Day 20 of our cruise.
Cairns is located about 1,700 km (1,056 mi) from Brisbane, and about 2,700 km (1,678 mi) from Sydney by road. It is a popular travel destination because of its tropical climate and serves as a starting point for people wanting to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
During World War II, Cairns was used by the Allied Forces as a staging base for operations in the Pacific. Combat missions were flown out of Cairns in support of the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. The humid climate and dense rain forest also provided ideal conditions for training US Marines preparing to go to Vietnam.
Our focus was very much on our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. The giant reef was proclaimed a marine park by the Australian government in 1975, and placed on the World Heritage list in 1981, becoming the biggest World Heritage area in existence. We embarked on of the many large catamarans for our 90 minute journey out to the reef, where there was a pontoon moored over the reef. We took to the water immediately, with mask, snorkel and flippers and spent the next hour or so marveling at the huge variety of fish and multi-coloured corals, from greens, to yellows to purples and blues. This was definitely a tick on the bucket list!
However, we were warned about the possibility of encountering box jellyfish (“stingers”), which are quite prevalent between December and April, and whose sting can be fatal. We were assured that there had been no incidents recently, and the pontoon had a medical facility – just in case!
There was also a semi-submersible and a glass bottomed boat available to visitors, both of which we explored to get the complete experience. It was certainly a day to remember.
We now have four sea days to look forward to until we get to our next destination – Darwin.