|One of our dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef|
On the morning of July 27th, we set out for a 2 day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef where we would sleep out at sea. Based on reviews on Trip Advisor, I chose ReefTrip.com leaving out of Cairns. Their boats are among the more ragged in the port, but the staff were excellent. After some negative publicity affecting other dive companies who accidentally left passengers out on the reef (gulp!), I found the security measures on our boats extremely thorough. They required a signature from every passenger at the termination of every dive, before the boat moved position and at nighttime. There was a diveguard on top of the boat as well as several crew and a safety boat in the water for every dive.
|A pair of humpback whales off our bow|
|This carpet of green was shimmering in the current|
|Thousands of colorful fish|
Of course, there are many small fish (up to 2 foot long) and I think I saw the entire cast of Finding Nemo, except the sharks.
|Reclusive and solitary Moorish Idol|
|Giant Sweetlips (about 80lbs each)|
All of us got in the water during our trip. Harrison and I never missed a dive and Cassandra came in for most of them. However, I was also proud of Trish (who is a reluctant swimmer) and Mackenzie (who was too young to use a snorkel) for venturing into the ocean a few times to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
|Cassandra under the sea|
|Harrison, still uber-cool even while swimming!|
After the late afternoon dive, the bar opened but most of the passengers were exhausted after spending the day in the ocean, so there wasn't much drinking going on. I think almost everyone was napping. The kids settled into watching some ocean-themed animated movie (they had them all!) and shortly after dinner we all retired to our rooms. Even I was asleep by 10:00pm.
|Sunset to close my 42nd year|
With the formalities finished by 8:30am, it was time for more dives. Thankfully, Mackenzie had recanted her threat to never go in the ocean again and had psyched herself up for another visit to the reef. The crew had suggested using a life ring instead of a noodle which added 360 degree support. It did the trick. She did great out there ... and loved the fish!
|Mackenzie giving it another shot|
After lunch, we transferred back to Reef Experience to eventually make our way back to Cairns. The girls decided that they'd had enough diving for that day, so it was only Harrison and I that went in for the last afternoon dive. Given that is was almost 30C outside, we decided to leave our wetsuits behind against the recommendations of the crew. We were too far out to sea for box jellyfish to be a threat and they were several months out of season. Without the buoyancy of the wetsuit, we were able to dive to the bottom to get a much closer look at the fish and our movements were much less restricted.
|Harrison and Nemo|
|A closer look|
|Purple stick coral and butterflyfish|
|Harrison with his mud crab fresh from the tank|
By the end of the ordeal, Mackenzie and Cassandra were asleep on the table, but despite the lengthy wait, the meal was great and a fitting close to an outstanding birthday.
The next morning, we were off to spend the weekend with our old friends Sophie and Will and their family in Melbourne.