Sharks on the Reef and other stories

Trip Start Mar 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The alarm goes off and there's reef to be seen, so there's a whole lot of leaping out of bed going on this fine Wednesday morning.  Erin dispatches her manservant to the front porch to collect her swimmers only to discover...they'd been stolen in the night!  Someone had walked through the bit of rainforest in the back garden and souvenired Erin's brand new bikini and one of the towels issues by the hotel staff!  We'd figured this out as there was no-where for it to fall, they'd been propped right near the windows, and one of the other towels was still there!

Disaster!  Luckily, she'd packed some backups and we were soon on our way, but pretty annoyed by such a weird theft!  We let the super friendly hotel staff know and then wandered down to the marina to board our boat, the Poseidon.  We were pretty thrilled about our choice of boat pretty quickly - it was a terrific outfit, had complimentary muffins and milo when we boarded and once we were away we found out our snorkelling guide for the day was an awesome Dutch marine biologist. 

We made the hour-long ride to our first stop on the outer reef and there were a few green faces around - despite heading out on a huge, fast cat, it was still pretty choppy!  What surprised both of us was how choppy it was on the reef once we jumped into the water!  There was lots of flying up and down, and a lot of the tall one holding onto the small Australian so she didn't get pulled away by the rather strong current!

The reef, unsurprisingly, was amazing and every bit as good as you might imagine.  We were amongst the first in the water and so were some of the lucky few to catch a superb view of a couple of reef sharks chasing a giant trevally.  Incredible!  Throughout the three spots we visited on the day we spotted an incredible amount of gorgeously coloured fish, a school of luminescent squid, giant clams and all sorts of coral - it was pretty amazing.  And interestingly enough, it was kinda cold out there, certainly cold enough for the small one to use a wetsuit for most of the day!

While travelling between our snorkelling spots, our marine biologist guide gave talks on all the different kinds of species we were seeing and the ecology of the area - that was a great bonus to the trip.  As was the lunch!  The crew put up a huge amount of fresh seafood, meat and salad - absolutely delicious.  After an 8am departure, we pulled back into Port Douglas around 4pm, having completed one of the best adventures of the world tour.  Even if it doesn't look like we were enjoying it in the photos!  Hint - it's possible to smile while wearing a snorkel, even if it feels weird.  It's highly recommended, otherwise you might end up looking like us!

After chilling out at the apartment, we wandered back into town for the evening.  It was a big night - the first State of Origin game was on!  This is the biggest series in the Australian rugby league calendar where NSW take on Queensland for the annual grudge match, and so of course all the proud Queenslanders had decked the pubs out in the Queensland colours.  We watched the first half at the Court House Hotel, which was all rather enjoyable.  We'd spent a while deliberating our excellent options for dinner and at half time thought we should head out and get fed.  Alas, that was 9pm and almost every kitchen was closed.  Food fail!  We ended up taking the only option around (or so we thought) and had pizza at the quietest bar in town!

Thursday, being our last full day in the area, we decided to hire a car again and see a bit more of the surrounding area.  One of the top rated places to go in this part of the world is the Mossman Gorge National Park, so we drove straight there and did a smallish walk around part of the rainforest. All the way up to the park, signs warning of the scary cassowary are present - this is somewhat like an Emu, but looks far more prehistoric, hsa poisonous spurs behind its feet and can be aggressive! Scary!  However, they're sadly endangered - there are only 1500 in the wild here, so the likelihood of running into one is low.  Nevertheless, Erin made sure she kept a steady amount of other walkers between her an the potential cassowary to avoid possible attack! Clever, right?

It might have scary birds, but it's one of the 'safe' places for swimming in the area - all other rivers and beaches north of here carry the risk of bumping into a crocodile - so we planned to come back to the gorge in the afternoon.  But first, we were off to intentionally bump into some crocs. With our car hire, we'd received a free pass for Bruce Belcher's
Crocodile Cruise on the Daintree River.   Bruce, as it turns out, owns a
lovely piece of land along the Daintree and runs boat tours out of his
back yard - and rather fantastic ones at that.  We were lucky enough to
score Bruce himself as our guide and within a few minutes he'd pulled up
at the preferred sunbathing spots for a bunch of crocs.

Bruce is one of those fabulous no-nonsense Queenslanders and subdued the heckling arising from the ranks of the elderly bus group from country NSW (no joke!) with great adeptness, throwing the focus onto his beloved scaly neighbours.  He sprouted data on each creature we saw, with names, backstories and preferred hang-out locations.  Like many around the area, he also liked to dispel (to a certain degree) the idea that these guys are ridiculously dangerous.  He told us a great story about a poor guy who had decided to commit suicide several years back, by jumping into the Daintree and waiting to become dinner.  He tried this for about a month before giving up.  He'd suffered exposure, snake bites and malnutrition but just didn't seem interesting enough to the crocs.  Having said that, Bruce definitely does not go roaming about on the banks or in the water, for rather sensible reasons!

One of the reasons this suicide attempt failed may be that not all the crocs in this region are quite big enough to polish off a human for lunch.  Maybe they just had better taste?  Unlike the Northern Territory, there aren't a huge amount of crocodile attacks in this region, although the advice is generally to stay out of their way - we'll take it!

After polishing off our complimentary pie that came with the boat tour we drove back to Mossman Gorge to take a dip in the afternoon sun.  There are some simply gorgeous swimming spots in the National Park and the access area was peppered with a reasonable amount of other water-seekers.  With the beautifully clear water travelling down from higher ranges, you could say it was pretty chilly.  You could also say that it was too much so for the small Australian, and if you did, you'd be right!   It certainly didn't stop Justyn from exploring the waterway!

We rolled back into town and returned our car before setting out for another evening adventure in Port Douglas.  Following previous mistakes, we'd settled on sampling the cuisine at Bistro 3 which sported one of the nicest looking menus in town (a title that was pretty hard - there was so much good stuff on offer!) but first went for a drink at another spot, Salsa. 

This was another great location, and one we wished we'd tried earlier - especially when the waitstaff told us they open later than all the other restaurants in town!  We had some rather delicious cocktails designed for the currently running Port Douglas Carnivale (to be fair, it's not much of a festival - it was meant to ramp up that weekend, but we'd really seen little evidence of it in town!) before taking a wander through the park on the point at sunset.  We found loads of people enjoying a picnic and a bottle of wine at this rather picturesque spot...that we discovered on our last day! Oh well, next time!

We wandered over the road to enjoy our rather delicious 'trio of beef' and some awesome raw tuna and called it an evening, ready to board the bus and plane in the morning and return to Sydney.
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