Some say that the Australian winter is the best time for a holiday in Queensland and after a trip to Cairns and Port Douglas last year I can vouch that the weather during July and August can be lovely.
If you’re planning a trip, then now’s the time to think about booking accommodation and flights. So if you want to get away from the winter squalls and storms that lash Western Australia during winter, then here’s an idea that might just have you running to the travel agent.
The Great Barrier Reef and Port Douglas
There’s an air of expectancy. Port Douglas is just coming alive. Doors are opening, the pungent smell of coffee wafts past my nose as we pass a small restaurant that’s beginning to fill with early morning breakfasters, and colourful wares from street-side shops tumble onto the tree-lined pavements.
Our focus however, is not on coffee or gift-buying on this bright sparkly late winter morning, but on adventure, specifically on the high seas out in the Indian Ocean.
Yes, we are going for a trip on the Great Barrier Reef, which is a World Heritage Site and it’s apparently visible from space, not that you’ll ever get me up in a spaceship.
Off to Agincourt!
Down at the waterfront everything’s a-buzz. People are milling around waiting to jump onto boats going here there and everywhere, it’s a dynamic scene and a prickle of excitement courses through my tummy for today we shall be out all day visiting the outer reef, way out on the Agincourt Reef and snorkeling around spots known as Totem, Castle Rock and The Maze.
The boat staff are slick, professional, organized. You get the feeling they’ve done all this a hundred times before, yet still they inject excitement into their voices which transmutes into a vibrant energy that sets our eyes alight and our hearts thumping just a little faster.
Our boat, The Poseidon is large, it holds about 100 people, but today it’s not so busy and definitely not crowded. Soon after the safety checks and head counts we’re off, speeding towards the horizon as Port Douglas and it’s picturesque old boat house, the tall palm trees and long sandy beaches recede quickly from view.
There’s coffee and muffins, a fabulous buffet lunch with heaps of fresh fresh prawns, and afternoon tea, but it’s the snorkeling that really steals the show.
I had anticipated that the Reef may be damaged, that there might be signs of rubbish or worse still plastic bags – well you’ve heard the stories, haven’t you. However, it was pristine and the Reef looked fabulous. We saw huge clam shells and bright coral along with a multitude of colourful fish.
The sea was a little chilly, but I didn’t know if it was excitement or the water that was making me shiver and despite my lips turning blue I was reluctant to get out of the sea each time one of the marine biologist rounded us up.
To swim with turtles and Pirate fish, be surrounded by shoals of colourful zebra fish that swim right up to your mask, and explore underground cliffs and canyons as far as our snorkeling gear would allow was fantastic.
8 Tips to make your Great Barrier Reef experience great
Queensland winters are a good time for snorkeling and diving because you’re less likely to get stung by jellyfish, particularly the deadly ones which inhabit the waters during summertime.
Snorkelling is fun, although classified as an extreme sport. However, your fins and the buoyancy of the sea keep you afloat much easier than swimming say in a swimming pool.
The sea, despite the publicity photos, is not always calm. It can get choppy, especially on the way to the outer reef, so take a sea sick pill if you need one.
Many people say the Great Barrier Reef is over publicized and not what they were expecting. It is not a scene from Disney’s Nemo, and you are no Little Mermaid. Perhaps you will find less damaged reefs and less populated tours in more remote places in the world, but for an experience that is both accessible and easy to book, this has to be an amazing day out on one of the wonders of the world.
The Queensland sun is harsh. Wear a rash vest and cover up with suntan lotion every 4 hours. Don’t forget your sunnies for when you’re on the boat. Oh, and don’t forget to slap lotion on the back of your legs – there were people who on the return trip had lobster red back thighs because your thighs, calves and your back are most exposed most when you’re snorkeling. I kept well covered from the sun in a rashie and sarong.
The tour boats offer lots of food. You won’t go hungry, but you will be hungry with all that fresh air and swimming. If the sea is rough (and despite all those photos of mill pond blue Queensland seas, it can be choppy at times) then hold back on the food and drink lots of water.
Take a towel and definitely take a change of clothes for the return journey. Everything gets wet, the floors are wet, the seats get wet, and on the return you may feel cold (I did) and a wet towel isn’t enough to warm your shoulders up against a brisk sea breeze.
Most of all Have Fun! This is one of the adventures of a lifetime.
Who’s been – Who would love to go?