Crocs, stingers, and... DIVING!

Sign next to golf course in Yorkeys Knob.

Over the past few days, we have been on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, just outside of Airlie Beach and Cairns. It has been warm, but not as blisteringly hot as in Sydney, where the temperature a couple of days ago was an astounding 117 degrees F

Caroline and I are always being warned not to snorkel from shore, given that this is box jellyfish season and there are saltwater and freshwater crocs present.  There are signs everywhere, warning people to be careful. On a walk at Yorkeys Knob (our marina and a suburb of Cairns), we chatted with a lifeguard about stingers (and feral cats).  The lifeguard was adjusting a net surrounding a swimming beach that keeps the jellyfish out.  The high tide and full moon were making constant adjustment of the cables holding the net’s anchors in place a necessity.  While we were talking, we noticed a large log had either washed over or under the net, and Caroline and the lifeguard scrambled to get it out of the water and keep it from tearing a hole in the net.  Afterwards, the lifeguard inspected the net for holes, and finally concluded that the waves had lifted the net (and the heavy chain on the bottom) high enough that the log (thoroughly waterlogged) had come in underneath the chain.  So a huge log can get in, but not a stinger?  Of course, the stingers are closer to the surface, so the net was still working.

We continued along the beach to an area that was overgrown (and the lifeguard had warned us about crocs), then headed through a residential area taking photos of kookaburras and cane toads.  We were referring to a map that wasn’t that great, and chatted with a local about the way back to the marina.  She recommended a short-cut through a golf course (“The golfers won’t mind”).  
Walking through a golf course, but watching for crocs. 

We were following the edge of the course, trying to toe the line between golfers on 1 side and crocs on the other.  Finally, there was the marina... right across that stream.  We had on our bathing suits (in case we found a snorkeling area), and the marina was RIGHT THERE... but so were the croc warning signs, and the warnings of the golfing couple that there “were a couple of little ones over there, but there’s a big croc here.”  We retraced our steps back through the golf course, through the neighborhood, and to the marina.

Dive briefing with Deb from NZ.

Yesterday, we boarded a small boat and sailed 1.5 hours into the Great Barrier Reef.  At the last minute, we decided to dive the reef.  Although there were 50 people on the boat to snorkel, there were only 3 certified divers, so the 3 of us (Caroline, myself, and Deb from NZ) found ourselves watching whitetip reef sharks, cuttlefish, a honu, and a hawksbill (the latter was when we were finishing our “cool down” snorkel).  The water was warm... 81 degrees F or about 31 degrees C.  Still, we wore “stinger suits” with hoods (because of jellyfish).  I got to touch a living sponge and some soft coral.  There were fewer fish in general, and fewer big fish, than I expected for a protected marine area.  There were no surprises returning to the ship, but one of the tender boats the day before had been caught by a wave, and bashed the side of the Solstice, scraping paint off the bigger ship and breaking out a window on the smaller one.  Oh, and the waves were worse that day as well, as many of the passengers and 6 of the 8 crew members got seasick.  So we got off easy, and had a perfect day!

The only cane toads we have seen so far have been the very flat variety on roads. 

A kookaburra, but I think this is a juvenile.  

Returning to the ship after our dive.

Everything here will kill you!


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