The Great Barrier Reef tours…Glass bottomed boat…Semi-submersible interior photo…Cost for the day…

A semi-submersible boat with passengers in the lower deck checking out the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef.

Once we arrived at the pier in Green Island, it was almost time to board the first of the two boating events, we’d booked, a tour in the glass-bottom boat. We’d both wondered what a tour in this type of boat would be like.  Our expectations were in check.

There was a support post down the center of the boat that sorely impeded viewing and photo-taking opportunities. I’d expected a single flat window running along the bottom of the boat over which we’d learn, watch and take photos.

The glass bottom boat wasn’t as conducive for watching and taking photos of marine life and coral.

With the equivalent of window panes trimmed in metal frames as shown in the above photo, when a fish swam within the frame of our window, it was lost in a second when it reached the “windowpane” of the person sitting next to us. Also, there were vertical posts supporting the structure between every two people further impeding the view.

Photos of the coral reef appear monotone.

As a result of this design, it was nearly impossible to take any decent photos. Of the group of possibly 40 tourists, a few were taking photos struggling for good shots, not unlike me. The glass appeared to be tinted a light green making everything in view a monotone color. This proved to also be the case on the semi-submersible submarine.

More coral reef from the glass bottom boat.

As for the semi-submersible aspect, it had an appearance comparared to an aluminum pontoon, such as an old fishing boat. Once on the deck of the boat, we walked down a short staircase, broken up with a landing, turning and then maneuvering a steeper almost ladder-like structure in the full interior.

The variety of life in the coral reef is beyond anything we’d seen.

Two tourists sit side by side on a pull-down aluminum seat until all 20 were in place. Tight quarters. The interior was no more than 1.22 meters, 4 feet wide. Very tight quarters. 

Marine life in the coral reef is unlike anything else in nature.

With babies crying, passengers trying to find seats where there were none, I felt like offering up my seat and getting out. Tom looked at me reassuringly that staying put was for the best. There was no way I could crawl out anyway. 

Although there were a few moments of passing massive schools of fish swimming, here again, it was nearly impossible to get good photos through the green tinted glass as the semi-submersible vehicle moved along the water.

This tiny space in the semi-submersible had seats for 20. As shown, it’s packed as tight as sardines.

The reason the boat is referred to as semi-submersible is due to the fact that the top deck of the aluminum boat is not underwater. A door is left open during the tour while a tour guide sits on the steps describing some of the fish passing by below.

If one suffers from claustrophobia, this boat may not be an ideal scenario, not as much from the submersion, as from the tight person-to-person contact of a total of 20 people jammed into very tight quarters. From what we’d read online at the company’s site, no more than 10 passengers would board the boat.

The fish have learned that these boats provide a government approved “feeding” of a marine based pellet to allow the visitors in the boats to see more fish.  As a result when they see the boats coming, they gather around for food.

We saw a number of fish, a few sea turtles, and a small section of the coral reef. Although photos taking wasn’t ideal, we were glad we had the experience and sighed a breath of fresh air when it was over. I doubt we’ll care to partake in either of these two types of boat tours again in our future travels.

Surely, snorkeling would have been a better alternative but, much to our surprise we only spotted a handful of snorkelers in the designated areas, although many tourists were swimming at the sandy beach, most without wetsuits.

Mostly, tourists used smartphones for photo taking.

After the back-to-back boat tours ended we wandered down the long pier to Green Island stopping frequently to peak over the edge of the pier to check for any signs of life. 

With no tinted glass to impede our view, we still weren’t able to get good photos being high above the water’s surface while standing on the pier. Also, as much as a sunny day was preferable, the brightness of the sun created a glare on the water.

With only a small amount of food offered to the fish from the boat, in an attempt to keep them interested in seeking their own sustenance, the fish quickly swam away.

At Green Island, we were surprised to find a beautiful visitor’s area shaded by trees, including a variety of shops, dining establishments, and scuba and snorkeling rental shops. Tables, chairs, and park benches lined the area creating comfortable seating for tourists to stop to relax. 

After taking our time walking through the tourist area, it was fast approaching time to return to the pier to board the departing 4:15 pm Rocket Reef boat to make our way back to the port in Cairn The return boat ride included a distant whale breaching sighting, here again too distant for any good photos. 

The boat to the left is the semi-submersible “submarine” we boarded to see the coral reef.

Including the two boat tours, the glass bottomed and semi-submersible, our total cost for the half day visit to Green Island was AUD $219, USD $157 plus AUD $12, USD $8.61 for parking. The parking area was approximately 10 minutes from the boat tour check-in building that had restrooms, seating, and beverages. 

Only credit cards with a chip are accepted in the pay machines in the car park at various points in the outdoor lot. Luckily, a few of our newer cards actually have chips and this worked well.

