Cathie right from the start of planning this trip has wanted to give the kids an experience of the Great Barrier Reef. In fact the three things we wrote down to do in Queensland were the Gold Coast fun parks (kids request), The Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach (Dominic's request) and Great Barrier Reef (Cathie's request).
She really is a tropical island kind of girl. A significant period of her life was as a med student spending a term in Western Samoa. I missed the cues when we were engaged and failed to take her on a honeymoon to a tropical island, making up for it on a tenth wedding anniversary trip to Daydream Island. So today was her third tropical island experience and she loved it.
We bought a day coral trip family ticket and headed down this morning to the jetty in time for a 9:15 departure. We had to race back to the caravan park at 8:50am because I had left my wallet in the caravan.
We sat on the top deck in the captain's cabin and Abraham got to play driver. When we arrived at Great Keppel we had an hour to explore the island before our scheduled coral cruise.
The cruise was headed up by a guy called Adrian, nicknamed 'Trout' because he used to be a trout fisherman. He was good fun, pretended he was new to a job, explained that he had been left a trail of breadcrumbs on the ocean to find his way back on his previous training trip. He said if we saw him jump overboard we should too, but not via the back as we would get caught in the propeller.
However his novice status was a sham. He had been around Great Kepell Island for ten years at least and new exactly what he was talking about. Working previously as head of outdoor entertainment for the now defunct Great Kepell Island resort.
He took us over the coral - the weather was brilliant - and we could see the bottom very clearly - it was I think he said the best weather for coral viewing that he had seen in six years. Certainly it was much better viewing than our 10th wedding anniversary trip to Daydream Island.
(I have given the kids an assignment of writing an educational report on the content of Adrian's presentation so we shall see how they go on their blogs - perhaps you could comment on this. I have realised I need to up the expectations of their reporting content).
On the way back Adrian told us the story of the collapse of the Island economy during 2008. This was an astonishing soap opera as we heard about Tower shutting down the Day Dream Island resort earlier this year. The publicity about the shutting down of the resort meant that many people thought the whole island had shut.
And effectively it has in that the number of tourists has plummeted from 2000 to 40. The general tourist store ('The Rainbow Shop') was still operating, the pizza shop but that was about it.
All the small businesses that supported the Island's tour operators are still running but on a much reduced scale. Adrian for example had switched from being head of outdoor entertainment for the resort with lots of people under him to doing tours on the glass bottomed boat.
We had lunch sitting on the walkway from the main resort heading down to the beach (a place we could certainly not have sat in a previous era). Then we walked through the water to the rocks at the end.
Cathie encouraged each of us to go goggling - that's not searching the web - but searching the rocks with goggles on looking for fish darting amoungst the rocks. I am always the hardest to persuade to enter cold water but ended up having a terrific time.
Then we walked all the way around the north end of the island past the other resort that also closed down at the start of the year and waited on the beach for the ferry to collect us.
On the way back the ferry staff in a game tied Abraham up in a life jacket as if it was a straight jacket. And we told Adrien the kids blog address so that he can mark their report on the coral exploration.
All in all a very good day!
Now to BBQ some sausages and then Bible time and bed.