27.02.2009 – 01.03.2009
After the magnificent dive at the SS Yongala it was time to head further north and onto Cairns to meet up with another old friend from Surf Camp, Lee. However the main reason for heading so far up north was to go diving again on the great barrier reef with and old friend from Uni’s brother who was now a dive instructor there. I arrived in Cairns at around 1am after a long Grey hound bus journey from Ayr which lasted 9 hours. I even had to wait at the bus depot for the hostel bus to pick me up as there had been some fracas at the hotel that evening. I was soon to learn that Cairns was a bit rough and ready, a lot like the locals!! When I arrived I could immediately feel the heat and humidity.
Cairns had recently had one of the worst floodings in years due to 2 or 3 savage cyclones pummeling the area. When I arrived there was an area north of Cairns the size of Great Britain still underwater. Goes to show what a huge place Australia is! Another staggering fact that I learnt about Queensland is that is has the population of Manchester in the size of central Europe! I was only staying in Cairns / Port Douglas for 2 days so it was pretty much a whistle stop tour up there. After a relaxing and lengthy sleep I made my way up to Port Douglas the next afternoon which was only around an hour away. As I arrived in Port Douglas it started to bucket it down and this is the biggest rainfall I had seen so far on my journey. Luckily I was in the warmth of a pub chair at the time but looking down the street all I could see was rivers flowing down the sides of the streets and raindrops the size of grapes!!
After the down pour Richard, Sharon (Richards Girlfriend) and Steve (another dive instructor) met me for some drinks at my hostel which was only 5 mins from their house. We enjoyed a night of drinking ale and talking about all the dive sites they had worked in Thailand and dive sites that they could recommend to me across the world! It seemed that they were all very experienced divers that had been to many sites, we even got to dive sites in Mozambique!! There was no need to venture further than the hostel as Port Douglas is a bit of a tourist destination which has a number of fancy bars and restaurants which seemed to cater more for Japanese and Australian tourists than the likes of us common backpackers.
All in all it is a beautiful little town that has a lot of charm and charisma. I was up early next day to meet Richard at 7.30am to go diving on his boat the Haba. The Haba boat is a 40 ft boat which can provide up to 80 people snorkeling and diving off the great barrier reef. As Richard knew the captain of the boat he had arranged that we were dive to a lesser well trodden part of the reef and a place where we should be able to see sharks!! The journey itself out to the reef was calm as anything as the rain had now cleared and we were left with beautiful blue skies. Rich was also kind enough to give me the dives for half price so when we arrived at the first sight I was pretty much the first one ready and eager to get as many dives in as possible.
As you can imagine the SS Yongala was voted one of the top 3 dive sites in the world and the reef had a lot to live up to. Although there wasn’t as much marine life on all of our dives the coral was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately there were no sharks this time but my time will come again!! We even took down a plastic water bottle with us – which when you rub it between your hands its supposed to mimic the sound of a distressed lobster and sharks come from miles around. There was even a marine biologist on board who after lunch gave us a talk on the eco system of the reef! After 3 dives, I was shattered and to the nitrogen limits in my cells I couldn’t do anymore dives so we headed back to land for around 4ish where I was to catch my bus back to Cairns where I was to have one night out with the girls in the Woolshed before heading back to Sydney for around 5 days before I was Thailand bound!!