Port Douglas

Trip Start Jun 18, 2008
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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Monday, October 27, 2008

Port Douglas, 24-26th October 2008


Finding ourselves with a few days to spare before having to drop the Van off, we chose to stay in Port Douglas for a few days.  About an hours north of Cairns, it's a fairly small, sort of upmarket type of place.  There are many large and luxious hotels/resorts around, not to mention some fancy and expensive restaurants.  It caters for that sort of crowd, rather than the younger, more budget orientated crowd, so wasn't as much to see or do, but it was nice to walk around and look at the tat, or have a few drinks in a bar.

Saying that, we did have a reason to go to Port Douglas, and that was for another trip out to the Great Barrier Reef.  We calculated / assumed that there would be less people going from out of PD, instead going from Cairns, and so we would have a quieter, less frantic day out there.  

As it turned out, we did have a quiet boat, but I think that was more to do with the fact that a) the busy season is over now, it's approaching the Wet season b) there are quite a few tours to choose from and c) the weather had been grim for a few weeks prior so probably put people off.

Not us though, oh no.  Thankfully though, the weather was glorius, the water fairly calm, and visibility top notch.

The tour we went on, Astrocat, stopped off at three different reefs, each with an hour and a bit of time in the water, which is plenty to snorkel and take a look.  Much the same as our trip in the Whitsundays, (albeit cheaper, less busy and with no pontoon, just the boat - which is fine with us) we saw different types of coral and fish.  Actually, at all three sites we saw different stuff, which made it really interesting.  They also held guided snorkel tours with marine biologists, who talked about some of the different things you can see - Giant Clams, Sea Cucumbers etc.  Helen went out on those, however I went off and did some more Scuba Diving.

I can't help it.  Ever since the Whitsunday dive, all I've wanted to do is do it again.  So out here, on the Great Barrier Reef again, I took two more dives.  

The tuition was far more comprehensive than in the Whitsundays.  We learnt about the science of diving, what happens to your body and the effects of pressure etc.  We learnt more hand signals, more about the equipment used and just generally had a better understanding of what goes on and how.  I think to be fair though, it probably put people off - it is quite dangerous if you panic, and rush to the surface, or your mask leaks or the air runs out etc, and these things were mentioned.  As a result, at least 5 people dropped out of doing the Dive.  

I dived at the second and third sites, snorkeling at the first one with Helen (and where most of the photos come from, in this entry).  The last two sites were in deeper water too, which was fun to do - couldn't see the bottom from the boat, as it was 30m deep!  

Unlike the Whitsundays, we had to do skills in the water before carrying on with the dive.  After getting the equipment on (weight belts, air tanks, wet suits, fins, mask, all sorts) we entered the water (each with a gentle push, to make sure we didnt hit the side) and then had to hold on to a rope about 2 metres down.  Here, we each (4 people on each dive, plus instructor) had to first show we could clear our masks of any water (push the top of the mask, blow your nose whilst looking up) and then we had the really "fun" one:

We had to take our resporators out, breathe out (and making small bubbles to conserve the breath), put in the back up resporator, clear it of air (by blowing hard a few times), then resverse the procedure, ending up with the normal resporator in.  I think this panicked some people, as they didn't continue with the dive.  Which is a shame, because it's really no big deal at all, just breathe out, clear the water out, and breathe normally.  Anyway, with our skills done, we continued descending, down to 12 metres, and just generally had a fantastic time.  At one point though we all had to resurface because one person panicked and wanted to go back up, and as we were under instruction we couldn't stay down on our own.  Once that had been sorted out (sent back to the boat) we carried on, just two of us left, playing with Sea Cucumbers (rubbing them so they spurt out the white sticky stuff that is their defense), looking at different types of Coral and fish etc.  The instructor had an underwater pen and paper thing, so was writing down what we were looking at, which was really good - made it easier than asking 40 minutes later what something was.  

So I had a fantastic time on that one, and with a very brief lunch, we headed off to the last site of the day.  Here I took my second dive, and because I had done my skills earlier, I had more time to actually dive.  Well, I say that, but in actual fact I merely went down to about 4 meters and watched the others do their skills.  

This dive though, no one panicked and we had a fantastic time down there - lots of mutual photograph taking (with those dispossable underwater cameras), lots of pointing to things and following each other etc - the instructor was happy with us, lots of double "okay" signs (as in "awesome!) and just a really good experience.  We even saw a Reef Shark.  No shit, it swam about 5 metres away, probably two metres long.  Then on the ascent, I saw a Blue Spotted Stingray (like those we saw in Cape Range, back in Western Australia) which was such an experience - to swim beside a ray, neither of us bothering each other, both just living for the moment.

Absolutly fantastic.

And even better?  The total cost was less than the Whitsundays, meaning I basically got a extra 45 minute dive for free.  I'm not sure why the prices were more down in the Whitsundays (and even a few of the tours in Port Douglas were $100 more for the day out, plus a dive) but for less money, I got:

* Better tuition
* Better instructor
* More time diving
* Saw more variety of corals and fish
* Got a little certificate to say I did well :-)

I'm seriously considering doing the full PADI course now, but haven't decided on where or how.  But I think it will be money well spent.  I've totally fallen for diving now.  It's an amazing experience.  If you get the opportunity to do so, do it!

Back on dry land, myself and Helen hit the sunday morning market on the foreshore, finally finding some decent presents for folks back home (and a little something for myself).  I'm not a huge fan of these type of markets - the tarrot reading; at one with nature hippy type thing isn't for me - but there was quite a few decent stalls with various hand made items, and if it weren't for the fact that shipping would cost a bomb (and since we fly budget airlines, our weight allowance wont cover them) we would have spent a fortune.  

So all in all, Port Douglas was very good to us.  Recommended.
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