Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 9, the Great Barier reef and Pricilla, Queen of the Desert!

10 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We took a bus from the hotel to the docks. On the way we met Tim and Johanne who we had travelled with from Darwin to Alice Springs. Back in Townsville we visited the impressive aquarium, they have a live coral reef there, very cool! OZ Experience bus was pretty crowded on the way to Airlie Beach. The movie in the bus was once again “Pricilla, Queen of the Desert” for the 5th time since we started our trip around Australia on bus. We booked room at Koala Backpackers in Airlie Beach. It was a smart choice. Koalas was a prefect backpackers place with nice huts that could accommodate 6 persons with a kitchenette and bathroom. Location is also good. We stayed with our Danish friends, Tim and Johanne and that was a full room, no “strangers”. We had delish nachos at Beaches, one portion was enough for 2 people. I have a splitting headache still that I hope to get rid of soon.

At the Great Barrier Reef

11 November 1997, Koala Backpackers, Airlie Beach, Australia:
Arrived in Airlie Beach yesterday evening, and haven’t really had the chance to see much of the place yet, first impression however is that it’s a typical tourist destination built to take tourists to the Whitsundays or Great barrier reef. Only one street packed with shops and restaurants that runs along the beach, which is apparently not so nice. Dined at Beaches yesterday, AUD 5 for nachos, with a portion so big I could only manage to eat half of it. Lots of tourists in party mood, so very lively! We live in a nice six-person cabin with toilet and shower/bathroom, living room with TV and a small kitchen, but without cooking possibilities – got a discount of AUD 3 the first night and paid only AUD 11. Sharing the cabin with Pernille, Rikke, Tim and Johanne.


We have decided to take a daytrip to the Great Barrier Reef, it is probably our last chance. We were supposed to do this in Cairns where the reef is closer to the coast, and it is cheaper there. We ended up paying 76 dollars to do the trip. If you want to go sailing around the islands you will pay 300 dollars for 3 days/2 nights. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, I feel better, and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s trip.


12 November 1997, onboard Fantasea, Whitsunday Passage, Australia:
Blue ocean with beautiful islands, the Whitsundays, is all we can see now. Have been on a boat trip all the way to the Great barrier reef and done some snorkelling – great! Lots of nice corals and beautiful fish, small and big ones. The water is not as clear as it was in the Gili Islands, but it was still a great experience being in the water for about an hour, and we got to take some nice underwater photos. You know this is a luxury tour by looking at the clientele; mostly 40–50-year-olds with a lot of money! The tour originally costs AUD 119, but we got it at AUD 76 because of our ISIC-cards. Still – if we’d visited the reef from Cairns, it would have been only AUD 45… But – we got to see a bit of the Whitsundays too – at least from a distance. Tim and Johanne were also on the tour, and tomorrow we’ll go with Oz Experience again, have to spend a night in Dingo before continuing to Hervey Bay on Friday. Have already booked a room at Koala – hope it’s as nice as this place where we’ve had a nice room and a good time, might even get a 4-person room in Hervey. Had a big buffet lunch today but might share some nachos later. Didn’t do much yesterday, it was very hot, so we just went for a short walk to check out the one street in Airlie Beach before returning to the airconditioned room to chill out, then nachos at Beaches.


We took the bus to Chute Harbour, the Fanta Sea was a large catamaran boat, and it would take us to the reef. We had to stop at one of the Whitsunday Islands to pick up a large horde of Japanese tourists who were also going to the reef. After a long but scenic boat ride we came to a large “barge” at almost 800 square metres with all the facilities we could need. We dived in for our first snorkel at the reef, I had heard so much about it, and seen so many tv programmes, and the number of fish was just amazing. A bit of a let-down was that I had thought that the water would be clearer. We were told this was due to the tide and time of season. We snorkelled for a long while and saw lots of corals in different shapes and forms. The groupers were huge! The biggest one that had his territory around the barge was supposedly around 400 kilos! We had lunch in the “U-boat” a kind of glass dome that was under the barge itself, so you could eat and watch the groupers swim by hungry for my sandwich. The Great Barrier reef is just amazing. I am glad we decided to do this visit. The trip itself was a mass-produced affair, we got our money’s worth but next time (if there will be one) I think we should go for something more exclusive, not the mass tourist thing. The boat ride back was amazing, the boat went in between several of the Whitsunday Islands, there are 74 of them, and I wish we had stayed here for a few days. There was a courtesy bus back to Airlie Beach. We ate nachos again, my new favourite food. When we came back to our room, we had two new English girls living with us. Tim was unhappy that he had not been successful in getting seats on the OZ Experience bus tomorrow, after having spent considerable dollars on a payphone. We have heard rumours that it costs 25 dollars to stay at a “forced” stop in Dingo since this is an overnight stop for the OZ experience bus. Hope it is not so, this is quite expensive for a stop we are forced to take, not something we would choose to spend money on. Got to pack!

After a long day, every snorkelling hero needs a nap

A few years later we had the great joy of visiting Cairns again, and going to the Great Barrier reef, this time we had a bit more money, and we had a great helicopter rider over the reef, in addition to some epic snorkelling in crystal clear water! It seems like this was the start of our life-long love of nachos, we think this was our first-time eating nachos, and it seems like we enjoyed them, and kept eating them. And they were cheap!

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Up next: dusty in the outback, dingos and Frasier Island!

Categories:Around The World 1997, Travel

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