[b]The small city of Cairns, which is is in the northeast area of this large continent, may not be well-known but its claim to fame is that it is the doorstep to visiting The Great Barrier Reef.[/b/ I'm excited to be here because I planned to go diving along the outer reef wall. Diving the Reef is one of the top site to explore for divers worldwide.
As we walked off the plane we experienced the feeling of the warm tropical weather. It was muggy and we could see all around the lush green vegetation. Our transportation into the city was just a few minutes. We made plans to find our rooms and jump into our bathing suits. Our room overlooked the pool and it looked very inviting. We had been traveling for many days and this was our first day where nothing else was on our schedule and we had the chance to lounge around relax.
For dinner we walked and explored the town which was a block away. Our travel guide had recommended that we should take the sidewalk around the hotel at sundown so that we could watch the fruit bats fly by. Trini and I looked at each other when we heard this and wondered what she was talking about.
We left the hotel in late evening and just a few feet away we immediately heard and saw hundreds of fruit tree bats as they leave the trees and begin to fly. They refer to them as giant golden-headed flying fox. They are the world's biggest bats and can have a wingspan of up to five feet. They make a high-pitch sound and their screeches come from all around. It happened that we were visiting while there was a full moon. It was a one of a kind feeling to see the moon light as the backdrop to the bats flying all around the city. We were admiring the sight of them going by and the locals didn't take notice of them.
After dinner, we returned to our hotel to get some rest because we were going to board a ship in the morning and go out to The Great Barrier Reef to scuba dive.
Right after sunup, we walked through Caines and went to the port. It's a busy place. There were many boats and ship going to different parts of the Reef. Some were sightseeing, some for fishing and others for multiple day scuba diving trips. I thought it would be great to return here some day soon and go out on a diving tour for several days. It would be important to have a professional underwater camera to document 10-15 dives. Normally one does a maximum of two dives per day. One is normally underwater for an hour on each dive and the body is affected by the strain of moving underwater and the water pressure. Thus, two dives and one feels exhausted. I was planning to do only one dive because of the buildup of gases in my blood system and we were scheduled to fly to Sydney the following day. One has to give the body time to get rid of nitrogen in one's blood system from breathing from scuba tanks before one boards a plane. My scuba supervisor did the math and said that I could do two dives and still be safe for our upcoming flight. When I heard this, I almost ran him over in order to rush and get into my diving gear. Two dives at the Great Barrier Reef! I think I died and went to heaven!
My wife Trini went diving with me on the first dive. It was fabulous passing through very large columns of colorful coral. I calculate that they were each about 40 feet tall. There is abundant sea life all around. Diving gets tiring as one is trying to swim and see everything around you. One is also trying to manage one's diving equipment and remembering to breath properly. On every turn, as one is diving, was another spectacular view.
I didn't want the memorable dives to end, but it was time to return to port. The boat trip back to Cairns was an hour.
As we were leisurely walking back to our hotel we passed by the wide open public pool area in the city and decided to jump in. It's a unique pool. It's a huge pool area that is no deeper than 3-feet. There are no fences. You could easily fit 500 people in it. The fresh water pool substitutes for the beach, which is only a few feet away. One does not go into the beach in Cairns! The beach is very shallow because the U.S. Navy, during WWII, shifted the ocean floor dirt into the front of the city area in order to accommodate large naval ships in its harbor.
The city is at the mouth of a river so there is a degree of silt that collects and makes the ocean area shallow. The shallow water conditions make it easy for salt water crocodiles to roam this vicinity so it's best not to enter the beach area. Other reason which keeps people out of the water is that northern Australian shores are home to what is referred to as the "most venomous creature on earth". It's called the Irukandji jellyfish. They are tiny (2.5 centimeters) which make them difficult to spot. Swimmers and divers in the area normally wear full body Lycra stinger suits. Apparently its sting is very mild, but within minutes or hours the venom keeps increasing the blood pressure of the individual. If untreated, one can go into cardiac arrest. We wore Lycra suits during our dives, but we had to remember that parts of our hands and face remained exposed. No one on our diving trip became ill.
As we prepared to leave Cairns the next day and fly to our final city to explore. We were looking forward to finally visiting Sydney.
Because it was our final day at Cairns, we went into town and have a wonderful dinner. We were tempted to enter some establishments that offered kangaroo burgers. However, we decided on eating at a restaurant that specialized on serving local seafood and we were glad we did!
We ate at Splash Seafood Restaurant and it was one of the best seafood pasta plate I had ever eaten. We ate their delicious shrimp, scallops, crab, and lobster pasta plate along with a bottle of dry white wine from New Zealand. Trini and I celebrated to our memorable diving trip and enjoyed each other's company as we looked back at everything we had seen and experiences so far on this memorable trip. We looked forward to what was next on our schedule, but we made sure we enjoyed that evening as we sat in the open restaurant looking at the moon light shining over the bay and watching the bats flying at a distance.
We truly enjoyed being in Cairns and we could see ourselves returning very soon.