Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef
Sheraton Grand Mirage ResortEventually we did make it safely to our resort in Port Douglas, the Sheraton Grand Mirage. An expansive, beautiful resort with its own golf course and connecting pools, we had planned this stay to be a bit of a break from our fast and furious itinerary – the adults soaking up some sun while the kids enjoyed the many pools at the resort. We did not expect to arrive under a major storm. We checked in anyways, and was ferried in a large golf court to our room. It was a beautiful room with two large queen beds, a small dining area, with a view to one of the larger pools in the resort. After settling in, I was at a bit of a loss. It was early afternoon, we were in a beautiful resort, and it was pouring outside…. and that’s when Anna and the kids made a surprising decision. They decided to play in the pool anyways. It was warm, and playing in the pool meant they would be wet anyways. That led to an afternoon which was quite surreal… Anna and I settled underneath a couple of beach umbrellas on a man-made beach by one of the large pools in the resort, watching the kids play frisbee in the pool while the skies simply poured over our heads. Amazingly, the kids did not seem to mind the rain, and continued their fun regardless of the storm over their heads. Check out the short video below to see the kids playing in the pool under the storm:
Snorkeling at the Great Barrier ReefAs you could imagine, beyond the ruined resort time, our biggest fear was our scheduled snorkelling tour of the Great Barrier Reef. While we had read that stormy weather could potentially be better farther away from land, we were dealing with record breaking precipitation. There was a high chance our visit to the Great Barrier Reef would be cancelled. Alas, fate was friendly to us, very friendly. We woke up to a dry morning, and when we got to the harbour to board the reef tour, the sun came out in its full glory. The contrast was astounding… record breaking storm one day, beautiful, bright, hot sun the following day. We chose Quicksilver Reef tours to take us out to the reef. We boarded a large catamaran which took us out to the tour operator’s permanent platoon at the Agincourt Reefs, which offered a number of activities. First as foremost was snorkelling of course, but there were also other activities such as an underwater observatory and a semi-submersible tour for those who could not (or do not) wanted to enter the water. We of course, went took up snorkelling. Up until this point, Anna was the only person with snorkelling experience. Nolan and I never bothered to try, and Cady was late to learning how to swim. Regardless, as soon as we landed on the platoon, we suited up on the provided Lycra suits, got ourselves hooked up to our snorkels, and entered the water. I went with Cady, while Nolan swam together with Anna. I don’t think I was ever so proud of Cady. Here she was, 6 years old who still hated getting her head wet when swimming, and she jumped into the water without hesitation. Holding hands we swam out to the reef, me checking on Cady every 20 or so feet, to see a thumbs up and a smiling face underneath her mask. I was so proud of her.
Back to the snorkelling itself, we saw numerous schools of colorful fish, some swimming close enough to touch. Of course, we were there to see corral, and we saw corrals of different shades of blues and greens. Sadly, many of the corral were bleached white. As we were shoveling and not diving, we could only admire the reefs from afar and could not experience the sea life up close, but it was still a wonderful experience.
Eventually we took a break for lunch. The buffet lunch was definitely not something to write home about, but I didn’t have any expectations. After lunch, Nolan and Anna went back out to explore the reefs further, but Cady was tired so we explored the other activities. We visited the observatory, which didn’t really have much to observe, and ride the semi-submersible. The latter reminded me a lot of that submarine ride at Disneyland, but you were able to view the corrals closer than when snorkelling. It’s also great for those who still wanted to experience the reefs up close but are not able to swim – an older couple told us it was their third ride and still saw new sights.
Overall it was an unforgettable experience and easily worth the price. We were so incredibly lucky that the weather turned out to be so nice white we were out there… as the catamaran headed back grey clouds started rolling in, and we were back to heavy rain by the time we reached the shore. It was a raging storm again by the time dinner came around. We were so, so grateful that Lady Luck decided to do us a favour and gave us that window of good weather just for the excursion.