AT takes a day trip to the Low Isles off port Douglas in a Chinese junk

If I was any more relaxed I’d have rolled overboard. The one-hour trip from Port Douglas’ Dicksons Inlet to the Low Isles is beyond pleasant. I’m up front (foredeck?) on board the Shaolin Chinese Junk that cruises out to the Low Isles – a small island not quite out at the GBR but with its own reef and sea life.

Before we set off, the safety briefing was delayed as Australian Cricket God Merv Hughes and kids were late getting on board.

“Everyone, we have a great Kiwi cricketer joining us today,” chortled Richard. He had to be a Kiwi to crack that joke. Merv took it in his stride.

“Okay, so we have these seasick tablets that will get you pretty high and ward off seasickness for $2.50. We also have the hippie version, the ginger drink, which is great for a hangover but not so great for the seasickness.” Richard was a regular smarty.

So, a quick safety briefing (“It says ‘back of head’ on this side and ‘back of  head’ on the other side – this is your head,” he is a regular card) and I was out the front relaxing on the deck. For three quarters of an hour we chugged out.

The crew handed out snorkelling equipment and those most attractive stinger suits; with Merv on board, no-one was going to be self-conscious in the figure-hugging lycra outfits.

“Look, a reef shark!” I almost choked. A 1.5m shark glided past the boat as we moored, eating our “lunch included” of tasty salad and sandwiches.

Like an octopus trying to play the bagpipes it was all flapping arms and legs as everyone on board fought their lycra over ankles, knees and waists. Merv was having trouble convincing his youngest it was a good idea. “Can we change this stinger suit for a sook suit?” he said. That has to be the greatest of dad jokes.

In two trips Richard deposited us at the beach where offsiders Dan and Angus took us on a trip over the reef to see turtles. While the low isles reef isn’t as spectacular as the outer reef, it has the advantage of featuring about 120 turtles in the lagoon, making sure everyone gets to swim with them.

Swim with them? I nearly hugged one. Mosying along, I suddenly glanced up to see a turtle looking curiously at me as I was about grab it in my next stroke. I froze in my blue suit. The turtle looked at me, then slowly turned with his neck craned in a “come on” position. I could do naught but follow.

The whole day trip is $145 and worth it to get up close and personal with the turtles — guaranteed. The divers who’d been to both the reef and the low isles said it was worth it for the turtles alone, but if it was a choice of the two, you had to go to the outer reef first. If you’re unsure of how you’d do out on the reef, this would be a good place to start.