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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Well the bags are packed again and it's time to run the gauntlet of transfer to the airport, bags checked in (see if I can sneak any more in to baggage allowance otherwise I'll need to start offloading some of my clothes!) 
Well I'm quite sad to be leaving this area. Mollie and I have had a fantastic time and had the opportunity of seeing some of the best sights in the world. 
When we arrived on the Wednesday after driving from Tannum Sands I was really tired so Thursday  was literally a wee wander round Airlie Beach & then back to the pool. Airlie Beach itself is just a beach side town with loads of shops and lots of streets with accommodation. The accommodation range from YHA backpackers type stuff to 5* Peppers resort. We were lucky and got a room in 4* Coral Sea Hotel which is lovely. Last minute.com or late rooms is proving invaluable. Originally we  were only going to stay for 2 nights but that has extended into 5. This  area really calls for a decent stop in order to take everything in. And there is no way I was driving back down.
From here you can book all your trips so a look in the hotel foyer reveals about 20 different excursions you can do. 
The main ones are out to the Great Barrier Reef and round the Whitsundays. so the Reef was booked for the Friday and then Whitehaven beach and Hamilton Island for the Sunday.  I booked with a company called Fanta Sea. They were the most popular and good reputation (they also offered a kids activity club on the boat which I hate to say swung the decision!) 
The trip out to the Great Barrier Reef is a very long one. Made even longer when one is focusing on the horizon and trying not to think about the boat moving sideways and up and down all at the same time. I did spend the middle section of the journey with my head round the side of the boat getting the breeze in my face. Mollie on the other hand wanted to go inside to watch the films about the Great Barrier Reef. A quick chat with one of the staff (whilst focusing on the horizon AND getting a breeze on my face) and Mollie had her wish. I must admit if I could sit and watch the DVDs about all the life in the GBR I would have too but that wasn't going to happen without consequences. The last half hour or so was alot calmer. Then before you knew it the pontoon we were docking beside came into view. 
This pontoon thing was brill. It had a wee semi submersible submarine so you went down into it and you could see through the glass bottom as it moved through the water. It also had a large glass viewing area at the end of the boat which meant you could watch the fishes and snorkelers and see if there was anything large coming their way. There was a slide at the end of the boat which was certainly not for the faint  hearted. It went almost straight down but dropped you at least 20feet from the water, a sun deck on the top of the pontoon for sun bathers and a paddling bit at the side which kids could happily sit in and watch the fishes swim underneath them. It was cool. We did everything (but not the slide! I was scared in case I lost some items of clothing!!) 
I decided to spend time with Mollie first doing things together and talking about the fishes. So we started with the submarine. Her wee face was like "wow"! It was cool. The submarine took us along the edge of the reef before it drops off so we saw lots of fishes, clams and different types of coral. The man driving it and giving us commentary, Cameron was a marine biologist who was employed by Fanta Sea. What a cool job! 
Once we had had a lovely BBQ lunch on the boat I put Mollie into the kids club, put my stinger suit on and jumped into the GBR. The water was really clear. You could see the effects of sun bleaching and the warmer temperatures. A lot of the coral on the top has died but you can see new stuff growing. There are loads of different kinds too. Whilst I'm snorkelling around I'm aware of a wee speed boat zooming around. It's one of the Fanta Sea staff just checking on each of us. Funnily enough the next thing that comes into my mind is a scene from jaws and I find it hard to get out of my head! I'm on a time limit so I have to come out after 45 minutes to give myself time to shower off and change. As I'm walking back to the top deck with Mollie I hear the news that two reef sharks and a sting ray had just passed through. I'm not sure if to be happy or sad that I missed them. Funnily enough when I was diving last year we saw black tipped sharks all the time and there was no concern. Here in Oz, there is constant hype about sharks. From the life guards and helicopter patrols on the beach you can't help but have that 'fear'. Maybe it's because there are more attacks here. I don't know.
The afternoon passed too quickly and before we knew it we were packing up stuff and on our return journey back to Shute Harbour. Mollie wanted to sit inside and colour in so I did think it would be fine. Nope, I lasted 10mins of reaching open water and then I was outside. It got fairly choppy for a while. Anyway, we ended up outside with Mollie sat on my knee and falling asleep for the remainder of the journey which was fine. I had a chance to watch the ocean turn into islands and then eventually mainland. It was gorgeous and certainly a moment to remember.  The transport was waiting for us when we came off so it was a quick 15mins back to the resort. It had been a stunning day. Upon reaching the hotel mollie wanted a swim in the hotel pool which i was more than happy to do also. The salt doesnt half dry your skin out. Thankfully Saturday was a rest day! 
Disaster!!! Saturday I woke and I couldn't move. I had pulled all the muscles in my lower back. I'm not sure if it was from the boat journey or from the jumping into the sea or more than likely carrying Mollie round a boat, lifting her so she could see over the edge of the boat and then having her asleep on my knee for nearly 2hours! Yep that would just about do it. Painkillers and ibuprofen did the trick. I did have an offer of a massage from one of the male guests but I declined! I wasn't sure how I was going to fair on the boat journey on Sunday. I didn't want to cancel but I also didn't want to end up in agony. Just needed to get a good nights sleep. Hmmm. 
There was a wedding on at the hotel on the Saturday which Mollie and I watched. The location is truly stunning. The ocean, the palm trees, the wee jetty where they had their reception. Many similarities to my wedding. I remember watching the wedding in Antigua on the beach and getting upset. This was no different. I don't know why I do it to myself. Mollie wanted to see it I suppose. It was a lovely wedding. I would give anything to go back to that time but I know it won't happen, ever. Will I ever marry again? Do I want to go through it again? At the moment I would say a resounding no.
The party went on into the night which was fair enough but by 1am most guests had disappeared. However, one guest had booked in for the night - directly across from myself. 2am she was continuing to sing and swear so a couple of trips to the night porter and by 2.20 it was quiet at last. Eeek we were up in 4hours.

I'm going to give it a break there! 

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