Cairns is one of the access points to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). On our first day here, we enjoyed a walk along the esplanade (basically, a boardwalk along the coastline). Cairns doesn't have a beach, so they built this HUGE (as in, multiple football fields in size) public swimming pool right along the esplanade. We could not fathom the pool ever being crowded.
Throughout Australia (and Cambodia and Thailand), we saw amazing trees. The roots are astounding. These were lining one of the streets to the Cairns esplanade.
That night, we attended a lecture at "Reef Teach," an entertaining presentation by marine biologists about life at the GBR. It was fascinating, and a little gross. We got a stark reminder about marine body secretion floating in the ocean: clouds of coral sperm & eggs, fish spawn, snot, poop--all of which was in the back of our minds (and masks) as we snorkeled the next day. We learned that some marine life can change color or gender immediately as well as over the span of their lifetimes. We giggled during a video featuring penis-fencing flatworms. Born male, they fight with their, um, swords, and the loser has to morph into a female. [Mom, insert outraged feminist comment here.] We learned that sand is Parrot Fish poop, and that they also blow a protective bubble of snot around themselves at night, then eat it for brekkie in the morning. Batfish eat other fish poop. (Note to self: do not eat Batfish.) Surprisingly, some of the most beautiful creatures are worms, of amazing colors and shapes. We also learned about several endearing creatures like sea turtles, and scary ones like Box Jellyfish.
The next day, we took a boat to the GBR, went kayaking for a few hours, then snorkeling, then hiking. Unbeknownst to us, the island where we snorkeled (Fitzroy) was not quite at the GBR, but we did see plenty of coral and fish. The beach at this island is made of coral!