof) complete.  Unfortunately, the ride back was an hour and a half of even bumpier seas than on the way out.  Again, lots of ill looking people, but again the three of us were just fine with only Amy having some queasiness in what was a really turbulent boat ride.  Oddly Dave said he was fine on the boat but actually felt worse while snorkeling in the choppy seas.  I don’t get seasick, but really felt for the people who did, that is not a fun place to be for an hour and a half boat ride.

After returning to shore we stopped along the Esplanade for a light snack of Kebabs (snorkeling makes you hungry), and then relaxed at the hotel for a bit before deciding on dinner.  Everyone wanted something easy so we agreed on just some pizza and beer at the hotel sitting outside near the pool.  Dave and I wandered off to the local Domino’s where we thought we ordered a pepperoni and capsicum (Australian for bell pepper) pie.  The guy taking the order was really confused and we had to repeat it a few times. This probably should have been a warning sign, as when we got back to the hotel and opened up the box, we discovered we had a half pepperoni and half ham, olives and mushroom pizza.  (I thought they spoke English here, how does bell pepper or capsicum get confused with all that stuff?)  We made do with what we had and decided after a few more beers (a new local favorite, 'Broo’), to call it a night.
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