Saturday, October 19, 2013

Wednesday, 10/16/13 Great Barrier Reef

Wednesday, 10/16/13 Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the wonders of the world and a World Heritage Site.  Stretching half the length of eastern Australia, it is so large that it can be seen from outer space.  The ship arrived in Port Douglas, the nearest point to the Great Barrier Reef, and it had arranged to take passengers out to the reef through Quicksilver Reef Cruises, a tour company specializing in taking tourists out to the reef.  Quicksilver took passengers to Agincourt Reef, located on the outer edge of the reef where the reef runs parallel to the Continental Shelf.  The water is quite clear at this point, allowing good viewing of the reef.

Port Douglas is a tender port, as it has no pier.  The tour began at Port Douglas, which meant that passengers must first tender into the dock and then transfer to the large Quicksilver catamaran for the trip out to the reef.  A lot of time was wasted in this process, and the tour did not begin until 9:30 a.m.  Coffee, tea, and punch were available on the Quicksilver catamaran, and videos were shown regarding the reef system.  The trip out to the reef was approximately 90 minutes; the day was beautiful -- sunny and bright, with calm seas.  Sometimes the seas can be rough, and many passengers suffer sea-sickness; however, the calm seas left everyone feeling good.  The catamaran was quite large, with two inside air-conditioned cabins and an upper, open-air deck; approximately 250 passengers were on board.

Quicksilver operated a large pontoon platform at the reef, with several covered decks.  A very nice buffet lunch was set up just after arrival, and passengers separated into their various activities -- snorkeling, scuba diving, helicopter rides, or taking a semi-submersible boat to view the largest section of the reef.  I chose the semi-submersible because it offered the largest viewing section.  Snorkeling and scuba offered only a very small viewing space, and I wanted to see as much as possible.  The semi submersible boat offered viewing about six feet under the surface, with views down to more than 25 feet because of the clear water.  Each boat ride was approximately 30 minutes, and I took three of the boat rides, the most possible during the time we were at the pontoon.

The views were spectacular, with views of dozens of reef and fish species.  Some of the reef types were colorful, while others were more brown in color; fish were of many colors as well, some spectacular.  The tour guide said that fish viewing was not the best at this time because it was low tide, but still it was great.  He pointed out a very large moray eel, which he said he had seen only one other time in the past six years that he had been at the reef.  He was very good, pointing out the various types of reef and fish as the boat slowly made its way around in the reef, taking care not to touch the reef.  I took hundreds of photos, although they were taken through the glass window of the boat, and they may not turn out to be very good.  At the end of the time at the pontoon, I felt that I had truly experienced the reef.

The ride back to the port was uneventful.  At the port, I took a photo of several of the Princess staff, and one man ran to be included in my photo.  He noted my Nikon camera, and he joked that he would not have run to be included in the photo if I had a Canon.  On the way back out to the ship, we talked, and he was a member of the security staff on the ship.  He had been in police work for 30 years, and after he retired, he joined Princess as a security officer.  He had a Nikon D-800, and he said that he had previously had the D-700 like mine.  He said that his wife worked for British Air, and that next year, she would be able to spend up to 120 days on the ship with him.  Steve was his name, and he lived in the southwestern part of England.

In the evening, I read for a while and went to sleep early.

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