June 5


After Sydney, Canberra, and Adelaide, through rains and winds, countless museums and talks we finally get a true vacation day, complete with sand and sun. up and ready to go at 7:15am, we got into the bus and took the short drive to the docks.  After signing our safety agreements, getting our passenger numbers, and boarding passes, we headed out to the boat.  Passions of Paradise provides day cruises out of Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef.  The ship is a large catamaran equipped with a massive sail, sun bathing nets on the front, and a bar.  Passions offered snorkeling, scuba diving, and a ride on their glass bottom boat for anyone who wanted to enjoy the beauty of the reef without getting their feet wet. 

Everyone going snorkeling or scuba diving got a demonstration from one of the certified crew members on what to do, what not to do, and were there to answer any questions or concerns people may have.  All but four of us went diving, and those who did not had more time to experience the amazing snorkeling that was there.

We went to two different locations on the around the Great Barrier Reef, so we could get the most out of the experience: Michaelmas Cay and Paradise Reef.  Michaelmas Cay had a small sandy island that served as a bird sanctuary which people could also go on.  The glass bottom boat was at the first locations as well, so people had that option as well.  Since the coral and fish were pretty close to the surface of the water, the snorkeling was incredible here. The divers also got a pretty good look at the deeper parts of the reef.

There were certain zones set in place within the water designed to help protect the reef and the tourists.  The snorkelers and divers were allowed to go in the “green” zone, designated for recreational/exploratory use only, no fishing ispermitted here.  There was also an area blocked off on the beach to protect the habitat of the birds on the beach, and anyone who crossed the rope could be fined $7,500. 

The second location was Paradise Reef, located in open water with rougher waters, but we all did fine.  Those of us who were diving again got to go further down this time, and look out into the abyss of the ocean. It was pretty intimidating.  An array of colorful fish and sea life were swimming all around us, and some of the things we saw included a turtle, sting rays, an eel, plenty of parrot fish, GIANT clams, and we got to play with little “Nemos” in their anemones.

When we were about to head back to Cairns the crew in some bait for the larger fish that had gathered on the side of the boat.  They get the bait from the local fish markets.  The scrap fish that would be wasted otherwise is returned to the ocean.  They only feed them one kg a day, which is not enough to sustain them, so the fist do not become dependent on human feedings to survive.

The Captain was more than willing to let us know a little bit more about his ship and things they were doing to be sustainable. Due to the style of the ship, a catamaran is ideal for making less of an impact within the water.  They operate 364 days a year, using 200 liters of fuel each day, considerably less than the 800-1,000 liters a day most others use for similar purposes.  The catamaran is equipped with a massive sail that we used on the way back to the mainland.  On days with enough wind, it can allow the boat to go just as fast as if the motor was being used which was 11 knots.  Luckily for us there was wind to use the sail, saving 40-50 liters of fuel. Unfortunately the ride did get much rougher for the weaker stomachs aboard.  No worries though, no one got sick.

The ship also makes a point to help the environment every way it can.  100 million sharks are killed every year, and females only producing one offspring every few years, the populations are being effected. 10% of the t-shirt sales made of the ship go to a shark conservation program.  Passengers are also encouraged to wear the wetsuits available to cut down on the amount of sunscreen entering the water. 

Eye on the Reef is also a program that Passions participates in, and hosts meeting for onboard.  It is designed to have divers monitor and log areas of the reef to keep track of its health and areas of concern.  The divers will also remove Crown of Thorns, a weed-like growth that is harmful to coral.

All the trash created while onboard is collected and sent to a recycling facility where it is separated and processed.  Not a single drop of oil enters the water from the ship either.  All the fuel is burned, and any leftover oil is siphoned out into dumping cans. 

Passions of Paradise has received awards in ecotourism for their efforts.  When new members join the crew, they agree to and sign a document that says not only will they be sustainable while on board, but also carry that out in their everyday lives. 

All in all, it was easily one of the best days of the trip for most of us. The Captain and crew were nothing short of amazing, and more than willing to help everyone onboard.  Our pale Michigan bodies got some sun, and a few burned, but it was all worth it.  We ended the day by going out to a nice Italian restaurant, where the winning team from the Sydney scavenger hunt were rewarded with dessert. Congrats Laura, Jessi, Libby, Ryan and Juan!

