Green Island- A Great Barrier Reef Highlight
Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a place that will surely attract the attention of visitors. The Gungandji and Mandingalbay tribes of the area used the island for fishing and hunting. It is also said that the island’s rainforest was use as part of the rite of passage for young men of the tribe. Green Island is a cay, that is an island built up as the result of sediment being dropped on a reef as waves slow down over the reef top. Over centuries and with the help of birds the sediment stabilizes and plant life starts to grow. There are over 300 cays in the Great Barrier Reef. However, only Green Island has developed a rainforest. The island is about 12 ha, (30 acres) with 2/3 of it underdeveloped national park. The surrounding reef is one hundred times the size. The coast line of the island is about 1.6 kilometers or a mile, and is a typical cay landscape with low level shrubs and vines. Step a few meters away from the shore and you will enter a rain forest. The highest point of the island is 4 meters high.
Green Island also has a place in history of the development of Cairns. An 1866 article in a Sydney newspaper about a sea cucumber smoking facility created interest in the area. In 1889, just 12 years after Cairns was established, huts for hunters and fisherman were established on the island marking the first tourism industry, and a year later a local coaster was making pleasure cruises to the island.
Getting To Green Island
Today’s visitors to this island rainforest have a number of choices to arrive at the island, none being a coastal steamer. Most of the visitors arrive on one of the high speed catamarans operated by companies such as Big Cat with two daily departures or Great Adventures who has three daily departures and is a part of the group that operates the Green Island Resort. Both offer half and full day visits. It is also possible to have the half day trip tied to an outer reef visit. Some visitors prefer something slower and closer to the water than the high speed catamarans. The Ocean Free is a sailing schooner that has a reef mooring just off from Green island. They take about 2 hours to get to their reef locations. Guest on board and enjoy the reef location or the island being transferred by a small boat. Most people spend half the day on the reef and then go to the island to explore. Green Island is also served by helicopter and seaplanes.
What To Do On Green Island
There are a number of activities that are available on Green Island. Some are free, like the island walks and the swimming, others may be a part of the package you purchased with your transportation and some are additional payments. Snorkeling is one of the biggest attractions with many interesting things to see off the beach area. Interpretive Boardwalk is found on one part of the island, it has signs and interactive points pointing out items of historical and natural interest. If you like nature walks the island has an interesting Eco-trail, you can borrow a copy of the trail map from the information or down one from online. The trail map show photographs of what to look out for. The combination of the Eco-trails and the Interpretive Boardwalk will take you around the entire island.
The island has a glass bottom boat that you can take to enjoy the views of the reefs without getting wet. The worlds first glass bottom boat was used here in 1937, and a few years later a modified version was created which is the design still frequently used today.
The island also has an under water observatory. Did you know that the worlds first underwater observatory was built using a surplus US Navy diving bell modified with observation ports from a decommission WWII submarine. It was built in Cairns and towed to Green Island in 1954.
A semi-submersible is also available to take a look at the reef. This vessel has large viewing ports along both sides. Guest sit in the vessel and are about 1 meter under the surface. The semi-submersible cruise along the edge of the reef giving the guest an outstanding view of the shallow areas of the reef.
Marineland Melanesia is an independent family own operation that features a culturial museum,a reef aquarium and a number of different animals including Crocs. Cassius is the king here and has been living here for over 30 of his over 110 years of life. Originally captured in 1984 in the Finnis river, he had a nasty habit of eating out board motors of passing boats, he moved to Green Island in 1987. At 5.48 meters this croc is a Guinness book of Records holder as the largest croc in captivity.
Underwater At Green Island
Operators at Green Island offers a couple of interesting underwater activities. One of them is Seawalk also called helmet diving. This is a surface supplied air activity and as such needs no scuba certification. In fact it is a great activity for non-swimmers. The user places the helmet over their head and secure it with straps under the arms. An air hose pumps fresh air into the helmet. As the walker enters the water the shape of the helmet keeps the air inside and the water out. The walker than just follow a path around the area looking at all the undersea has to offer.
Introductory dives also called resort dives are very popular as well. The resort dive starts with a short introduction to the theory behind scuba diving and a demonstration of some basic skills. This is followed by a practice session of those skills. When you and the instructor are comfortable with the skills, you enter the water and complete a shallow scuba dive escorted by the instructor.
Certified divers have a number of dive sites that are available and up to three dives.
A wonderful way to explore the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island can offer something for everyone.