Cairns (pronounced Kens), is a tropical town located at the Northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia. People walk around in bikinis and boardshorts, cyclists greet tourists “have a g’day!” and several locals fetch their grocery barefoot– it’s a laidback place to say the least. How can it now be, when its main attraction is the esplanade, where they’ve built a public pool fronting the sea because it is unsafe to swim there due to the crocodiles! It’s a legit problem they face in Cairns, just like in Manila, except here, crocodiles figuratively come to mean greedy, corrupt politicians. At least they’ve got theirs to run to over there!
Cairns has become quite the tourist town where everything’s walking distance: the local Walgreens to source our hotel snacks, the Post office, museums and aquariums, the night market with souvenir needs and massage services. This is because Cairns is the gateway to The Great Barrier Reef.
Having read about this bountiful, large living structure that can even be seen from outer space, I’ve been excited to see it since I was younger and was taking up scuba diving. I never got to pursue my license though, but I wasn’t worried because I knew I’d see a lot even just snorkelling.
Mom and I got on the pier at 7:30AM and were redirected to a terminal that felt like an airport with the number of counters that tourists had to line up for. Since it’s a popular destination it’s highly recommended that you book at least 2 days in advanced and just show the claim stub at the ticket counter, in exchange for your boarding passes. The lady at the counter warned us that it would be a windy day out and to take the anti-dizziness tablets being offered on the boat.
Indeed, it was a wild and bumpy ride. The boat crew would go around offering sick bags to those feeling nauseous. The hour long journey to Green Island felt like a long roller coaster ride with nothing but blue, bumpy waves surrounding us. When we finally got there, we were greeted by a strong stench of feces– only to discover that the culprit is the biggest crocodile in captive, doing shows on the island. Wanting to avoid the foul smell, we didn’t bother seeing the croc and walked around the island instead.
There’s not much to see here, though; it’s just an islet full of trees and shrubs with a lined path on its perimeter and a beach that wasn’t advisable to swim in after a certain point. I did see some people snorkelling on another side, but I think you have to rent out the gear and we only had limited time before going back on the boat again for the outer reef.
The lot of us tourists made a long queue back to our boat for another hour long ride to the outer reef. We docked in the middle of the ocean, right next to a pontoon, which is a strong, solid platform with no legs so as not to destroy the surrounding corals. Here, we were treated to a delicious lunch buffet with a wide variety of delicious food. I loved the Japanese curry, ratatouille, fresh prawns, creamy potatoes and there was even cold cuts and cheese!
Because we wanted to digest our food first before going into the water, we were glad to have the option to explore on the semi-submarine, especially for mom who isn’t a swimmer. We appreciated our first-ever submarine ride, so we could go deeper than you normally would in snorkelling. There was a tour guide who was telling us about the reef and its inhabitants, in 3 different languages even, for all the tourists to understand.
There were a bunch of corals, but I do admit that I was expecting to see more variety of fish. The moment we got back on the pontoon, I slipped into my wetsuit and jumped into the water with my mask and flippers on. I looked beneath and was surprised that there still weren’t much fish, and some parts of the ocean floor were bald with no corals. I did see a baby shark and a school of yellow-finned fish, and enjoyed my time in the water so I could distance myself from the crowd of tourists.
I could only hope though, that the reason we didn’t see much on the outer reef is that they’re protecting majority of the Great Barrier Reef from tourism. Although, some articles do claim that the reef is dying. This is largely due to coal mining activities, surprisingly being allowed by the Australian government, and abnormally high ocean temperatures which causes coral bleaching.
Hopefully, 2018 will be the year where we see more shifts into renewable energy, and advancements in technology will help restore the environment. We can do our part in reversing the effects of climate change and global warming, no matter how small it may seem. If there’s one thing I resolve to do this year and onwards, it’s to reduce and refuse single-use plastic. 1 Million bottles per minute are being purchased throughout the day, so if we could just bring our own tumblers or dine in instead of take out, this would be of big help already. Let’s not wait before it’s too late.