Stormy Reefsleep on Great Barrier Reef
We woke up at 6:30 to finish packing, and then checked out and stored our bags when the hostel office opened at 7. We were in a hurry to find the bus stop for our shuttle since we weren’t sure how far it was from our hostel. Susan went in to the first store that looked open and asked where the Mangrove Jack’s bus stop was. Surprisingly she had walked in to Mangrove Jack’s and they told us the stop was right outside. Oops! We had about a 10 minute bus to Shute Harbour where we were greeted by friendly Fantasea staff who took our luggage and showed us to our boat.
We boarded and received the day’s itinerary and information, and sat with a lady from Wellington whose daughter might be friends with our friend Carrie Fry from their independent trips to Japan! We talked to one of the scuba instructors who got a kick out of calling Susan ‘Sue Sue’, and then searched for some food since we forgot to grab breakfast. Luckily the bar on the boat had some sandwiches and we split one with some orange juice.
We had about a two hour ride before we arrived at our destination so we slept for a bit and then learned about the flora/fauna of the reef through a video they played over their two large televisions. Our divemaster gave us a scuba briefing, and then we got off the boat and checked into our room.
The place was called Reefworld and is a permanently anchored pontoon boat on a nice stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. The pontoon is primarily for day-trippers who snorkel around or dive, eat lunch on the boat, and then head back to the mainland at about mid-afternoon. We were doing what is called a “Reefsleep” and we stayed on the pontoon in one of their 2 rooms for the night, and then left with the following day’s group the next afternoon.
After checking in we quickly headed to the scuba area to get our gear so we could complete our dive before lunch. We dove with a Japanese instructor who had a strong accent and was pretty bossy. Our entry into the water was pretty interesting, entering from the bottom of the pontoon boat. We walked down a set of stairs onto an underwater platform, put our fins on, sat on the platform and just pushed off. We held on to a rope as we went down, and waited for everyone to get in. One woman who was supposed to dive with us got a little scared, saying she hadn’t been on a dive in a while. She ended up staying behind and we continued with just a small group of 5 including our guide. We saw amazing coral, some large clams, and all kinds of fish. Unfortunately our dive was not as comfortable as we wanted since there was a flailing Australian in the group who kept bumping into us. Our guide picked a large sea cucumber up from the ocean floor and passed it around to all of us. We then saw some mini crabs and mini shrimp, a lot of staghorn coral which looks like branches, and then headed back to the platform where we started the dive.
After taking off all our gear, we got some lunch on the boat and ate at a picnic table on the top deck. We were ready to relax after lunch and so we read on the sundeck of the boat, before taking a semi-submersible sub trip around to see coral and many tropical fish. The boat left at 2:30 leaving us and a German couple behind for the night.
We were sad to see that the afternoon was getting more cloudy and windy, so we put on some warmer clothes and went to the deck for our briefing. We stayed and chatted with the Germans and had wine and coke since we weren’t allowed to snorkel due to the approaching storm. Our host brought out a nice cheese platter with some crackers, which we tried to keep away from the resident cat. We decided to have a look over the side of the pontoon and ended up seeing a turtle swimming around looking for food. As an experiment, Susan threw Nathan’s nasty red wine overboard, and some HUGE fish came up and checked it out.
It started to get really cold and windy, and when it started to sprinkle we headed to our rooms for a rest before dinner. Susan had a nap while Nathan read a while, and then we went to staff quarters inside for dinner since it was still raining fairly hard. Our host brought out some delicious garlic bread, and brought the meals we had selected when we checked in. Susan had steak and Nathan had lamb, both served with roasted potatoes and asparagus. It was delicious! We decided to have our dessert down in the underwater viewing chamber for a change of scenery. They shone a bright light in the water, and we watched the fish as we enjoyed our cinnamon and apple crepes with ice cream for dessert.
After dessert we took showers and read a little in our room. The storm wouldn’t let up, so we gave up hope for looking at the stars which were supposed to be amazing over the reef. Susan had started to get a headache so she drank a lot of water before falling asleep on the teensy bunk bed.