In the following days I started to find my feet, and discover that now I was reliant on public transport that 'tours' were the only way to see the places I wanted to go - like Cape Tribulation. Backpacking is an expensive business, and very much a business opportunity for seemingly every shop in Cairns. There are more diving offers here than there are fish in the sea. I booked onto two tours - one, a sailing and snorkelling trip to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef, and the other, an overnight visit to Cape Tribulation - which is as far north as the sealed road goes in Australia. After that you need a 4wd.
The journey to Green Island took about 2 hours, in which time we got given snorkels and masks and got fitted out with fins. The divers had a briefing while the rest of us just chatted and enjoyed the view. Although the view was a bit worrying because the horizon was absolutely black! There was a cyclone sitting off the coast, which was the talk of the town. But I was assured the black stuff wouldn’t come anywhere near us!
When we arrived we were given stinger suits because of the risk of jellyfish in these warm waters, and off we went. I love snorkelling but this wasn’t one of my most relaxing experiences. The current was quite strong and I spent most of my time checking my position in relation to the boat. I did spot a fellow snorkeller with a shoal of fish around them and I started shouting in excitement through my snorkel. I got a snap of this, having bought the most ingenious underwater camera cover for a mere $45! It also offers sand protection so a very worthy investment I feel!
I saw some pretty cool bits of reef – ones that looked like brains, some were like trees, some opened and closed. But the best stuff was as I approached the boat towards the end. MASSIVE fish everywhere. I was surprised I coped! After I got out of the water someone said there was a shark. My highly unusual reaction (for me anyway) was to grab the nearerst mask and get straight back in. I just about saw it – a black-tipped reef shark. Totally harmless. I saw it again later, and a few more.
After lunch it was time to get a smaller boat over to Green Island. A real-life tropical island! On it there’s some sort of wildlife park, but I didn’t really want to add a further $20 to my bill and we didn’t have long on there so me and my new friends – Frankie, plus Pete and Kirsty - a couple from the south of England walked through the rainforest and back along the beach before going for a dip while we waited for the boat. The water was immense. I discovered I could just float. I guess I’ve never tried before because the sea I’ve been in has either been cold or had waves.
We caught the boat back to the big sailing boat where we had the chance for another half hour or so of snorkelling. On the way back to Cairns they turn the engines off and put the sails up. It was pretty choppy – apparently a great day for sailing. We had a glass of white wine and some cheese and biscuits and myself and Frankie felt our first shivers in the tropics! The weather was a bit rubbish and it was pretty cold on the deck, in wet swimming gear.
That night I only had a few hours to turnaround ready for my tour to Cape Trib and even though it wouldn't be a lot for some people, after such a delightfully different and, in a way, physically challenging day I was whacked!