Great Barrier Reef
|May 22, 2000: We stayed overnight at a hotel in Townsville so we could catch a morning seaplane to Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef. Orpheus is a small island containing a tiny resort and an ocean research center. The Orpheus Island Resort only has a maximum of 42 guests, and there were about 25 when we were there. The four guests on our tiny seaplane were greeted with tropical drinks and shown around the grounds. When we checked into our private bungalow, there were fresh flowers everywhere -- decorating the tub, the towels, the bed, etc. We had chilled champagne waiting as well.|
Our first activity that afternoon was a guided snorkeling trip to see a giant clam farm. The clams ranged from two to four feet in size. If only we owned an underwater camera. Fortunately, we found this photo on the Internet that represents what we saw.
May 23, 2000: On our second day, we started out with a delicious breakfast, made to order. There was no breakfast menu; we simply had to tell them what we wanted and they got it for us. Debbie developed a taste for smoked salmon and passionfruit. After breakfast, we took a boat out to one of the island's seven beaches. The one we picked was deserted, of course, as they all are.
|The resort's water sports staff provided us with snorkeling gear so we were able to do some snorkeling after we warmed up in the sun on the dock.|
|The staff also gave us fish food, so we could enjoy a feeding frenzy right next to the dock.|
|We got back in time for lunch, which was typically our choice of fresh seafood or other gourmet entrees. Back at our bungalow, we had a gorgeous view of the sun setting over the Australian mainland. Dinner was equally amazing, with seven leisurely courses enjoyed in the resort's open air beachfront restaurant.|
|May 24, 2000: The next morning, we took a boat out again, but this time, we brought one of the resort's famous picnic baskets. This was not just any picnic basket, mind you, but a large hamper and cooler filled with fresh bread, cheese, fruit, shrimp, bay bugs (a small crustacean similar to lobster), oysters, beverages, and more. We found another deserted island and spent the afternoon there enjoying the sun and tasty food.|
|The Australian mainland was always visible, as we stuck to the west side of the island.|
|Another beautiful sunset, this time at low tide.|
|May 25, 2000: The next day, we did an optional excursion, which was the only thing that cost extra money during our entire stay. We boarded a large boat and headed out to the Great Barrier Reef for an afternoon of snorkeling. We travelled over dark blue water until suddenly it turned aqua blue because the water was so shallow. The marine life was as great as we had imagined, and the coral rose up to just under the water from the white sand ocean floor approximately 25 feet down.|
|After snorkeling, we were treated to a resort-catered lunch, featuring all of our (by now) favorites: bay bugs, shrimp, passionfruit, and so on. It was all very decadent.|
|Here's a closer view of all of the decadence. If you look at the larger version of this photo, the bay bugs are on the right corner closest to Tom.|
|We enjoyed a great chat with John, one of the resort's water sports staff, as we returned to Orpheus. We bid our captain adieu and photographed the boat sailing out of our lives forever.|
|We were not sad, though, because that evening, we had special dinner plans. We were served our dinner at a table set up on the dock. It was all terribly romantic, having dinner while the sun set. In addition, every meal we had during our stay was absolutely exceptional, with impeccable service and beautiful presentation. Every plate was decorated by fresh flowers and every single thing we ate was delicious.|
|From our table, we got this nice shot of one of the resident sharks, who lazily swim around the shallow water of the dock area. When we asked John what they were called, he said slowly, dripping with charming Aussie condescension, "Black ... tipped ... reef ... sharks," as if we should have guessed that name because they had black tips and hung out in the reef. We still quote him to this day, and told him how much we were amused by his reply as we got to know him better later in the week.|
|Yeah, yeah, yeah, another gorgeous sunset. Next thing you know, the southern hemisphere constellations will show up and we'll get to see the Southern Cross. No big deal. :)|
|May 26, 2000: Our final morning, we enjoyed watching our friends the Black Tipped Reef Sharks as we waited for our seaplane to arrive.|
|Pilot Tom videotaped every single second of the seaplane's arrival, visible only as a speck on the horizon in this photo.|
This is the only shot we got of John, and we were aiming for a shot of the seaplane. If we had owned a digital camera, we would have been much better about photographing everything, but we'll always have great images in our head.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy