Having visited The Reef several times, I know there is a risk, despite it’s beauty, that the kids could get hot, tired and whiney spending a whole day on the water. And that the long boat trip required to reach the reef may result in those convenient on board sick bags being activated!
So, to experience a little reef magic while keeping our adventures both whinge and puke free, we choose a half-day trip to Green Island, just a forty five minute boat ride from Cairns Marina.
But assuming shorter will be better is a mistake and proves to have the opposite effect. The kids only start whining once we tell them it’s time to leave. And it’s understandable. Unlike some reef excursions, which are devoid of facilities for kids, and sometimes any facilities at all, Green Island has got it all going on. There’s an amazing range of activities and amenities to suit pretty much anyone.
There are rainforest walking trails, sandy beaches, sheltered warm waters that are perfect for a paddle and offshore reefs for snorkelling on the pretty, rainforest covered coral cay. You’ll also find helmet diving, scuba, parasailing and Marineland Melanesia, a curious combo of aquarium, museum and croc farm.
If you should tire of all the nature you can also find boutique stores, a resort, a public swimming pool, cafes, a bar (duly noted by me) and an ice-cream shop (duly noted by the kids). And there is plenty of beautiful, blissful shade.
In fact, with arrows pointing to adventures this way and that, I don’t know where to begin. The kids, however, do not share my indecision. They just want in that beautiful blue water. And they want in now.
The only problem is the numerous warnings that it’s stinger season. The kids can’t hit the water until they’re suitably protected from the nasty buggers. For those unfamiliar with Queensland waters, a stinger is another name for the Box Jellyfish. These vicious bastards can inflict searing pain, cardiovascular failure and death with a disdainful flick of their villainous tentacles.
But I’m not all that disturbed by this information because this is, after all, Australia. This is a country where an ecosystem of barren deserts, ocean rips and toxic plants seems designed to kill us. A country populated by an army of fierce creatures who all appear to want us dead. Seriously, even the freaking platypus is a poisonous bastard.
I digress. Back to those stingers. It is said that vinegar is the best way to treat a sting as it deactivates the nematocysts (stinging cells). This stops more poison shooting off from the potentially thousands of nematocysts in a tentacle. Fresh water does the opposite and can cause the the nematocysts to fire and increase the toxic load. While vinegar may lessen the severity of the sting, it won’t reduce the pain (which has been described as like being injected with boiling oil). And, irrespective of vinegar, it is still vital to go to a hospital and seek professional treatment.
I explain this to the kids as gently as I can so as not to scare them. I fail miserably. Sugarpuff is alarmed and asks what stingers look like and how big they are, imagining a massive kraken-like sea monster. I reassure her that they are not that big, but realise that’s as much info as I can offer. There are dozens of jellyfish species in the water and I don’t know exactly how the stinger differs in appearance from a common or garden-variety jelly. But I am almost certain that they don’t come gift wrapped, despite the misleading name.
To play it safe we head straight to the snorkelling centre and get ourselves suited up like sea ninjas in stinger suits, which also double as protection against the blazing sun.
As a suited up Raffles and Sugarpuff perform their best sea ninja moves by the waters edge, I’m fairly comfortable in the knowledge that Beyonce is wrong. These two are totally ready for these jellies … no matter how bootylicious they may be.
It’s a good job too because snorkel-fiend Raffles swims head first into a pack of them.
Hmmm… I wonder what the collective noun for a group of jellyfish is? A Destiny’s Child of jellies? A twerk of jellies? Or are they just a school of jellies, like fish? Nope, Uncle Google tells me it is a smack of jelllyfish. No wonder they’re considered dangerous, the sneaky buggers might steal your snorkel and fins for their next fix. But once again, I digress.
Raffles is so blissfully, stupidly enchanted by the jellyfish that he decides to hang about with them while they smack on by. I find this out only when he hands over the GoPro footage he and his dad shoot in their attempts to emulate David Attenborough.
Luckily, unless he’s turned into a grinning water zombie, these appear to be of the non-lethal variety. Which is rather handy as I’m not packing vinegar or a body bag.
Sugarpuff, newer to snorkelling and still on high alert for kraken attack, stays in the clear warm shallows with me.
While the boys swim further out around the coral bommies and under the Green Island jetty in search of turtles, we practise breathing with our snorkels. There’s also time for my wee treasure hunter to fill a bucket with coral and shells. Which of course are returned. We strictly adhere to the take nothing but photographs and memories and leave nothing but footprints school of travel philosophy.
Though the boys don’t spot any turtles on this occasion, they do spot a multitude of clams, sea cucumbers and colourful fish. Raffles is beaming on his return and full of typically boastful boyish tales of fish that were “this big”.
Time is ticking away, and the island is still waiting to be explored. We have to choose between a dip in the pool and a pit stop for ice cream/alcohol or a walk around the rainforest boardwalks. No prizes for guessing the winner here.
Green Island proves to be an awesome spot for families. And with so much more still to explore, we’re planning to bring the kids back for a full fearless day of rainforest exploration, shark stalking, croc encounters, and jelly wrangling!
Are they afraid? Nah. Because they are Australian, after all, and here we breed our kids as fierce as the wildlife.