A boat, the Big Cat, remained docked at the pier in Green Island for visitors to use as a rest station and meeting point for other tours and events their company hosts.

Finding the Reef Fleet Terminal at Pier Point Road, for check-in was tricky if unfamiliar with the area as we were. With less than ideal directions from the website of the tour company, we easily spent extra time searching for the building. We’d suggest allowing no less than an extra 30 minutes before the required check-in time to find the terminal. 

In essence, we were smart to have booked the half day tour as opposed to the full day. We had the perfect amount of time at the site. If we’d booked the full day, we’d have an extra four hours. 

A view from the pier at the reef.  As the coral ends, there often a pristine sandy bottom.

I’d have enjoyed lounging on the sandy beach for a few hours but, Tom would have been sunburned.  In all of our travels, our first consideration is one another’s comfort and well being.

Had we known more about the experience we still would have booked the tour. There was no way we wouldn’t have gone to see a portion of the Great Barrier Reef when we were so close living in this area. Overall, it was a fine experience.

Another view of a small portion of the reef from the pier.

We’re fast losing interest in booking any large group tours if other options are available such as small groups we’ve joined with other cruise passengers we’ve met on cruises or at

However, in our upcoming Mekong River cruise, there are days and days of land group tours with other passengers. These types of tours are unavoidable and there’s no doubt we’ll have a good time as we tour Cambodia and Vietnam.

As the boat left Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

With only 10 days remaining until we depart Australia, we now feel satisfied that we’ve experienced the area as much if not more than we intended. During this remaining period, we’ll visit a few parks and beaches, walking for exercise, and to further revel in the beauty of this nature-rich continent until we return again in the future on many upcoming cruises.

Tomorrow, we’ll post a new story and wrap up a few more Great Barrier Reef photos. Have a wonderful day!

                                               Photo from one year ago, August 28, 2014:

As we wound down the time in London with only three days remaining, we had dinner after a visit to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. For many museum photos, please click here.

Exciting tour tomorrow…A must do in this area of Australia…Why we don’t snorkel…

For those shoppers interested in having their fortune told, Rusty’s Markets has it all.

As our long term readers are well aware, we try to avoid some of the typical activities that drives floods of tourists to a particular area, often waiting in long queues  (“lines” is US speak) for hours at a time.

Orchids and other flowers are for sale at reasonable prices throughout Rusty’s Markets.

At times, visitors are scrambling for tickets to book dates and times that fit their short-stay schedules with the intent of getting one more attraction they’ve longed to see knocked off their endless “must do” list during a relatively short holiday. For most, this is the highlight of their trip.

Fresh greens appear to be a little higher priced than the grocery stores but mostly are organic.

We’ve observed there are many types of tourists which often include; those who are constantly busy seeing the sites, filling each day with a constant stream of activities and; others who perceive a holiday as a time to relax, unwind, read a book while occasionally visiting a point of interest.

These are the biggest fennel bulbs we’ve seen.

We fall somewhere in the middle of these two generalities.  Throw in the fact that we often stay in a location for months at a time, on certain days we’re in the middle and on other days, totally zoned out of our surroundings living in the comfortable familiar routine we enthusiastically embrace as a part of our daily lives.

Locally grown chestnuts and walnuts.  See photo below for prices.

Over these past few months while living in Australia writing each day, on numerous occasions we’ve mentioned a need to tighten our belts while here to play a little “catch up” for recent huge outlays of cash for future travels.  In doing so, we’ve accomplished two things. 

When figuring that a kilogram is 2.2 pounds, these prices for walnuts and chestnuts is a bargain at USD $9.33 (per kilo).

One, we’ve been able to comfortably “catch up” and two, we haven’t felt an sense of self imposed pressure to go sightseeing more than we’ve done thus far, visiting the equally enriching multitude of “free” things to see in this lovely area.  We haven’t been disappointed at all, thoroughly relishing in all that we’ve seen to date.

However, one thing we’ve yet to do has gently nagged at us day after day knowing in our hearts and minds at some point, we’d sign up to visit…the Great Barrier Reef.

A shopper at Rusty’s Markets can stop for a Thai massage while shopping.

From Cairns,  a short 25 minute drive from our house to the port, followed by a 45 minute boat ride and we’ll arrive at the world’s largest coral reef.  How could we not?  For tomorrow, Wednesday, we booked a half day tour of the Great Barrier Reef consisting of several activities that fully meet our preferred types of activities.

These red peppers, called Capsicums in Australia are only USD $1.08 each, a fair price.

Bear with us, dear readers, once again we’ll reiterate…we don’t snorkel, never plan to snorkel and spend little if any time, swimming in the ocean.  Its not our “thing.” 

