7 nights on the Great Barrier Reef | 14th to 21st October 2020
“What a fantastic week it has been – feels great to return to operations here at home in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. It has been a reunion for our guests and crew, and we were blessed with great weather and natural encounters along the way. It is good to sail again. We hope you enjoy our trip log and images!”
Our expedition begins a day early with guests arriving in Cairns to our new “check in” lounge on Tuesday at the Pullman International Hotel. All guests undertook their COVID PCR testing and pre-screening. All went smoothly. Guests appreciated the abundance of caution that has gone in to developing our SailSAFE Plan. They all gave positive feedback about the confidence that it has created to travel again. The guests were brimming with enthusiasm. There was much anticipation of the day to come tomorrow – time to sail!
Day 1: Depart Cairns
Wednesday 14th October – Guests boarded the coach transfer to Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal – the excitement was palpable! At the wharf, Coral Discoverer gleamed in the late afternoon sun, and the expedition team were on hand with a warm welcome at the gangway. While the crew handled the safe transfer of luggage, many guests made their way to the sundeck to get a view over the city, and to wave goodbye.
The shoreside team threw off the lines, and Coral Discoverer eased away from the wharf and turned her bow towards the open sea. There were waves and cheers as she passed Coral Adventurer, and it was an emotional moment for many Coral Expeditions crew and staff as we set off on an expedition once again after 6 months idle.
Onboard was Marysia Pawlikowska as our expedition leader and Master Reef Guide along with legendary expedition leader Jamie Anderson, who knows Coral Discoverer like the back of his hand. Together with our dive instructor Sebastian, hard-working deck crew, friendly hotel team, and Captain Miles, we were in very good hands and high spirits for the next seven days.
Day 2: Cooktown
Thursday 15th October – We awoke to clear skies and rolling seas. After a light tropical breakfast, we boarded the Xplorer for the first excursion of our expedition; the historic town of Cooktown. Upon landing at the town jetty, Jamie and Marysia led the way to the town’s museum and past historic monuments before a pleasant jaunt up to Grassy Hill lookout which offered great views over the Coral Sea, the township and the Endeavour River.
Back on board and after a hearty lunch, Marysia gave an educational presentation on the history, science, and species of Great Barrier Reef to build on the knowledge and information of guests before we dive into the natural wonders of the reef.
Late in the day we approached the iconic Lizard Island and as we came to anchor, our effervescent Captain Miles shouted everyone’s beverages of choice and officially welcomed us all to this exceptional first expedition of the season at Captains Drinks. We enjoyed a glowing sunset from the sundeck aft and all relaxed and connected in each other’s company.
After dark we gathered in the dining room and were treated to an ambrosial supper, served up by chef’s Steve, Jasper and Jamil. Later all guests were invited to join on the sundeck for a stargaze with Sebastian where he pointed out our Milky Way and a few of our cosmic neighbours.
Day 3: Lizard Island
Friday 16th October – In anticipation of our first opportunity to get in the water for a first look at the GBR’s underwater realm, passengers and crew alike awoke this morning with a spring in their step. Some of whom so much so that they felt energized and adventurous enough to wake at dawn to tackle a solid hike to Cook’s Look in the coolness of the morning hours. Other guests enjoyed a nice lie in. Guests who braved the hike were rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of the island, the surrounding reef systems, and mainland in the background, just like Lieutenant James Cook did centuries before.
The hikes and the sleeper reconvened over breakfast soon after all set ashore with the expedition team to the stunning silica-rich white-sand beach for a refreshing dip in the cool, clear, azure-coloured waters at the northern end of Watson’s Bay. Most swam and snorkelled under the watchful eye of Marysia; a few kayaked; many were treated to Jamie’s glass-bottom boat tour and others simply enjoyed lounging in the shallows and on the beach.
After lunch, we were off again in the Xplorer, this time in direction of the beach at the southern end of Watson’s Bay. Here the party split into varied activities. Some chose to snorkel off the beach with marine biology expert, Marysia to explore the giant clam garden. We saw many giant clams, schools of fusiliers, and many damselfish hiding amongst the corals. There were also a couple of green sea turtles that made an appearance.
The other group hit the walking track with Jamie and Seb, who took them past Watson’s Cottage and the island’s airstrip to the eastern side of the island, for awe-inspiring views of the Blue Lagoon.
At days end we all returned to the ship and the call was made to set a course for the wides of Osprey Reef through the night