Monday, February 06, 2012

Frankland Islands, Great Barrier Reef

A trip to Cairns is never complete without a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, if you ask me. How could we miss out on the chance to snorkel or dive in the warm tropical waters of one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world? 

We marked the first day of the year with a day out at sea and this was made possible by the very enthusiastic and friendly people at Frankland Islands, whom we found through a random Google search for one-day snorkeling tours.

Our pre-booked shuttle bus came up to our doorstep and proceeded to other hotels for other tour participants. We were taken to board a ferry on Mulgrave River, where it drizzled for a bit. We were also asked to keep an eye out for crocs. Crikey!

We went out on deck for some fresh air when we were exiting the river mouth into the open waters of the ocean due to the choppiness of the water. We could even see the difference in water colour as it changed from fresh to salt water.

It was like a scene out of Shrek, as we kept asking, "Are we there yet?", when we clearly knew that we were not because we could not see any island in sight. But when we did see one, we were very thankful.

10km offshore and 45km south-east of Cairns, the Normanby Island is part of the Frankland Group National Park.

A short open water crossing later, we were on land again!

We changed and grabbed out snorkeling gear. My first time on a guided snorkeling tour - excited!

See that white float thingy? I was literally hugging that the entire time. It is not funny at all for someone who does not swim to be out in the ocean but I do not regret going on the tour. Despite the strong underwater current that made underwater visibility less than satisfactory, I still managed to see quite a wide variety of marine life. In the wild!

Thumbs up to our guide for pointing out all the different fishes, starfishes and corals. Apparently, it normally is a playground for giant turtles but we did not 'meet' any, unfortunately. The four giant clams made up for it, though. However, we did see one giant turtle on our way back, poking its head out every so often to say hello.

The island has a short 20-minute 1km return walking track. This circuit walking track passes through a range of environments, including rocky outcrops, dense rainforest, coastal vegetation and mangrove communities. 

Again, the tour guide brought us on the walk and introduced us to the different types of shells.

On the other side of the island, he picked up a shell from the waters and passed it around. "It's a horseshoe shell", he said. Oh, right and as Shriya passed it to me, I went, "Gosh, this is heavy!"

And, yes, he picked up a sea cucumber and as its protective mechanism, it spurted some white, slimy substance, which had us all go, "Ewwww.....". I still stepped forward to touch it, so that I would know what a live sea cucumber felt like. Xin Wen went, "You don't touch me ar!"

We were lucky to be in the presence of a flock of seabirds. Apparently, it was nesting season for them.

Do look them up if you are thinking of snorkeling or diving up in Cairns. I would recommend them just due to their exceptional service.

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