GBR = Great Barrier Reef!!

yes, we took the plunge to do one of australia's most famous attractions.  here's the way i look at it:  if we were going to miss Easter with our families then we might as well spend it with one of God's most amazing creations, right??

He did not disappoint... at all. 

we ended up booking our cruise with ocean spirit.  they seemed to offer the best value, and i am very relieved to say that i would book with them again in a heartbeat.  our cruise included morning and afternoon tea plus a lunch that was just beautiful.  not to mention the staff members were incredible... both helpful and fun. 

we had one decision to make on our way out to the great barrier reef... were we going to take the introductory scuba diving class? or not?  this class would not certify us, but we would get a good feel for if we wanted to get certified in the near future so we can do things like swim with the sharks, scuba the calvin coolidge, etc.  it also costed an additional $70 per person, on top of the $180pp we already paid, so it would make the day quite expensive, but at the end of the day the pros weighed out the cons and we signed up!  wow... the trip just got a little nerve wrecking. 

but let's back up.  we took a two hour catamaran cruise on this:

that took us to this:

see that small piece of white behind jim?  that is michaelmas cay, which is a very small and accessible island by the great barrier reef.  it is also the home to 38 species of seabirds.  here are a few more "up-close" photos. 


see all those black spots... all birds!  there were hundreds of them!

can you believe this bright blue sky, white sand and millions of shades of blue green water were not the best parts of this trip??  

we got to snorkel before and after our scuba excursion.  i couldn't believe how many fish there were and how beautiful their colors.

then we got to SCUBA!!!!!!!  It was so crazy... the lesson was very minimal.  at one point we were doing a small intro course on clearing our mask, hand language, and breathing; then, before we knew it the course was over and we just WENT!  i think jim and i both had our moments of panic as we comprehended that we were not coming back up for air in a very long time, and our method of breathing was in a tank on our back; but, we survived and now we are HOOKED!

it was one of the coolest things i have ever done.  it was so surreal being down that deep and seeing what we saw.  unfortunately, we weren't able to bring our camera with us because it can only go 5 meters below water and we went around 10-13 meters, but i will do my best to explain and show you with internet photos.

one of the coolest parts was, because we were with a guide, she showed us what we could and could not touch.  so that huge clam like thing 2 photos up in this blog?  yea... it opens and closes and we got to touch it.  it was so neat!  plus, we got touch some other coral that resembled the coral (orange) in this photo (also pictured above):

it felt like silk and velvet!

we also saw fish that we didn't see snorkeling:

jellyfish!!  don't worry that our tour guide grabbed
one of these suckers and i actually touched it!  

i feel like this was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scuba diving and the great barrier reef.  

Are we going to get scuba certified??  DEFINITELY!!  We are so excited to see so much more!  we actually signed up for our certification course in may.  we are going to take it with jo and keith, who also just had their first diving experience and are now hooked!  

talk about the experience of a lifetime... this was it and we will probably do a lot more things like this!  

sometimes i have to pinch myself.


holiday weekend.

in australia, public holidays for easter include good friday and easter monday.  in fact, we learned that while most places are open on easter, most places were closed on good friday.  which actually makes more sense since Jesus was actually crucified on friday so they look at it more as a day of respect.  anyway, either way, we had a four day weekend to celebrate easter.  so, we decided to take advantage and take a trip to cairns (pronounced cannes).

cairns is about an 8 hour drive from mackay so we left right after work on thursday and split the trip up with a stop in townsville on the way there.  most of the drive on the way to townsville was spent in darkness, but we got a couple cool photos the following morning on the way to cairns.

cool rainbow since we were in the rainforest and, well, it rained.

the trip would not be complete without a little breathalyzer test.  that's right, at around 11am we were motioned over to take a mandatory test.

thankfully, we passed on those early morning shots.  kidding!!

when we arrived in cairns we went straight to the golf course.  since i had the rest of our weekend planned with other activities jim made sure that we squeezed in a round at paradise palms.  this course was AMAZINGLY beautiful and our golf games weren't half bad either.  i think i finally found my groove with my drives, and jim found his again after his hamilton island setback.

on saturday we went to the infamous kuranda.  kuranda is a little town and market in the middle of the rainforest.  All the locals and anyone you talk to about going to cairns recommends that you go here.

here is a little history:

we began our journey to kuranda on an old fashioned scenic train ride.

when we reached the market we were a little disappointed mainly because it was very overcrowded and we wanted some more authentic goods as opposed to the normal cheesy souvenir shops, but it did have some charm that we enjoyed.

and was a slight bit mullet-y...

the best part of the day was our journey home.  we took the sky rail which provided GORGEOUS views of the barron river and cairns.

jim was a little less enthused as he was literally waiting for the cable to snap and us all fall to our death. silly boy...

overall, i am glad we did the kuranda "tour."  the skyrail made it all worth it!

this post got really long really fast so i will post again VERY soon about the rest of our weekend.  i'll give you a hint, though:  the three beginning letters of each word are GBR!!!