Tag: The Coral Sea

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

This has been an incredible year of seeing things and trying to knock items off my bucket list, one by one. When I took my month-long trip to Australia, I hadn’t initially planned to visit the Great Barrier Reef. . It was my stay with my host family in Brisbane that convinced me to ditch my plans for Byron Bay (feel a bit bad because I knew I’d love it there) and instead jumped on a Virgin Australia flight up to Cairns.

Cairns turned out to be my favorite part of my trip, hands down.

While in Cairns, I couchsurfed with a guy named Nevan in Kewarra Beach. My reason for my trip up north was for one reason and one reason only: to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea. To do the damn thing!

My ride.

While weighing my options for a snorkeling cruise, it was Nevan who talked me into the Green Island Reef Cruises. Green Island is located about an hour off the shores of Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, so it’s a relatively short trip out to the reef. Plus, it’s the best bang for the buck. I paid only $79 for a 5 hour snorkeling day, whereas other companies were offering tours to the outer reef for $200. Nevan told me that in order to reach the outer reef, you spend most of your time crusing back and forth to the snorkeling spot, leaving less water time. I wanted MORE water time!

So long Cairns, hello reef.

Green Island tours operate all sorts of packages and options, from half days to full days, to lunch and a glass-bottom boat tour. The best thing about Green Island is that you snorkel right off the beach, so you can choose to soak up the rays on the beach or spend all your time in the water (like I did!) You can also do a rainforest walk on Green Island that highlights different fauna and plant life endemic to the area. Score!

Photo by author.
The view from Green Island.

While snorkeling, I did wear a lycra suit to protect me against box jellyfish, aka KILLER jellyfish that inhabit the Cairns waters. One sting from them can be fatal. Believe it! It was an extra $8 to rent the suit, but the peace of mind was worth it. Plus, it helped me look like a professional.

Me just after snorkeling for hours in my lycra suit. No box jellyfish for me!

Some might argue that you get a better experience on the outer reef, but I was floored and fascinated by all I saw off the coast of Green Island. I saw TWO sharks (!), tons of beautiful fish, GIANT CLAMS and even swam with 3 green sea turtles. The marine life was second to none and this day made up for more than my fair share of shitty days in the past. I would reccomend anyone to see the Great Barrier Reef in their lifetime. After all, it IS one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World!

Photo by author.
I could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.

A Sunday in Kuranda Village

I’m driving with two Couchsurfers through tropical north Queensland, up and up, through the rainforest toward Kuranda village. The wind blows through our hair and we practice our German accents while Zeppelin blasts on the radio. We’re looking out for Cassowaries and wild cockatoos, our wallets fat with the prospect of buying didgeridoos and locally made crafts from the Djabugay Aborigines.

A view from the top.

While our White Pickup truck twists and turns through the dense rainforest, we almost miss a scenic lookout of Cairns city. We step out of the car to watch the Coral Sea glimmer in the distance like a million diamond-studded wrists, beckoning tourists and locals alike to sail out, to discover the wonderful coral cities that lie underneath the water’s surface.

It’s Sunday afternoon and we’re sweating in the balmy “city center” (population: 1,600) perusing artisan stalls, examining wild flora and spiders, snapping pictures of locals enjoying a smoke and their afternoon coffee in this hippie meets yuppie mecca. Homemade ice cream soothes our thirsty tongues and my German friend Linnea buys a pair of pants from a dreadlocked purveyor.

“Are these a little much?” Linnea asks me. “Red’s too loud, isn’t it?”

The pants look like they’ve been waiting to hug her hips her whole life.

“They’re perfect.” I start. “Who else do you know that owns a pair of red pants?”

She completes the purchase and we’re off to Barron Gorge Falls. We ask someone to “make a picture” of us, as Linnea would incorrectly, yet endearingly say. Somehow “making” pictures felt right.

We bushwalk barefoot for a while before coming back down to Earth, beginning our slow, winding descent, pausing only momentarily to burn the leeches off of our calloused feet.

Another way to get to Kuranda Village is by taking the Scenic Railway through the Macalister Range.
Locals enjoying their Sunday at the Rainforest Markets.
Barron Gorge Falls.
(From left to right) Me, Linnea and her red pants.