On arrival at our hotel, our taxi was held up by a coach with "Quicksilver" written on it. I asked our driver if it was the one for the cruise and his reply was "Yes, if you want to go with 300 others."
We checked in and a porter delivered our luggage, then we went to the travel desk to confirm our cruise details. We were informed we had to be in the lobby for 7.45am for coach pick-up at 7.55am.
After taking advantage of the free internet access in the "quiet room", we decided to try the poolside cafe for a meal. Just as we were enjoying our burger and fries we noticed people looking and pointing at something. When we looked we saw an animal resembling a very large rat snuffling between the tables, before it headed into the bushes surrounding the patio area. We were alarmed until we saw a poster on the wall stating that it was a Bandicoot and a regular visitor - were we relieved!
Next morning we boarded our coach, which collected others in the area, for the journey along the coast road to Port Talbot and the marina. The scenery was very beautiful and the driver pointed out things of interest on the way.
On arrival at the marina, we had about 20 minutes before embarking, which we spent window-shopping in the small marina mall.
As soon as we boarded, we were given coffee and biscuits and managed to get a window seat, where we sat and spent the one and a half hour journey chatting to a very nice Canadian couple. As we looked around, we understood what the taxi driver meant - there were hundreds on the catamaran. After a journey of one and a half hours, we landed at a platform in the sea. The leaflet we were handed stated, "The reef activity platform, moorings, and facilities have been developed to avoid damage to the reef under the most extreme conditions." It also states that it was installed under strict supervision and ongoing monitoring is undertaken to detect any visitor impacts.
On the platform, it was easy to see people had been before, as all the tables and chairs were reserved with clothing and other belongings of people who were doing activities in readiness for the buffet lunch. This meant we had to sit on the floor to eat.
As we watched the snorkeling, a young woman (probably early 20's) with no wetsuit sat down on the edge of the platform ready for snorkeling. Just as she flapped the jellyfish away, the guy in charge threw fish food in her direction. Immediately a very large fish jumped onto her lap - half in half out of the water - she screamed, jumped up, and that was the end of her snorkeling!!
Not being boat or water people, four to five hours seems a long time to spend on a platform in the middle of the sea, but after wandering round, watching the fish being fed and having lunch, it seemed no time at all that we had to board the catamaran for our return.
On the outskirts of Cairns our coach driver pointed out a group of kangaroo feeding, which was good to see, as they were the only ones we saw out of captivity during our whole trip.
That evening, it started raining - and it poured. After running through the rain from our room, we ate again at the poolside cafe, under a shelter with the rain all around us, but it was so hot. Even the poor Bandicoot was bedraggled.
It rained all night, and there were large puddles everywhere the next morning - we understood a little about the flash floods we had been told about in the Red Centre.
Before we left the UK, we were told that January was cyclone season and there was a possibility that the cruise wouldn't operate in a cyclone. Luck was on our side for our cruise, as we only had a shower whilst at the Reef, whereas the people going the day after had torrential rain, although it doesn't matter if you are in the water anyway.
We were hoping the airport wasn't waterlogged, as it was time for our departure to Auckland, New Zealand.
A wonderful trip, highly recommended, and we are so glad we have seen the Great Barrier Reef.