We decided to go to Cairns & stay for 5 nights for 2 reasons - 1)The Great Barrier Reef 2) The weather. The weather was supposed to be nice in Cairns, in fact, they call it the sunshine state. I had a bit of a tantrum when we landed to grey skies & pouring rain.
We had pre-booked our Great Barrier reef trip and we were going the day after we arrived so the weather was not looking good. However, in true Russ & Cat style we got really lucky and had the best weather Cairns had seen in 10 days. We went with a company called Reef Experience - not the cheapest at $185 each but since we were doing it why not do it in style? The boat was a huge catamaran and for the $185 you got snorkelling in 2 locations on the reef, an introductory scuba dive (even if you have never dived before), snorkelling gear & wet suit, breakfast, lunch & wine, cheese & crackers on the way home. On the way we had a talk from a marine biologist & a safety briefing for snorkelling - is that even required? I've snorkelled loads of times & never had a safety chat first, I never knew there were so many dangers. We also had the safety briefing for the scuba dive. I knew I would be a bit scared to do the dive but I was a lot more scared after the safety briefing. So many things to remember, so many things that could go wrong. I'll be honest, I was panicking a bit but still determined to do it. Luckily we were in the 1st group to do the dive, I don't think I'd have liked waiting for 45 minutes & getting more scared. We got our gear on and sat at the edge of the catamaran. We started breathing through the oxygen tank & I really felt like I wasn't getting enough oxygen. The really friendly & helpful instructor put my mind at rest by explaining that for the first 3 minutes your brain feels like it isn't getting enough oxygen but after 3 minutes the brain accepts it. He was spot on, after a few minutes it felt ok. You had to breathe quite slow like Darth Vader, felt weird. A girl that was on the first dive with us couldn't go through with it, after a couple of tries at going down she quit & went back to the boat. So, off the 3 of us went. We went 10 metres below for about 20 minutes. I found it really hard work, I was floating back up all the time, I had no control over where I was swimming so the instructor basically held my hand & pulled me around. We posed for photographs with a giant clam & various fish, the pictures are on a disc so we can't get them on here until we get home.
We both came out of the sea feeling quite euphoric & I was quite proud of myself because I was really scared.
After the dive & snorkelling I watched the other groups go diving - at least 1 person in each group was too frightened to do it.
We snorkelled in the same place as the scuba dive & after lunch in another section of the reef. We have never seen anything like it, the way the sun was hitting the coral made the reef shiny & sparkly, it was like being in Finding Nemo. Russell snorkelled for a lot longer than me - the sea was quite choppy & I got fed up of sea water going into my snorkel, that was unfortunate as Russ ended up swimming along side a white fin shark that was almost 2 metres long. Sounds scary but they aren't a threat to us - we're too big for them to eat.
This trip was definitely one of the best we have done but I guess it should be for the price.
You can't really go in the sea in the north of Australia (unless you travel to the Barrier Reef) due to jelly fish & crocodiles so Cairns has a free public swimming pool they call the lagoon. We went there 1 sunny day and we were impressed. It is a huge pool surrounded by grass, decking & fake sand. We sunbathed & swam in the freezing water. Yet another time we said we could live in Australia, it'd be great knowing after a week at work you can just pop to the lagoon and lay in the sun all weekend. In the park surrounding the lagoon they have free bbq's for the public to use, they really do live an outdoor life here.
Something else that keeps impressing us here is the wildlife. The birds are amazing, so colourful, unlike any birds you see at home. Even the seagulls are cute here. We spotted some bats one night - thousands of them so decided the following night we would seek them out & wait for them to exit the trees they lived in. It wasn't hard to find them, the trees were covered with upside down flying fox bats. These guys are huge with a wing span up to 1.6 metres. Strewth! So we watched the bats hanging in their trees & drank a bottle of $5 wine (I know - drinking again) and we waited. Finally they all flew out of the trees squeaking & squawking away. Bats are super cool.
So that was our last night in Cairns, topped of with a really cheap decent meal in a pub. Only $6.50 for a meal & a beer, that's the biggest bargain in Oz I reckon.