Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!

2014 has begun and we managed to ring out the old year with a much needed get-a-way to Cairns, Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. It is never easy being away from family for the holidays, but this year Eric and I needed some alone and away time.

So without further ado here is our vacation….

The largest bats I've ever seen in the wild(and this was actually in the city). Not in a zoo. 
And not just a couple. A whole lot of em.
There are trees where they gather and hang upside down and sleep during the day. 
Then at dusk, they all wake and take to the skies. It's incredibly cool!
Swarms of fruit bats flying over head for about 20 minutes. 

We knew there were Koalas, Kangaroos, Deadly Spiders and Crocodiles, but no one mentioned Bats!

Butterflies. We loved the butterfly sanctuary. There is something peaceful and calming about being amongst them. And special when they land on you. The Ulysses butterfly was the most spectacular. It was a butterfly I did not know about nor ever seen. It is beautiful. But very difficult to photograph. The iridescent blue is only on one side of the wings so you only see it when it's flying. Once it lands its wings are black. We were told that almost all the beautiful images/photos of these butterflies are dead posed shots. How sad... Yet Eric managed to get a good shot of one!

Koalas and kangaroos and wallabies - oh my
We saw them all at the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas. We got to hold a koala. They are truly a very drowsy animal. It could have cared less what was going on as it was passed from one tourist to the next. They are a very dense and solid creature. Their fur is very soft, and claws are very strong and sharp. They also have a pungent spell, I didn't care for. 
The kangaroos and wallabies were more fun and more friendly. They were quite happy to come up and eat from our hands. They are quite interesting and unique. They resemble a bit of rabbit, and deer with a funny back end and long tail. 

The oddest thing was to see their "parts" hanging in shops as souvenirs. Why on earth would THAT be a souvenir ? Very disturbing. 

There were lots of other fun creatures too. 
The Cassowary a very old and odd looking Australian bird.

An Owl even winked at me….

These are Tawny Frogmouths - Swoop and Audrey

And of course the Croc.

Here in the Australian rain forest even the plant life is aggressive.

And there are fun tropical plants to see as well. 
My favorite were the trees that reminded me of Dr. Seuss tree.

Under the Sea ...
And of course the main purpose of the trip. To see the Great Barrier Reef!
Oh and what a reef it is. 
We did a total of 9 dives over 3 days.

Our first day of diving was Xmas day. We woke up to a cloudy sky with light rain. And a rainbow outside out hotel window. We walked down to the dock toting our gear and boarded the boat. By the time we reached our dive site the clouds had cleared and we had a beautiful day.

thank you Tanner!

Note to future tourists...please take sea sickness meds before boarding a boat. Any boat.
Do not try to impress anyone by saying you don't need to. 
It is not appreciated to be among sick people when climbing into ones dive gear.
If you really get sick at sea don't book a trip out on a boat.

Saw lots and lots and lots of tropical fish and many beautiful corals. 
We saw incredible giant clams, sting rays, a leopard shark, a white tip reef shark, but no turtles. And no jellyfish!  What we noticed was that in general the fish were both larger and smaller in size compared to the fish we've seen in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

This is a Trigger fish that chased Eric away from his nesting area.

This is Nigel - he is a Maori Wrasse

There are different schools of thought regarding diving the reef
1 - go slowly spend your time in a small area and see all the varieties and details
2 - cover as much distance as you can to see as much as you can

Eric and I both prefer the first method. 
We got to do some of both with our 9 dives and honestly, we did not see more by covering more distance. We had 3 different guides on the 3 days and 2 were great. The third one we did not care for. He was the one that had us swim the distances. The second dive was supposed to be a drift dive. Jump in and go with the current and then the boat will be at the end of the dive to pick us up. Except there was no current. So we had to swim the whole way. Ok so bad current day -oh well. But then the third dive he tried it again. Still no current. Not cool.

The water temperature was wonderfully warm. The visibility was not as good as we had anticipated. 
No sure if that was the norm for the reef or if we were there after some weather had stirred it up. It was about 10-15 meters. 

It was an amazing trip. It went by very quickly, and we were glad to have had another week to just relax at home before returning to work. 

We are not sure what 2014 will hold in store for us, but we look forward to the continued adventure. May the new year bring with it good health, good times with friends and family, new adventures and good cheer.

Warm Wishes to all,

               Stacy & Eric