In the dry season, Cairns is a tropical paradise. But of course, we arrived in the middle of the wet season. It’s not that it’s not nice, it just takes a bit of getting used to. The air is stifling, the humidity is extreme and you are constantly sweating. Not only this, air conditioning is not as common as you might think and most establishments would rather have ceiling fans and swimming pools. You just have to get used to it, or spend all day in air-conditioned shopping malls!
You can swim in the lagoon, but avoid the ocean, as you may be stung by jelly fish, or worse, come eye to eye with a saltwater crocodile! Add sleeping in a van and it can be quite hard to keep a clear head up here in the tropics! Rather than sleeping, you are better off at a local watering hole, like Giligans or The Woolshed, where you can party all evening and hopefully catch some live music or even Gold Fish Racing!
Nonetheless, we were here for diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, so after a few nights at Njoy Hostel, where we were welcome to park our van and use their facilities, we walked down to the Marina early in the morning, ready for our sailing adventure.
There are so many boats you could choose from, but we found a great deal on the Rum Runner, a sailing boat that takes you to the outer reef for two days and stops at six different diving sites. You get to stay in cabins on the boat and live the life of an explorer! Our captain was a hardy, tattooed seaman, who was also an excellent chef. We were fed well, though at times it felt like he had got out of the wrong side of the bed. Still, he had a unique charm about him and he made sure we had a good adventure out at sea.
As soon as we dived into the water at the first dive site, we were blown away by the colours in the water and the rich sea life. We were surrounded by blue sea stars, giant clams whose rims glowed a phosphorescent aqua colour, sting rays hidden beneath the sand, clown fish, unicorn fish with long noses that looked a bit like Pinnochio, big, black sea cucumbers, coral that hides when you try to touch it and, most impressively, a black tipped reef shark and a green turtle! It was just magical.
On the first day, I took an introductory dive with Masa, one of the dive masters on the boat. I was a bit nervous at first, as I had to leap three metres off the boat with an oxygen tank on my back. Then, I had to get used to breathing underwater through the regulator and learn how to move up and down through the water, equalising along the way. But after about five minutes, I was able to relax and admire the beautiful sea life in the depths of the ocean. By the end, I felt very comfortable and wanted to stay down for longer. But all good things must come to an end sometime!
The next day, after a few more snorkel and dive sites, we sat on the deck as the boat took the three hour journey back to the harbour. With salty clothes and dreadlocks in our hair, it was a relief to be back on solid ground, after the adventurous journey!