We had planned our trip to Port Douglas for 2 nights and 1 full day for our Great Barrier Reef excursion. For whatever reason, this was at the top of my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember so I nearly couldn’t sleep with all of the excitement. We woke up around 6:30 am to pack up and grab some food before our planned adventure. Right as we were about to walk out of our room for breakfast, we got a phone call from an AUS number…because of the cyclone weather, our tour had been cancelled…
Naturally we were not very happy. We went down to the lobby to have them call the company to see if they’d maybe delay and/or run later and the story we got was that they go out all the time in rain, but today would be “vile”. We started to plan to stay another day and push everything back a day so we could go tomorrow (including our big plans for Sydney) and decided to head into town for breakfast, intentionally choosing to go to the pier to see what was going on.
We went into the store-front for our booked tour and they explained that their tour only takes about 30 people so the tiny boat can’t handle the giant swells. They were planning on running tomorrow but as with weather, you can never be 100% certain. We were advised to speak with another company that runs a much bigger tour (up to 450 instead of 30) and that their boat would probably be running today. We went to gather the additional information and decided to go with the bigger company today despite the cyclone-esque conditions that would severely inhibit visibility when we got out there and make for a very rough ride on the 90-minute boat journey to the reef (note: we later realized that of the 40 daily tours out of this pier, this was the only one that went today).
The cyclone can’t stop the HoneyMeyer’s one and only day to explore this natural wonder of the world.
The smartest decision we’ve made in a while was to immediately get on the boat and grab some sea-sickness pills. There were only 100 people on the trip (from the potential 450 capacity though 250 had booked for the day before weather cancellations) and I’d bet that at least ½ got sick. The ride was very choppy and Debbie and I moved around the boat 3-4 times to find a place where no one was vomiting as we didn’t really want to smell/see/hear it.
The boat (finally) pulled up to its docking station and the waves calmed down for us all. The platform has been there for nearly 40 years and had a variety of activities—from a nice lunch buffet to an underwater viewing station to a scuba station and a glass bottom submerged boat, there were countless ways that you could explore and experience the reef.
Debbie and I got our lycra suits on (for jelly-fish and sun protection) and headed into the rough waters. While we don’t have any pictures from underwater, it was certainly the most fun we’ve ever had snorkeling. The size of the reef (we were just at one small area but it’s bigger than Japan and New Zealand for reference) was eye-opening and with every turn came new coral and fish for us to look at. We got out after 20-minutes or so to eat and go on the glass bottom boat where we went further out and got a nice underwater encounter with an additional set of items that you couldn’t see from the platform snorkeling swimming zone.
We went out another 2 times (3 times total) into the water and on the last snorkel Debbie spotted a sea turtle. It was super exciting (though we didn’t see any sharks) and we followed the turtle around for about 5 minutes. From just 5-feet away, we were watching as he/she made his/her way around the reef and was clearly the highlight of our trip.
Also, random shout-out, one of our avid blog readers will be receiving a post card sent from the Great Barrier Reef! The trip company had a mail-box drop out in the middle of the ocean so it seemed like a great opportunity to send some snail-mail to one of our readers…you’ll know who you are when you get it! So here’s a picture of me sending (mystery) you the post-card and we’re excited to see (mystery) your selfie when it arrives (we’re also very curious how long it will take to get from the middle of the ocean to the United States).
The boat ride back was thankfully ½ as rocky as the way out and between the drowsiness of the medicine and being exhausted from the long travel day/late night/early morning, we both enjoyed a quick nap. Upon arriving at the hotel, we rested up and did our second load of laundry before heading back downtown to grab a quick bite to eat. We didn’t explore the city too much but certainly can tell that this area thrives on the launch-point for the reef activities.
Next up is our return back to Cairns and first night in Sydney (going to try to go back a few hours early because of the cyclone storms we’ll see if we can sweet talk our way on)…
(Note- terrible Wi-Fi in Cairns, trying to upload the photos from the phone)