Thanks for everyone following! We miss you and love you, and will see you soon!




  1. Sounds like you have gotten your weather reward from all the cool days, enjoy it, you have all earned some sun and warmth. I hope many of you are keeping your own personal journals on all these adventures. ENJOY!!!

  2. Great blog, Katie. I wish there were more pics from scuba diving but nobody took their cameras it was recommended that we didn’t. I was looking up pictures and information about the sea cucumber that a few of us saw during out second dive and thought that I should share it on the blog. This sea cucumber shoots out its intestines as a defense mechanism and then retracts them when the predator leaves. The intestines are long white threads that are very viscous and can cause you to go blind if there is contact with your eye.

  3. Great blog Katie! I really enjoyed being able to go snorkling and just float watching the reef. There are so many different organisms working together in the marine ecosystem. I especially enjoyed seeing how the parrot fish use the reef not only for shelter but for food as well. Negative effects to the coral not only affect the coral but remove food and shelter that the fish rely on for survival. It was great seeing that the tourism companies are doing their part in helping to protect the reef. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

  4. I thought it was interesting that Paul told us the coral itself can release a gas that creates clouds to protect the reef from direct sunlight. The Great Barrier Reef was truly amazing and people need to work together to ensure the reef’s safety so that future generations can explore its beauty. A know alot of us considered it our favorite day of the trip so far, and for good reason. Everybody spent the entire day exploring the reef, eating, sleeping, and riding the waves on the front deck all the way home. Another awesome day for MSU Study Abroad!!!

  5. How awesome!

  6. Adding to Katie’s remarkable post,
    Sustainability on the reef is a constant struggle do to tourism and agriculture in the area. Obviously people aren’t a natural part of the BEAUTIFUL Great Barrier Reef and just us being there has a negative impact on its ecosystem. Specifically because of the oils our skin carry and the suntan lotion we wear and then bring into the water. These oils can and have had lethal effects to some of the fish and coral. On the flip side, to try to sustain the reef, ever person that goes out on a boat to tour the reef pays a ten dollar tax that goes to preserving the reef. This helps with sustaining the environment of the reef.

    Hope everyone at home is great and just thought I’d share a few interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef’s sustainability,

  7. What I found most interesting about the Reef that we didnt learn til the next day from Paul, was the effect it had on the Rainforest. The Great Barrier Reef and Rainforest make up what is known as Cape Tribulation. Like john said the Reef emits chemicals that produce clouds for shade for the Reef, but those clouds also benefit the rainforest once they eventually float over to it, and they provide rain for the rainforest too grow. By the rainforest gaining health the plants deposit more vital nutrients into the soil, which eventually make their way through rivers and back to the Reef, so it is a constant cycle basically

  8. Definitely my favorite day of the trip so far, seeing so many fish up close was absolutely amazing. The only sad part about visiting is realizing that even by just being at the reef we were destroying parts of it. We were informed that just by stepping onto the island, we were having a negative impact on the reef because we are the biggest creatures that ever walk on that sand.

  9. Just as others have mentioned, that this day was the best day on the trip! I want to also mention that after both your dive sites, one of the crew members sat down with people to talk about the different sea creatures that we just saw. This was able to show us how this animals live and what can be done to help conserve their environment. I think this part was great to connect all the fun we were having to something educational. I also loved that, as Katie mentioned, they keep track of what they are seeing to see what the health of the reef is. After the talk, our crew member did say that the the spots that we visited are getting better. Even though we are having a negative impact on the reef, we are still able to spread the information on how to protect it.

  10. This day was one of my favorite day. We had a chance to go scuba diving and snorkeling which for me was one of the first. We also got educated on how the the Great Barrier Reef is so critical to the enviorment. Also, it was good to know about how the Gov. regulates all the coast. For instance you can’t just go fishing on specfic areas or you can get everything taken away from you from your boat to your house. They also perserve some areas for Birds, fish, and Coarl Reef since that is critcal to how ecosystem works. It was great having the experience of diving but we also learned what the Great Barrier Reef does for Australia.

  11. Finally warm and sunny!! Sounds like everyone had a great time. Can’t wait to see you. Love you.

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