by Adventures With Adam
New York, New York
March 23, 2001
Our trip began with a cruise down the Mulgrave River. I kept an eye open for crocs on the river bank, but none materialized. Once out on the open water, the captain opened the throttle and our large, comfortable cruiser moved swiftly towards its destination. En route, the crew served up a complimentary continental breakfast and issued us snorkel gear as well as pop-up tents to shade us from the tropical sun. They also offered an optional scuba dive, which I passed on.
Once at Normanby Island, which has no dock, the crew ferried us ashore in a smaller boat. We set up our tents on the wide, sandy beach of this pretty coral cay, the center of which is covered in scrub pine and tropical vegetation. (The crew later offered a nature walk around the island to anyone who got tired of snorkeling.) Then it was time to put on our fins and hit the water.
Beneath the surface, the reef turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Last week’s cyclone, which had left us with brilliant weather, had also churned the sea, hampering underwater visibility. Besides the cloudy water, there was also a large amount of dead coral here. Some snorkelers remarked that other areas of the reef they had visited were much more colorful and varied. I’d certainly snorkeled more vibrant reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean. Still, there was a good sampling of marine life here: fish of many colors; stealthy rays; and something I’d never seen before, giants clams (up to three feet across). Those who chose the scuba option reported seeing more sea life including nurse sharks and sea turtles.
After 90 minutes in the water, it was time to break for lunch. I can’t recall ever having a better outdoor meal in such a remote location. The Red Ochre Grill (see restaurant entry) catered the lunch, which included shrimp, grilled chicken and a great selection of salads. After eating, I took a quick power nap on the beach, then revisited some of my favorite underwater spots. By the time my skin was pruned, it was time to pack up and return to the mother ship.
This snorkeling trip was as well run as any I’ve been on. It was just a bit disappointing that this part of the reef didn’t measure up to the gorgeous island setting, the efficiency of the crew or the delicious lunch.
From journal Adventures in Cairns