A few of our Facebook friends have nagged us to “give it a try.” Even our grown kids, most of whom snorkel have given us a certain amount of heat that we don’t engage in this activity, especially based on our world travel and exposure to some of the best coral reefs and beaches in the world.

We didn’t recognize these cassava.  From online research we discovered these can be dangerous to one’s health since some imported varieties contain dangerous levels of cyanide.  Read here for details.

Why don’t we snorkel?  There are several reasons, important to us, that deters us from interest in this activity which include:

1.  Tom sunburns easily. Since beginning our travels, neither of us has) had a single sunburn when we’ve exercised great caution.  We seldom spend more than 20 minutes on each side to ensure an adequate safe dose of Vitamin D.  He can’t stand the feel of sunscreen on his skin.  It makes him cringe.  Sure, he could wear a wetsuit, available for rental for reasonable fees.  He doesn’t want to. 

Tom pointed out this sign. 

2.  We both have vision correction.  Tom’s has a complicated correction making rental goggles unlikely to provide him with a good view without his glasses.  I have mono vision, different correction in each eye wearing contacts to see. They can’t be worn in water. Neither of us would have a good experience based on this fact alone.

An whole fried fish.

3.  Photo taking:  We don’t want to purchase an underwater camera at this point. As picky as I am over equipment, I’d require many accessories to have a good experience with a camera such as a “Go Pro.” We haven’t an inch of space for one more piece of equipment in our carry on bags.  When we noticed our kids huge bag of “Go Pro” equipment, we knew it wasn’t for us.  Bottom line:  If we can’t take photos its just not as much fun for us.  Plain and simple. 

When we visited Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) in the UK last year, I was  disappointed to be unable to take interior photos although we decided to visit anyway taking many photos of the exterior.  We always check every venue before booking to ensure we’ll be allowed to take photos. 

We found one store that carries grass fed meat.  If we’d had room in the freezer, we’d have purchased a few items.  Instead, we buy our grass fed meat at a great little shop, Smithfield Choice Cuts

Our journey revolves around our ability to document our experiences in photos.  Although I’m certainly not a professional, I see myself as more of a photographer than any other skills I may possess. 

It would have been fun to purchase these truffles for sale at Fetish for Food but based on our remaining short period in Australia, we had to pass.

Sure, I have a lot to learn about photography and eventually will purchase and learn to use a higher quality professional camera when technology advances to make them lighter in weight.  Would a photographer visit a site where she/he wasn’t allowed to take photos?  Hardly. 

These sarongs looked appealing but not room in bags and I’ve never been good at making these work.

4.  Health reasons:  We both have difficulty with our right shoulders.  Most people would have had surgery by now to correct them.  Instead, we’ve found ways with our diet and utilizing caution to keep the pain at bay. 

Kiffler potatoes, so says the sign when its actually “Kipfler.”

Currently, neither of us are experiencing any pain.  This could easily change by a sudden motion.  In addition, although I no longer have back pain due to a strict anti-inflammation way of eating, my spine remains comparable to a house of cards.  Any sudden or startled motion could result in a disaster, putting a fast end to our travels.  Our insurance plan excluded any injury to my spine in our health insurance policy.  Why would we take the risk? 

Clothing racks are scattered about Rusty’s Markets.

It’s for these reasons we don’t zip lines or participate in certain activities potentially putting our current good health at risk.  Snorkeling which I’d done years ago, can easily result in being startled and requires an amount of jumping in and out of boats, at times in countries with less precautionary measures, we opted out of snorkeling.

Rows of handmade jewelry lines a wall.

Why visit the Great Barrier Reef if we don’t snorkel?  Here again, because we want to.  We’ll be able to tour the Great Barrier Reef in a glass bottom boat and we hope to go on the mini submarine that will give us another perspective, all the while taking photos. 

We’ll also enjoy the boat ride each way meeting people and listening to the marine biologist on board the boat.  With many more activities in the Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef area, we’ll surely have a good time.  We always do.

Various vegetables for cooking Asian food.

We chose to live our lives with a sense of reality.  Who are we kidding?  We have some issues we carefully protect. Who doesn’t? Ultimately, continuing on in our travels, having all of the extraordinary experiences we’ve had and will continue to have is more important to us than a few activities we choose not to do from time to time. 

Now, I have to get back to searching for a cruise to Antarctica to fulfill our dream of standing on an ice floe with Emperor Penguins.  Life is good whether we snorkel or not.

(Tomorrow, a new post will be uploaded with photos before we depart for the Great Barrier Reef).


Photo from one year ago today, August 25, 2014:

Tom was smiling while we relaxed while we dined in London, a restaurant we found on foot.  For more details of our lengthy walks in South Kensington, please click here.