After our tour of Sydney, we flew to Cairns.  This is where the Great Barrier Reef is located.  The area is a lot different than Sydney.  Sydney is more of a city, with people going to work in their suits, taxis, and businesses.  Cairns feels more like a beach town.  Palm trees, sand, relaxed atmosphere.  It was quite a contrast going from Sydney to Cairns.  But we liked it!  We stayed at a motel on the esplanade.  We were two blocks away from where all the shops and restaurants were located.

And of course, we experienced the culture through food!  We were told at the beginning of our trip that there really isn’t “Australian” food.  “Kangaroo” isn’t even something that jumps out to them as “Australian” food.  So throughout our trip, we have a variety of food cultures.  We noticed this variety the most in Cairns.

(Yes, this is a McDonald’s ice cream cone.  We were trying to spend our last dollars before needing to switch to NZD :))

We didn’t just eat (though it looks like it!).  We went scuba diving in the Reef!  Well, we were going to do the Seawalker:

But Will’s cousin and his wife told us that it was really boring.  You basically just walk on the sea floor.  Jody was really hesitant to go scuba diving (like me!) and we had a phone conversation two days before we left for Australia, calming my nerves about scuba diving.  She reassured me that I wouldn’t get lost in the ocean, I would be able to breathe under water, and I would live to see the next day.  I was convinced enough to change our reservations from Seawalker to scuba diving (probably much to Will’s pleasure.)

We traveled to Green Island with Great Adventures.  With their excursion package, you take a fast catamaran from Cairns to Green Island, have access to a glass-bottom boat ride or snorkeling equipment, go on a self-guided eco walk, and use their swimming pool.  Scuba diving was an extra charge.

Once we got to Green Island, we fueled up.

After lunch, we tried out snorkeling.  The only other time I’ve snorkeled was in Florida.  And that was a horrible experience, which probably made me even more fearful of scuba diving.  But snorkeling in the Reef was so easy.  The water is so calm, you don’t have to worry about the water coming over your breathing tube.  This was also a great way to start easing my nerves about scuba diving.  We also got a bunch of great pictures with the underwater camera we rented.

Yup, that’s a sting ray.

Snorkeling was a lot of fun!  Such calm, warm waters with the reef only about 30 feet off the beach.  And to see fish and coral just a few feet from our hands, so cool!

We had our introductory scuba diving lesson where they teach you safety, hand signals, and how to breathe.  You practice in the swimming pool and they make sure you know how to get water out of your goggles and find and clear your regulator if it should fall out of your mouth.  I can’t say I was absolutely confident in my skills, but here we go!

You take a boat ride out to the ocean and jump in.  Once we de-pressured our ears (multiple times) we swam around with our guide.  Will and I were the only English-speakers on our tour.  The rest were Chinese.  So it was just us and our guide.  Almost like a private tour!  Our guide linked arms between us and off we swam.

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Will took this photo!

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That’s not us, but that fish swam by my head and scared me!  It was so close to me…craziest feeling to think I’m swimming next to a huge fish!

I’m glad I built up the courage to go scuba diving.  It’s a whole new world down under in the down under.  This is probably the craziest, yet coolest thing I’ve ever done.

Thanks Green Island, Great Adventures, Nemo, and coral!  This was the most memorable day of our entire AUS/NZ trip!

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