I said a fond farewell to Alice Springs and the red center, and headed to Darwin, Australia. This is a city in the Northern Territory, that I ended up visiting slightly by accident. When I was planning my time in Australia, I found myself with a few days unaccounted for between Uluru and my next stop in Port Douglas. Some very brief research seemed to indicate Darwin was interesting, so I went ahead and booked it (flights and hotels were cheap, or I might have hesitated. Maybe I should have taken the clue…). Anyway, once I did more looking, it turns out that Darwin is good for people looking for work, or as a base for trips into the outback. The city itself, not so much. Ah well.
I did manage to visit the aviation museum, which is set up in an old hangar out by the airport. It’s interesting, they have several planes and displays from World War II and later. It turns out that Darwin is the only part of Australia to have been bombed during WW2, by the Japanese when they were still considering an invasion. I also wandered through the botanical gardens, which is always a fun thing to see. Beyond that…not much. Well, not every place can be wonderful.
My next stop was Port Douglas, which is just north of Cairns on the eastern coast of Australia. This is a common location for tours of the Great Barrier Reef, which I went on! Snorkeling on ***one of the wonders of the world*** is a pretty incredible experience, and one that I will remember well. I chatted with some nice folks on the boat, got some brief instruction on the snorkeling gear (mostly how to form a seal over my beard, which worked…sort of) and then we stopped at three different locations to snorkel around. A few folks on the boat were scuba diving, but I decided not to and it was the right decision. You don’t have as much time in the water, it tires you out a lot quicker, and most of the interesting stuff is right near the surface anyway. Oh, and it costs more.
This is where you would probably expect to find pictures of the reef. Seeing as it’s underwater, I didn’t bring my camera :-). There are a few taken by the tour operator, but they’re basically the same ones you could find on Google.
The Reef is absolutely incredible. We weren’t even there on a good day (overcast and windy) and it was still amazing. The colors, the wildlife, and so many different species of everything! I probably saw as many different life forms in a few hours as I’ve seen in my entire life. You aren’t supposed to touch anything, which can occasionally be hard due both to temptation and the water currents. The guides on our boat did some teaching about the science of the reef, and we got a short guided tour of one area which was fun, but mostly you just float around and look at everything. It’s all surprisingly close to the surface of the water, which I guess is a sign of age. Once the coral reaches the surface, it stops growing up and starts growing out, which sounds depressingly familiar :-).
Anyway, seeing the Great Barrier Reef is a definite highlight of this trip, and something I will be happy to always remember!