The Great Barrier Reef was at the top of our list of things to do in Australia, and our time there exceeded our expectations. We decided to stay in Cairns, Queensland. Despite being chased by Cyclone Nathan (see my earlier blog post), we loved our time in Cairns with its warm weather, delicious tropical fruit, and friendly people.
From Cairns, we traveled by large catamaran to Green Island to spend three wonderful days at the Green Island Resort (one of the few splurges during our round-the-world adventure). Green Island is about 27 kilometers (nearly 17 miles) off the coast of Cairns. While at the resort, we enjoyed snorkeling, glass-bottom boat rides, wind surfing, nature walks, star gazing, and sea kayaking. We saw many beautiful fish such as groupers and reef sharks and many Green Sea Turtles.
During one of our days at Green Island, we traveled to Norman Reef, which is farther offshore and has greater visibility in the water. The highlight of our time there was snorkeling. All four of us donned stinger suits, which protect you from jelly fish. The suits are skin tight and keep no secrets. Someone said that they are effective because jelly fish are too busy laughing at you to sting you.
While trying to get into my stinger suit, I nearly pulled a muscle and eventually laughed so hard that I cried. My wife, son, and daughter heard me grunting and groaning while trying to get into my suit. After much effort, I finally had both legs covered, but I could only fit one arm in the suit. And, the suit was so tight that I could not stand up straight. Finally, I came out of the bathroom bent over and pleading for help. My wife tried to pull the suit over my shoulder to insert my second arm, but it would not budge. At that point, I looked at my ten-year-old daughter, Rachel, standing quite comfortably beside me in a very baggy stinger suit. Then, I realized that we had switched suits. By this point, I was doubled over laughing with tears streaming down my face. After much effort to get out of Rachel’s suit (I’m not sure if it was harder to get into the tiny suit or to get our of it…), I put on my adult-size suit and was ready to snorkel.
It was glorious! I have been snorkeling in a number of places, and I enjoy it very much. But, this was spectacular! The colors were vibrant, the varieties of coral amazing, and the fish plentiful. I loved floating at the surface, silently watching fish and looking at the beautiful coral. Just then, I experienced the highlight of snorkeling — and indeed of my time at the Great Barrier Reef.
I was all alone when I spotted a Green Sea Turtle feeding about two meters (six feet) below me in the water. I spent a long time watching the turtle feed below the surface and come up for air. I thought, “I wish Lisa, Jonathan, and Rachel could see this.” I looked around and, thankfully, spotted them. They swam over, and together, all four of us spent a long time watching this amazing creature.
For me, the highlight was not only being so close to such a beautiful animal but also sharing this experience with my wife, son, and daughter. I thought, “This experience — and these moments together — have been worth all the effort to get here.”