Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Vacation 3 - Great Barrier Reef
Our final days were spent in Cairns, where we had booked a day out on the reef with Seastar. Their new boat heads out to the reef at over 24 knots and is amongst the first to leave cairns so you get quality time out there. First stop was Michaelmas Cay, a sand island in the outer reef. It is a protected area with limited access. We were the first to arrive, and I had arranged that we were on the first shuttle to the beach. This is Seastar, and you can see the dark area of coral between the beach and the boat. The most common bird on the cay is Sooty Tern - probably my favourite tern. Also on the cay are Bridled, Lesser Crested and Crested Terns. This time we only saw Crested. There are usually some Brown Boobies there too. They always seem to stay on the opposite side of the cay. Last time I was here it was breeding time with lots of chicks around and many birds still on eggs, but this visit is earlier. This is an immature Sooty Tern probably one of last seasons young. Another common birds there is Common Noddy, It flies differently to the terns and doesn't seem to soar so much. After 2 visits I still haven't got a decent flight shot of one!! I also did some snorkeling there, and used a waterproof disposable camera - the shots are not brilliant, but gives you an idea of the reef. There are lots of fish including these Big-eye Trevally, Giant Clams, and many different coral formations. Just before we left, I concentrated on flight shots, then after I had packed my camera away for the last shuttle back to Seastar, firstly 5 small white terns and then 2 frigate birds flew over my head!! I think the terns may have been White Terns, and the Frigatebirds were Greaters, but I am not sure. I did get shots of more Sooty Terns though.