I put off talking about the Great Barrier Reef to the very last of the northern Australia portion. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I just wanted to savor it in my head a little bit. The people who say visiting the Great Barrier Reef is on their bucket list definitely have their lives in order. Second, I cannot access any pictures from the trip. We took an underwater camera. And, it is jammed closed. I have tried (even forcefully prying) it open, but it won't budge. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.
The Great Barrier Reef requires boat trip as the reef is offshore. For a family of 5, this is not cheap. I planned a day trip to Green Island, an inner island. We took the rather rough ferry out. I rarely become sea sick, but many people on the trip did. The crew had an ample supply of barf bags to pass out. I thought my husband was a little green, but he recovered by looking outside. The island itself also has a Rainforest. But, we were most interested in the reef. We had an early afternoon glass bottom boat tour, so I wanted to snorkel right away. Let me say this, not everybody can snorkel. It is not a natural act to breathe through a tube. You can be fooled into thinking you are drowning I only brought 3 snorkel sets (one for my 5 year old) because I didn't think he would really be able to snorkel anyway. He couldn't. And unfortunately, you needed to get a fair distance out to be able to see the reef. My oldest and my husband were not the fondest of snorkeling. They were much more content to explore the beach. My 12 year old and I were good snorkel buddies. We traded the camera back and forth. The person with the camera was taking photos, and the other would tap the camera person when something interesting was visible. This was often. There were so many colorful fish. It was enchanting. The one thing to know, the water filters out most of the color of the reef. So, the reef appears to be light gold or tan, not the enhanced images you often see. It did not make it any less beautiful.
Unfortunately, we had to pack up to grab a bite to eat before the glass bottom boat tour. As we approached the beach, there was quite a crowd surrounding my 5-year old. People (Japanese) were lining up to take their photo with him. You see, there is a huge Asian tourist business in Northern Australia. But, my son is clearly not Asian. He has eyes the color of the sky. When you look at him, that is all you notice. And, the Japanese noticed. He was a novelty to them. So, I suspect his image is on some Japanese social sharing site.
We stopped to get lunch at a little cafe. As we were sitting there (and I mentioned this in a prior post), some of the birds decided to rob my daughter of her food. It still amuses me to think of it.
We went on the glass bottom boat tour. It was well worth it for those members of the family that didn't excel at snorkeling. They were able to see the reef and fish but in a more controlled fashion.
After the boat tour, it was raining, so we just decided to walk through the rainforest for the remainder of our trip. It was small compared to the ones on the mainland, but the walk was easy. We returned on the boat drained, but contented.
The trip was so much fun that we decided to go again. Yes, it was expensive. But, come on, how many times do you make it to Northern Australia? I picked Fitzroy Island for the next trip. If I had to do it over, I would have picked Fitzroy first.... and worn water shoes. You see, Fitzroy doesn't have many sandy beaches (although with a little hike, you can reach Nudey beach which was pretty). The beach where you dock is made up of dead coral. This does not feel good to walk on. And, the day we went was rather windy, so the waves were in full force. My daughter and I were the only ones from our group to attempt snorkeling. But, the reef is really close to the shoreline. I was able to have my son walk a little into the water and look through the mask at the coral. Kind of like snorkeling but controlled. My daughter and I kept getting blown back toward shore when we snorkeled (which is a good thing when I think about it). The biggest positive is that with the reef so close, we actually could (at times depending on wave swell) see vibrant colors. There were some times that I thought a wave swell was going to drop me down enough that I would touch the reef. I kept sucking in my stomach. My daughter was doing the same.
I came out of the water. And, there looked like there was a stream of pollution in the water. It got near me, then swerved around me in a circular radius. It was a school of silvery fish. Thousand of them. They were beautiful.
We also had a glass bottom boat tour here. I liked it better because we also saw sea turtles. Seeing sea turtles in their natural habitat was well beyond my expectations.
We were able to take out these little boats (like a kayak, but flat). It was part of the island package I purchased. I took my 5 year old for a couple of tours around the bay. There was a water trampoline, but I refused to take my son. It was just too windy. I thought he might get blown into the ocean, and I wasn't taking any chances. My daughters both spent time on the trampoline (having swum to it). A very nice lunch was also included in the package.
So, Green Island is much more commercial (many more people, but sandy beaches). But, I like Fitzroy Island better. The workers had fewer people, so were much more interactive. And, the value was much better for what was included. I just wish I had known to buy water shoes to protect my feet.