DAY 13 – Port Douglas / Reef
This morning, we grabbed a light breakfast, and walked to the Wharf for our day on the Great Barrier Reef. Steve and I were excited, and Sky was a bit anxious, since it would be her first scuba diving experience ever! We checked in at the Quicksilver office, and then hopped aboard the Poseidon for our trip out to the Agincourt Ribbon Reef. The check-in process was smooth and organized, as was the paperwork on board, considering they had several groups to cater to – snorkelers, certified divers, and those trying out diving for the first time.
As we motored for about 1 ½ hours out to the Reef, each group was briefed on the plan for the day, and set up with their equipment. Meanwhile, snacks and beverages were constantly on offer (except hot drinks were only available when the boat wasn’t moving). I was SO glad I took seasickness medication…once underway, it was a very rocky trip, and there were a LOT of people on board who weren’t in top condition. The staff of the Poseidon was top notch and professional, as they catered to everyone’s needs.
Steve and I did two dives before lunch, and were in a group of 8 divers with our guide, Zoe leading the way. She gave excellent briefings, so we knew what to expect and what life we might see underwater, and she was very attentive to the group through the entire process. On the first dive at Castle Rock, we immediately encountered a large, friendly grouper who seemed to enjoy divers petting and photographing her. Partway through the dive, we looked up to see our little “Sky-fish” swimming above us! She looked perfectly comfortable, all anxiety gone as she kicked along and waved to us. The rest of the dive was really nice…classic Great Barrier Reef with nice coral and lots of life.
Our second dive was around Barracuda Bommie, which was even more like swimming in an aquarium, as the sun shone through for a few moments, and schools of fish swarmed above and around us. We had planned to meet up with Sky and her instructor on the other side of the bommie, so we could take a family photo, and the plan worked perfectly!
We enjoyed a full buffet lunch on board the boat – various salads, sandwich meats with rolls and condiments, and desserts. Hot tea, coffee and cocoa helped us warm up, since it was pretty cool and “blowy” outside. We just relaxed on the boat during the third snorkel/dive of the day.
The boat ride back to Port Douglas was pretty rough again, so everyone was glad to finally get to the wharf and step on solid ground.
We freshened up back at the hotel, and were picked up just before 7pm for our special dining experience, Flames of the Forest. Our shuttle made several stops at other hotels to pick people up before we reached the dining site, about 10 minutes outside of Port Douglas in the midst of the rainforest. The walk from the shuttle to the pre-dinner site for drinks and canapes was lined with fire torches and tiny white lights draped from the trees. As we were handed a glass of champagne, we looked around to see huge candelabras with dripping candles. Canapes included chicken satay skewers, crocodile mousse on cucumber, and goat cheese with fig. We received an aboriginal welcome from one of the two indigenous brothers who hosted the evening, and he escorted us to the dining site, where we listened to the other brother playing the didgeridoo. We were served 4 courses family style, with several dishes placed in the center of our 8-person table. The dishes were delicious and varied, including prawns, kangaroo, reef fish, chicken, and beef…all accompanied by Australian wine and beer. The brothers periodically came out to play traditional music and tell aboriginal stories, bringing their culture to life for us. It was a special final evening for our time in Australia…we didn’t want it to end!
DAY 14 – Journey Home
We finished up our packing this morning, and had our final breakfast at the Little Larder across the street from Villa San Michele. The food was delicious, and the patio setting was really pleasant.
After checking out of our accommodations, we piled everything into the Corolla and started the drive back to Cairns Airport. I was finally starting to really appreciate the roundabouts…they just make so much sense! Wish we had more at home.
Dropping the car was easy, just park and leave the key and paperwork in a box. We were running later than planned, so in a bit of a rush to check in and complete the Australia exit paperwork and get through customs and security. Quite a process! Finally on the plane of our journey home…wishing it were Groundhog Day, so we could do it all over again. Guess that just means another trip in our future, with new and exciting experiences in different areas (and maybe repeating some of our favorites, too)!