Friday, October 30, 2009

We were supposed to leave around 7:15, and planned accordingly for a leisurely breakfast of fruit and leftover pizza from the Cassowary Cafe. Benji arrived a little early, however, so we rushed through breakfast and left around 7. Justin did grab a couple of photos of not-quite-ripe Durians before leaving - ripe ones would have had spikes (and stench).

The drive back was a little more crowded, but nothing too bad. We chatted with Benji about some of the differences about Australian and American culture, including that we have Ginger Ale (but not Ginger Beer) and that Australia has no Root Beer. Benji was giving Justin some grief about whether he saw "Drop Bears" (Bears that drop out of a tree - they don't exist), so Justin made sure to point out that the store in Cape Trib had tons of Root Beer (which it didn't) to get him back. Benji had been to the US, and loved Root Beer, and Justin had him going for a minute until he found out it was a joke. We spent a lot of time talking about Austalian versus American phrases for cars, such as Buzzback (a small sporty car), Liftback (like a hatchback or small wagon), Ute (what we call a pickup), etc.

Once at Cairns, we waited a bit for our flight to Lizard Island. We saw several potential planes as being ours, and hoped for a larger one. We ended up with a tiny 8 seater, about the same size as some of the planes we had in Botswana. The flight was not too bad, but the clouds wrecked the view of reef, which we were hoping we could get a good view of. The flight was just under an hour, and we landed in time for lunch. The resort was very nice, and all inclusive - it reminded us a bit of Amanpulo, where we stayed for our honeymoon.

Lizard Island got its name from Captain Cook after the Endeavour was repaired at Cooktown. The ship stopped there because Cook could not navigate out of the Great Barrier Reef, and the island had a peak, now named "Cook's Look," from which Cook and his navigator hoped they could find a path out past the reef and into the open ocean. On the island, Cook commented "The only land Animals we saw here were Lizards, and these seem'd to be pretty Plenty, which occasioned my naming the Island Lizard Island."

Lizard Island is a granite island about 10 sq km, with three smaller islands nearby (Palfrey, South and Bird). Together these islands are called the Lizard Island Group, and between them there is a well- developed "fringing reef " that encircles a Blue Lagoon. In 1939 all of the islands in the group were declared a national park. A "fringing reef" is relatively unusual for the Great Barrier Reef.  Most of the Great Barrier Reef is, not surprisingly, a "barrier reef." The difference is that a fringing reef has shallower water (less than 10m deep), and that a fringing reef can come right up to the shore. Thus, at Lizard Island you can snorkel right off of the beach.

In the afternoon we went snorkeling a couple of times, seeing the reef and also some giant clams and a bunch of fish. We were able to get some video of small clams and fish. The water, while quite warm by San Diego standards, was still a bit cool to stay in for multiple hours, so we came in after an hour or two total. There wasn't a whole lot to do, so we played checkers a couple of times, then hung around the bar, watching video of the previous day's snorkeling and scuba diving trip. We signed up for the full day tour the next day, hoping we could make it out to the Cod Hole, a famous spot east of Lizard Island on the outer reef. We had a late dinner, then came back to the room and went to sleep.