The Great Barrier Reef. You hear a lot about it, but what do you really know? It’s in Australia and it’s visible from outer space: that’s about the extent of it for me. I always associated the reef with sharks and scuba divers, two species that don’t terribly interest me. As we were taking a ferry from Cairns, the city nearest the reef, to some island resort where Sarah had made reservations, a refrain from the Old 97’s entered my head: “What’s so great about the Barrier Reef?” I sang it repeatedly to Sarah, who finally told me to shut up…

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Green Heaven

The Great Barrier Reef. You hear a lot about it, but what do you really know? It’s in Australia and it’s visible from outer space: that’s about the extent of it for me. I always associated the reef with sharks and scuba divers, two species that don’t terribly interest me. As we were taking a ferry from Cairns, the city nearest the reef, to some island resort where Sarah had made reservations, a refrain from the Old 97’s entered my head: “What’s so great about the Barrier Reef?” I sang it repeatedly to Sarah, who finally told me to shut up…

The Great Barrier Reef. You hear a lot about it, but what do you really know? It’s in Australia and it’s visible from outer space: that’s about the extent of it for me. I always associated the reef with sharks and scuba divers, two species that don’t terribly interest me. As we were taking a ferry from Cairns, the city nearest the reef, to some island resort where Sarah had made reservations, a refrain from the Old 97’s entered my head: “What’s so great about the Barrier Reef?” I sang it repeatedly to Sarah, who finally told me to shut up.

On the ferry were roughly 200 giggly Japanese girls, a stoic Italian couple that never blinked, and us. I was instantly smitten with the beauty of the Coral Sea; had never seen water so blue and clear in my life. The island that we found ourselves fast approaching looked uninhabited, just a dense canopy of trees. The Japanese, I noticed, were snapping more pictures of Hannah than the scenery. (Way to bust those stereotypes, girls.) The Italians, of course, looked miserable.

An efficient resort employee welcomed Sarah, Hannah, and me at the island jetty and cheerfully explained our options. Then he clapped his hands and someone whisked away our bags. If we’d asked, I’m fairly certain they would have whisked away Hannah too.

This was where Sarah had made reservations. It’s on Green Island, a tiny private tropical cay with its own rainforest and only 46 suites on the whole island—all “secluded from the day visitor facilities.” In other words, away from people like us. The resort is dedicated to “eco-sensitivity,” which means it preserves the island’s beauty rather than annihilates it. All buildings were constructed with minimal disturbance of vegetation; in some cases, you can see where things were built around trees. And it’s all hidden underneath the trees, so it looks deserted. Gorgeous.

[A funky side note. I soon read that waste disposal isn’t allowed on Green Island, which momentarily confused me: “I’ll be right back, honey. I’m gonna take the ferry to Cairns . . . yeah, it’s number two again.” Basically, they take all the poo to the mainland for disposal, which begs the question: Who’s the poor schmuck that got stuck piloting a boat filled with other people’s waste?]

“How much is this costing us?” I asked Sarah as we followed the guy to our suite, bypassing masses of Japanese tourists who I now understood to be dreaded “day visitors.” Most of them took pictures of Hannah.

“Enjoy it,” Sarah said. “It’s the one splurge of the whole trip.”

Our suite (#29) was large and posh. Our bags were waiting for us in one corner, and in the other they’d set up the Rolls Royce of pack ‘n’ plays for Hannah, who looked delighted. We had our own private deck overlooking a pristine pool that no one swam in but us. While Sarah and Hannah wandered off to check out the underwater conservatory, I sunk into an impossibly cushy bed for a nap. It started pouring rain, slapping against the thick leaves outside my window. That’s when it hit me that I was about to nap in the middle of an Australian rainforest.

What’s so great about the Barrier Reef? Plenty, I’m sure. But we’ve got three days on Green Island, and frankly, I may just stay here the whole time.

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