Great Barrier Reef, Batman! (CONTAINS VIDEO)
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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The company that organises our tour to the Great Barrier Reef today is called 'Fantasea', which suggests it may be aimed at either frisky adults or soft drink enthusiasts. From the time they pick us up, though, till they drop us off again in the evening, it is a slick operation. All the staff are incredibly friendly and genuinely interested in every one of the 100-plus passengers on the tour.
The boat powers us out into hte Whitsunday Island archipelago, a collection of variably-sized and mostly uninhabited islands dotted off the Airlie Beach coast. Once past the islands we enter the open sea and come to a stop at what looks like one of those North Sea oil rigs (only without all the drills and oil-covered sea gulls floating on the surface).
As if the fish themselves were not enough, the Great Barrier Reef itself is there as the most dramatic background. Estimated at around 20 million years old, the reef stretches for 2300 kilometres along Australia's north east coast.
On the two-hour trip back to the mainland we meet a couple of English ladies - Jenny and Diane. Diane is a 76 year-old firecracker who was snorkelling with the best of them today, and Jenny, her niece, is showing her the sights of Australia. We get on well with them and actually run into them again later that evening at, of all places, our youth hostel bar.