Tuesday, December 1, 2015

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK- Part 4: Under the sea fun at Port Douglas

Sunset at Port Douglas
Pristine beaches of Port Douglas

By Aswathy Kumar
After departing Daintree we made our way through Mossman, the gateway to the famous Mossman Gorge. On reaching the main center, we had to take tickets to get on board a shuttle that took us to the various hiking trails that led us to walking platforms and scenic viewpoints, all surrounded by lush green tropical rainforests and overlooking the Mossman River.  Though swimming was not recommended here due to the rocky granite boulders that are in plenty, we were told it was okay to soak our feet in its crystal waters. Though the feeling of the gurgling water against our skin was nothing short of blissful, my personal favorite and I bet my dare-devil daughter’s as well at Mossman was walking over the suspension bridge over the river. It was a lot of fun and even a bit scary trying to balance ourselves on the dangling bridge, pretending as though we had magically found our way into some Indiana Jones movie. 
Mossman Gorge
It was almost noon by the time we reached our last and most highly anticipated destinations, Port Douglas. I will be honest and admit that this was the part of the trip I was the most nervous about. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing scary about this cute little town with its boutique style shops, pristine beaches, breathtakingly beautiful coastline and sea-side cafes. Here I had even gotten the part I had been so eagerly waiting for, the romance element of our entire trip. But even while walking hand in hand with my husband, enjoying the beauty of the pacific ocean, I couldn’t help but the think of the big adventure that we were about to embark on the very next morning, an adventure that drove almost all adrenaline junkies to this part of the world. An adventure called The Great Barrier Reef. 
Hanging Bridge at Mossman
I could almost hear the sound of my heart beat amidst the splashing of rough waves as I boarded the monstrous catamaran that was going to take us to the Agincourt Reef, a ribbon-like reef located on the edge of what is best referred to as the ultimate underwater playground. Pronounced a world heritage site, The Great Barrier Reef is considered to host the largest coral reef systems in the world. On board we were given a number of safety instructions ranging from a few easy ones like don’t throw food in the water or stand on the corals to more eerie ones that drove my anxiety to a whole new level like not to touch any marine animals lest they sting or disable you completely or learning a few crucial hand signals viz. we see a shark. 
Each one of us were given a lycra suit and also given a number of optional tours that we could sign up for while we were there. For the non-swimmers and the less adventurous there was the underwater observatory, a mini submarine drive and a helmet dive to explore all the reef had to offer. For the extravagant and those wanting to enjoy the beauty from a distance there was the scenic helicopter drive and for the rest there was diving, snorkeling and guided marine biologist tours to get up close and personal to pretty coral gardens and exotic marine life ranging from sting rays, clown fish, parrot fish turtles and even Minke whales, if you are really lucky.

It was a full day tour and I must admit, snorkeling in the middle of the deep blue sea and amidst choppy waters was definitely a lot harder than I taught. There were moments I ran out of breath and moments I felt my arms could no longer move, moments I wished I was back in the comfort of my hotel, beneath the warmth of my blanket. The chilled salads and cold cuts served on board did nothing to my Indian palette but I was here, right in the midst of the largest and the most spectacular reef systems in the world. I had embraced it, survived it and conquered this majestic reef in my own little way, one flipper at a time. And that was a feeling I wasn’t going to forget in a very long time…

Vedika enjoying some snorkeling fun at Agincourt Reef
The Great Barrier hosts the largest Coral Reef systems in the world