For those of you with a good memory, you will notice that this item is in fact already ticked off my Bucket List. I did snorkel many amazing reefs in the Maldives, but you will surely agree that snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef deserves a double tick!
Setting sail at 8.30am on a very nice boat we were provided with tea and coffee and entertained by the fabulous crew. After an hour or so we moored at the first outer reef approximately 70km offshore.
As we have now entered the season for jelly fish we had the option to hire stinger suits. Now if there was a jelly fish I am pretty sure I would be the one it hunted down! So I paid $10 for the protection. I put on my mask and fins and waited for my turn to jump in. I was most excited. I prepared my mask and snorkel perfectly so that I didn’t have any issues once in the water and then I jumped in. I started swimming amongst the huge colourful fish and this would have worried me in the past but I just swam along with them, taking in the abundant colourful marine life. The sea was so calm and not too cold and the visibility was amazing, unfortunately the coral was slightly disappointing. Most of the reef was dead and so the once colourful coral was a bit dull. The coral in the Maldives were actually so much nicer.
We returned to the boat for a very tasty BBQ lunch and set sail for the next reef. This reef was much better with bigger more colourful fish, I even saw a Barracuda which was quite possibly the same size as me, masses of superb coral formations of all shapes and sizes and a lot more colour. The deep drops off the coral walls would normally panic me but I was loving every minute of it gliding over the deep drops and searching for weird and wonderful fish in the cave like holes, floating above the shallow coral with the fish poking there heads at me a few inches from my face.
All in all an amazing day.
150,000IDR airport tax, 2 flights and 10 hours later I touched down in Cairns, Australia. I had pre-booked a hostel called Nomads Serpent and they provided free airport pick up which was a great start. Because Australia is quite expensive for a backpacker, a lot of hostels seem to help with that issue in small ways. For example the hostel Nomads offers free airport transfers, free bus to and from town every hour, free bus to the Reef Terminal once every morning, a kitchen so you can cook your own food, the choice of a $3 meal every night, (usually a pasta or rice dish, never any meat) and lots of activities in the hostel. It does mean that people do not venture out as much, as they have so much comfort in the hostel, but for gap year travellers it’s a good set up.
My first night in Cairns was spent with a group of girls I was sharing a dorm with and we purchased our ‘goon’ (cheap box wine) and stayed in playing drinking games. The next day I explored by taking a long walk into town along the coastline. Unfortunately the beach is not the sort you can sunbathe on and you certainly cannot swim in the sea as Crocodiles inhabit the area. There was however a huge free outdoor swimming pool, also known as the lagoon.
Oh and can I just add, the idea of cooking for myself and doing my own laundry is not pleasing me! I have had to do laundry but so far I have managed to avoid cooking by eating the free hostel breakfast, buying things like noodles and fruit for lunch and eating the $3 meal. Happy days!
As you have probably come to realise, I am not the sort of person who can laze around for too long, so the thought of hanging out in the hostel for days was not appealing to me. So me and a dorm buddy set off to the Tour Agents to book some trips. Australia is very backpacker friendly and like Asia there are lots of Tour Agents willing to give you a good deal. But unlike Asia, the tours are very very expensive. We managed to get a 3 day and 1 night deal. The first day we were to sail to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkel 2 sites, then the second and third days we would be doing different activities like trekking the rainforrest and midnight walks to see the nocturnal animals of Australia, accommodation, food and transport for $333 (£203).
I was also very tempted at the offer of a skydive, I was very close to booking but it was so expensive. If I have money left at the end of my trip…watch this space!!
I was so sad to leave Asia, the culture, the food and the people. It is extremely easy and cheap to travel Asia which enabled me to experience more than I ever thought I would in such a short space of time. I learned so much of the history and way of life of each and every place I visited and saw so many different sides to each country:
I witnessed the hardship, learned of horrific pasts, I took in the beauty of the natural surroundings from simple rice paddies to active volcanoes. I partied with other travellers and locals in up and coming areas. I lazed on beautiful beaches, swam in waterfalls and trekked through muddy forrests. I tasted the most amazing local dishes and even learned to cook some of them. The list goes on and on and as much as I enjoy writing and sharing this travel blog I could never fit on paper the amount of wonderful memories I have and will cherish forever.
Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Lombok, Gilli Tarawangan, Ubud, Kuta and Sanur – a small section of beautiful Asia but a big part of my life.
How fortunate I am that the next part of my adventure is only about to begin. Australia here I come….
Today’s To Do List:
1. Apply for Australian E-visitor – check!
This could have easily been a disaster down to bad planning of mine. As I was in Australia at the beginning of the year, I already had an E-visitor which was valid for 1 year. This visa was due to expire 4 days before I was due to fly out of Australia! I wasn’t sure whether I would be granted another one whilst one was still in existence, so I hit the submit button and waited in anticipation for the email from the Embassy. 5 minutes later, ‘I wish to advise that a visa has been granted’. Phew!
2. Attend appointment with Travel Specialist for advice on vaccinations – check!
Luckily for me, being the pin cushion that I was last year, has saved me from having to have any further travel jabs. I, along with everyone I know, hates injections so when advised that I didn’t need any I could have hugged the Travel Specialist! But with every ‘up’ there is always a ‘down’ – Malaria! Whilst in Thailand I am at low risk but as soon as I approach the border of Thailand and over into Laos and onto Cambodia I am in a high risk area.
I was given two options of malaria tablets – the cheaper option at 30p a tablet but was told I cannot drink alcohol and skin will be extremely sensitive to the sun – hmmm no drinking or sunbathing whilst travelling, kind of defeats the object!
Second option at £3.20 a tablet! Instantly I turned my nose up at this but the Specialist was keen to tell me that these tablets have little or no side effects, hence the price! Now, as a solo traveller, being sick as a side effect of tablets, drinking alcohol and causing the tablets not to work and therefore a higher possibility of contracting malaria is obviously a big concern and so I took my nose out of the air and I have decided to look around for the same tablets but at a cheaper price. And so, the search begins…
Not bad for half a days work.