Australian Cruise: Airlie Beach, Great Barrier Reef – Day 5

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Written: Wednesday, 12th October

The big excursion today! The Ship’s blurb said…

“Climb aboard a catamaran and sail to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Your destination is a large off-shore platform offering easy-to-operate semi-subs. Choose one and enter a world teeming with colourful fish, exotic creatures and brilliant coral. Afterwards, enjoy lunch on-board and lounge on the sundeck or in the shade of the covered areas…”

This was an ‘all day’ tour and so no time for the Gym today! I guess if you have travelled this far, it would be nuts not to take the opportunity to see this endangered natural wonder of the world – and it seemed that most of the other passengers had the same idea, requiring some very strict managing of passengers when we all met in the Theatre prior to boarding the fleet of catamarans.

Luckily, we were the first group to be called and we were soon waving goodbye to the Solstice heading in the direction of the Reef.

It was a glorious day, and the hour-long journey going-out passed quickly. The crew of about a dozen did a really good job of communicating all the safety requirements whilst keeping it all upbeat and humorous. We got chatting to another couple – Robin and Sheila from Glasgow during the trip and that helped pass the time. Then, at just over the hour, in the distance, we could see the pontoon that would be our base for the rest of the day.

The advertised semi-subs had been replaced by a glass bottomed boat, and it was very popular. So-much-so, that we weren’t quick enough off the mark to make the first group – but at least that gave us the opportunity to soak up some sun whilst we waited.

Around 40 minutes later, the Boat returned and we’d thoughtfully begun to queue a little while before. We were soon on-board together with around 30 others seated in two columns looking outwards. We had a running commentary along the way – which was just as well because actually seeing anything of note, and capturing it on film was a real challenge (as the photos below clearly show!)
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David Attenborough never had these problems!

It had been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m glad we’ve done it, but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to catch more underwater wildlife.

Once we returned from our trip, the first thing we noticed was that the tide affected how much of the Reef was visible. I think I assumed that being so far ‘out’ it wouldn’t be, but as the photo below shows, it made the area look really different – and explained why our Guide had advised us that we shouldn’t STAND on the Reef!

We headed back to the catamaran to grab some lunch – it was a long queue, but the Crew had laid on a substantial salad-based lunch and there was plenty of choice when it came to drinks – hot and/or cold.

After lunch, we got a seat on the upper deck towards the back, where we could see the Reef disappearing into the distance.

Seventy-five minutes later, and after some difficulties mooring alongside the Solstice, we were soon back on board, in the Café sampling ice-cream and coffee!

It’s been a great day and although the excursion to the Barrier Reef was criminally overpriced, it was and essential one to tick off our bucket-list and we’ll probably be talking about it for years to come.
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