The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven heritage sites in the world. Today, we got to explore its wonder.
After a lovely breakfast buffet, we headed out at 7:40 to walk several blocks to the pier to catch our catamaran, Ocean Spirit. On the way, we rented beach towels for $4 a piece. Brent Rupiper, our tour guide, knew exactly where we could comfortably seat ourselves so that we could enjoy our entire day. We sat with Roger and Joyce #2. It turns out that Roger attended Bethel College and knows Butch Gering, Beverly Kison, and some of the other Mennonite people from Ritzville.
The catamaran ride was about an hour and 45 minutes, 43 kilometers from Cairns. We took a semi-submersible once we reached our destination at Michaelmas Cay, a narrow strip of sand only about three meters above ocean level and surrounded by a fringing Reef. It is national park. The semi-submersible allowed us to go into the coral beds without having to snorkel.
Coral is actually comprised of living creatures even though it looks plant like. The guide explained that much of the coral was bleaching out. This happens when the ocean water temperature rises to high level. The algae that the coral needs for sustenance leaves because the water is too hot. Without the algae, the coral gets hungry and starts to lose its color and dies. Apparently this year has been especially brutal for bleaching in the Great Coral Reef. Here is a link to a newly published article from Popular Science explaining the consequences.
The Great Coral Reef, as we learned from the guide, is 2,300 kilometers long going down the northeastern coast of Australia. It is made up of about 2,900 individual reefs like the one at Michaelmas Cay.
We had lunch onboard the catamaran, and then it was off to snorkeling. Australia is well known for its vicious stinging creatures with deadly venom. So not wanting to accidentally touch something dangerous, we pulled ourselves slowly into our black Lycra body suits. You can’t possibly imagine what a sight that was with so many of us sporting our “retired” bodies, but I spared you a commemorative photo by talking Joyce #2 into not snapping a picture of us in our body suits.
We took a boat out to the Cay, and got into the water. It was warm, maybe 90 degrees F. In fact, I think it was warmer than the swimming pool yesterday. Judy, Gary, Carol, and Garrett went out snorkeling further than I wanted to go, so I kept some of the 23 bird species on the Cay company. They were noisy and active. Later Gary and Garrett went diving. The underwater photos that I’m posting, were all taken by Gary with his waterproof camera. He took some gorgeous photos. They all enjoyed their time among the coral, jelly fish, giant clams, and lovely tropical fish and turtles
On our return, Carol had an unfortunate slip on the stairs. She seems to be okay, but it was pretty scary. She may have bruised her back, so she is currently resting and taking pain medication. Luckily, Wendy, whom we sat with last night is a nurse, and she helped Carol immediately.
The weather today was very warm, and it rained. For me, it was a wonderful experience to sit in the warm Pacific water in my black Lycra suit and feel the rain washing the salt water from my face.
Tomorrow we’re headed for the rainforest in Kuranda. Do you think it will rain?