Throughout our travels we've been very fortunate that nothing significant has gone wrong (knock on wood). So there was no reason to think that anything would go wrong leaving NZ to Australia.
Foolishly, we had not done any research on entering Australia. We assumed it would be like entering NZ; just another modern Commonwealth nation that many Canadians travel to. Of course we needed to obtain a visa! This good news came to us while standing at the check-in counter only 2 hours before flight departure to Sydney!
Luckily we could acquire the $30 visa via the internet while at the airport (so what's the point, if not just a cash grab by Australia?). We had purchased another airplane ticket from Sydney to Cairns that left only 3 hours after arrival, so missing the flight from Queenstown would have cost us dearly. Lesson learned - research entry requirements to all countries visiting...duh!
We arrived in northern Australia late at night and were very excited to be back in a warm weather climate. Another top ten goal of our worldly adventure is to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, so being in Cairns meant that we were very close to completing this spectacular life goal! We spent the following day talking with several dive operations and decided on a 2 dive trip that took us on a superfast catamaran to the Outer Reef (about 90 minutes from Cairns).
Diving the Great Barrier Reef was amazing to say the least. Just to actually be there was exciting, let alone dive up close to the reef and underwater wildlife. Cameron has minor equalization problems with his left ear so this meant shorter, shallower dives no deeper than about 50 feet. This actually worked out well because you don't want to dive too deep because all of the colorful reef needs sunlight, so the shallower the better.
The boat had approx 60 passengers on it, all with different agendas for the trip. Some were snorkelling, some were completing a dive course, some certified divers doing dives, and others were just onboard for a trip to see the reef. We hired a shared guide to show us the reef and were joined by a Parisian named Willy. Our trio plus guide did both dives together which proved to be a blessing.
On both dives Cameron consumed his air faster than Nicole, but because we had the third person with us this meant that Nicole did not have to surface immediately and was able to spend more time underwater. Cameron's rapid air consumption is due to his huge brain that needs more oxygen then the rest, along with his huge, manly lungs that require more air then common people. That, and the fact that he's an oxygen pig that eats his air supply too quickly, which leads to less underwater time!
The time on the reef was incredible. The dive was a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity. We dived the Great Barrier Reef! Although, With that said, we were more impressed with the diving in Grand Cayman. It may have been because Grand Cayman was our first warm water dive experience and because it was a much more intimate dive operation, but it currently stands as our best dive.
Our hostel provides us with a free dinner meal ticket at a local pub (pasta dishes mainly) with each night's stay. Every night we would make the 15 minute walk to the downtown area for dinner, and every night at around 6:00 pm we would see thousands of massive bats flying over the city. We've never seen bats this big...ever! They love these large trees and eat the leaves or buds. On many occasions we would have a bat swoop within 10 feet of us and land on the branches above us. These ugly creatures have fat bodys with heads that look like giant rats, and their wings fold into lanky arms with long, sharp claws. They swing upside down from branch to branch like a spider monkey. Unbelieveable creatures but creepy and way, way too big!
We're now enjoying some downtime in paradise before our next journey down the east coast of Australia.