Rain and Reef Experience

Escaping the Pommie winter, we flew into Cairns and of course I wanted to get straight out for a look around the Great Barrier Reef. Never mind the fact it would still be there for another thousand kms or more as we travelled south, there's no time like the present. So, with the Queensland sun beating down, we booked ourselves onto Noah's Ark for a daytrip to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. Little did we know how apt our choice of vessel was to be.

Later that day the sky darkened ominously and by the evening it was raining, not drizzling or a bit of a shower, but a heavy incessant downpour. Ah, so this'll be the tropical rainy season we thought to ourselves as we huddled away from the sodden sides of our tent.

It was still chucking it down the next day as we crawled out for our big day out on the reef. By the time we reached the marina the rain had paused, but we could sense it was merely mustering its forces for later. So, two by two of course, we boarded Noah's Ark.

The sea was rough and pretty soon it started to rain again and then it was chucking it down and everywhere around us was a wet shade of grey. It was pretty grim believe me, and we're from England.

It only needed one to start and everyone who'd been feeling a little queasy was playing technicolour waterfalls over the side. Are we having fun yet?

Two and a half hours later we pulled up at Micaelmas Cay (Blimey, Aus is big isn't it? We could have crossed the English Channel, bought a stack of cheap French plonk, had a croissant and been ready for the boat back in less time!). The rain had taken a tea break and so summoning up our enthusiasm we all got out of our wet clothes and into our dry wet suits.

There were only a few certified divers among us so we waited while Noah's two instructors ran most of the others through a free introduction to scuba. Only a few took up the challenge of an actual dive though so my better half, who'd come ready to give dive a hesitant go, got Marty (one of the instructors) all to herself. So with me and another certified diver tagging along we made up two buddy pairs. We did an easy shallow dive around some of Michaelmas' fringing reef. Once he'd sorted out her buoyancy and held her hand for a bit Marty was able to let Linda swim around with us and enjoy the experience. I was very impressed with how comfortably she took to diving despite not usually being confident in water. She later explained she'd felt less sea sick under the water than bobbing around on top of it!

The visibility wasn't up to usual standards perhaps but at around 10-15 metres was crystal in relation to most of my previous experience. Marty gave us a great little tour pointing out sights like the dangerous fire coral and demonstrating the reflexes of the colourful giant clams.

The continuing rough weather prompted Noah's skipper to call off the trip further out to Hastings, which was a well received decision when everyone heard how much extra it would add to our journey time. So I buddied up with another diver and we hopped in with Marty on a second slightly more adventurous tour of Michaelmas' fringing reef.

This time we found excellent dense formations of coral and were able to dive through colourful gorges and swim-throughs. We noticed much more fish life and I got my first sight of the gorgeous Moon Wrasse that have become a bit of a favourite. We also swam over an especially large giant clam with beautiful colouration. As we headed back towards the boat we encountered more and more fish including some large Maori Wrasse. It soon became clear why when we noticed them feeding close to the surface. So we sat back and spent our safety stop watching the fish enjoying our luncheon left overs.

We returned to Cairns to find the rain still in full swing so we figured we'd probably spent the day in the right place. No amount of rain could put a dampener on a trip aboard Noah's Ark!

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