Monday, December 17, 2018

Around Australia - Sea Princess - Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Finally! The day for my excursion to the Great Barrier Reef had arrived. I've been wanting to snorkel here for years and my chance has finally arrived. (Jerry stayed on board the Sea Princess. Snorkeling is not his 'thing' and, enjoying a quiet ship like he does, just relaxed on board.)

For this excursion, I booked the one offered by Princess. Two reasons for this. One is that the timing of our port hours made it very difficult, if not impossible, to book with another company. And second, being 1 1/2 hrs away by water, wanted to know Princess was in charge in case something happened ... like an engine on our boat quitting.
Looking from our boat across the reef to another excursion boat.

Well, the day couldn't have been more perfect. The weather was clear with bright sunshine. Minimal wind. Unbelievably calm seas. Lots of coral. Lots of fish.

The excursion started at 10 am and 100 people left the Sea Princess in a long line to walk to the boat. Although it can hold 300 people, Princess limits the excursion to 100 so there was plenty of room to move around and spread out gear. The boat was Reef Magic and the crew was friendly and helpful.

No shortage of food for the guests: morning pastries, buffet lunch, afternoon pastries and fresh fruit, tea, coffee, water. There were optional things to buy, like if you wanted to do a dive or if you wanted the picture taken of you while snorkeling. 

I had my own snorkel and mask. I used the fins and life jacket provided by the boat company. The anchorage was set up very nicely, with two lines off the back corners of the boat at an outward angle. This was the safe area to swim in. Staff acted as lifeguards on the top and lower decks.

My lunch plate
Once I was geared up, I was off the back and into the water. I snorkeled for about an hour and then took part in a very nice lunch buffet. Then I was back in the water for about another 1/2 hour.

At this point, the tide had changed and I found that if I just floated while watching the fish, I was getting pushed away from the boat. I'm an OK swimmer but decided to play it smart and return to the boat.

But once I got back to the boat I decided to do something I've wanted to do for a long time. I stripped off my gear and just slipped into the water, unencumbered, to just swim. It was great!  A little bit of the crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, and floating. With actively moving, the tide wasn't a problem. I loved it and looking back, should have stayed in the water longer.

Glass bottom boat
For those that didn't want to (or couldn't) snorkel, there was a glass bottom boat. As a last minute decision on my part, I decided to go for a ride. Pretty cool!

We left the reef area about 4:00 pm, heading back to the Sea Princess. The day couldn't have been better. 

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