We've been lodging at Sea Temple resort at Port Douglas, near Cairns, a common launching point for touring the Great Barrier Reef. I didn't realize that there were so many reefs comprising this so called "8th wonder of the world". This morning we flew with GBR Helicopters, to one of the reefs north of here, agincourt reef, where a helipad floats nearby, and a boat shuttles you to a large pontoon boat run by Quicksilver. What you have then is a man made island floating next to a reef where you can explore the underwater life. These are considered the outlying reefs which are quite shallow in comparison to the older, larger reefs.
The helicopter ride was only about 30 minutes on the way there. Passengers who were already on the pontoon when we arrived actually rode the boat there on a 1 1/2 hour cruise. Buffet lunch was served on deck, and you could eat at your leisure, with 3 different underwater activities going on around the platform.
Snorkeling was available in a roped off area above the coral, with stairs from the boat. You could get into a suit that helped protect your skin from thumb size creatures called stingers. We never saw any but this is apparently a problem sometimes. I suited up and found mask, breathing tube, and flippers. There were life vests and noodles to help you float. I didn't see much except some very common silver fish and schools of tiny fish.
We also tried the submersible- a boat with an underside that had windows in it. It was kind of like a submarine, as you sat under the surface, while the boat rode over the reef and fish food was thrown out to ensure we saw something. There were plenty of fish to see here. We saw a smaller shark, jellyfish, lots of colorful blue coral, and smaller fish of all colors.
Lastly, there was a viewing deck with a large picture window. From here you could watch the underwater activities of the snorkelers. It was really nice. You didn't have to get wet to enjoy the sealife.
We were on board only a couple of hours and then we returned by helicopter for one of the most amazing flights ever. It was a small 4 passenger helicopter. I sat in front and Abdul was behind me. For nearly one hour we flew over the reefs spotting rays, turtles, sharks, and schools of jumping fish. Our pilot landed on a small sandy reef island where the birds scattered at our visit. From there, we flew low over the Daintree rain forest skimming the eucalyptus trees. What an incredible sight to see these tall trees so closely. We went over the sugar cane fields and shoreline along the coast before landing again at Port Douglas. What an incredible day!
|You can see the ship docked nearby Agincourt reef- this is where the boat floats around so you can see fish|
|View from the helicopter as we head over Daintree rain forest|
|Our helicopter pilot briefly landed on this small sandy island and the birds scattered in all directions|
|The sandy island where the birds were flying|
|fish as seen from the snorkeling area with my cheap underwater camera|
|Me all suited up for a little snorkeling|