An early morning arrival in Cairns meant we had the day to have a look around the town and get our first taste of Australia. Unbeknown to us, it was also the Cairns Ironman and so it meant the town was heaving with both athletes and spectators and so getting around was not as easy as we had anticipated. With Reef Backpackers closed until 4pm, we were unable to check-in but we were able to get in with some other backpackers to leave our bags for the day. With it being quite an overcast day with the occasional shower and having began our journey to Australia in the middle of the night we spent most of the day just milling around getting all the information we needed about the area. With a keen interest in triathlons and an ironman on my ultimate bucket list, we spent a lot of the day watching this superhuman race in amazement.
A visit to one of the central travel agents meant we organized a trip out to the wet tropics and Cape Tribulation, as well as our trip out to the world famous Great Barrier Reef. With a limited timescale for our trip along the east coast, it means making the most of every day is vital and so our first Aussie experience would begin the following day.
After checking into the very sloppy and unorganized Reef Backpackers it meant we were able to take a quick shower before heading out for a meal and watch the end of 2015 Cairns Ironman. A walk down to the waterfront to ......... Restaurant meant we were able to enjoy a delicious Italian meal whilst watching the back end of the athletes coming to the end of their grueling race.
Over 130 million years old, the mighty Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest on the planet and is home to thousands of unique and rare species of trees, plants, marsupials, reptiles, birds, insects and beautiful butterflies. Our tour took us on a journey deep into the rainforest where we stopped of at a number of sites and took short walks along raised boardwalks and aerial walkways in amongst the dense fragile ecosystem which ranged from the low lying foliage on the forest floor up to the heights of tall tree top canopies. Having an experienced aboriginal guide for the entirety of our trip helped us identify one of the exotic forest dragons as well as a range of butterflies and birds. His incredible depth of knowledge also allowed us to get a valuable insight into the some of the rainforest's history along with some of the specific and extraordinary vegetation, leaving few stones unturned. Despite being unable to get a sighting of a Cassowary, we did however come across one of the Cassowary plum trees which has a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with the iconic flightless bird. Along with the fruits being one of the birds favorite foods, it's stomach massages the fruity, helping the seeds to germinate before spreading the seeds for the tree.
Cape Tribulation, located within the Daintree rainforest and Wet Tropics, is home to a number of spectacular, deserted beaches which we often had to ourselves. With frequent warning signs of crocodiles at every day site and walkways to beaches, it felt a very surreal that we were potentially being watched by these amazing 'salties' when down by the waters edge.
As part of our trip, we were able to enjoy a river cruise along a short section of the 140km Daintree river. Having such admiration for crocodiles, the opportunity of seeing these beasts in the wild was exciting but being able to get up relatively close to eight of them basking in the afternoon sun really was something special. Meandering alongside the dense mangroves also allowed us to admire a number of kingfishers, tree frogs, and forest dragons living in unison. To top of the short journey along up the river, I got the chance to hold a young Saltie which they had at their reserve for educational purposes.
With being on a day trip, we were unable to experience the supposedly beautifully clear night fall in this part of paradise, however, our guide was able to give us an insight into aboriginal beliefs and how the land is shaped in particular ways due to historic events.
The shapes of two specific mountains alongside each other was a pregnant women lying down.
A particular river flowing into the sea was the tiers of a women crying who had lost her lover.
The heavy rains during the monsoon weathers is due to the gods having been upset about particular events.
From one of Mother Natures spectacular habitats to another. From the extremely diverse Daintree Rainforest to the equally diverse beautiful underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef.
Spanning 2300km, with 3000 reefs and coral cays, the Great Barrier Reef is arguably the world's best underwater wonderland as it is home to over 1500 species of fish, 400 types of coral and 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises as well as some of the world's best tropical islands. Larger than the great wall of china and the only living thing visible from space, it is is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is today one of the world's most sought after tourist attraction. With this in mind, you can well imagine the huge range of tours which are available. From the more common, up close and interactive experiences such as snorkelling and scuba diving to the more scenic option of a glass bottom boat or even an aircraft or helicopter ride, there is something for all ages, abilities and preference.
We opted for the Sea Quest Snorkelling Day trip with Deep Sea Divers Den. On this large luxury vessel we headed to the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, approximately 70km offshore to the Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reef.
With over four hours at two different reef locations, we had an more than enough time to enjoy this underwater marvel. These unique sites gave us the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate some superb coral formations which is inhabited by an extremely diverse population of marine life. With the waters surrounding the reefs generally quite shallow, floating on the waters surface was suffice in order to enjoy the reef and all its glory. With it being the middle of winter, we did not have the strong sunlight to help glorify the colours of the corals but the occasional breakthrough in the clouds gave us a glimpse as to what the fuss is all about. The impressive colours on the very many different species of fish luckily did generally not need the radiance of the sun to show of their true beauty, especially when in dense shoals and dancing in uniformity.
Despite not getting a chance to see any of the larger marine life such as the gentle turtles and rays or even the friendly maori wrasse Wally, we were still able to admire this marine wonderland with some astonishing marine sights which included hundreds of dazzling tropical fish in amongst the impressive natural formations of the corals.
Having enjoyed two of Australia's most magnificent natural habitats as well as being two world renowned attractions, a day enjoying the dynamic gateway from where it all begins is all part of the experience. As the starting point for some of life's greatest experiences, the centre of Cairns is continuously buzzing both day and night with friendly people from all over the world, all with a positive, carefree mindset seeking adventure.The 2.5km picturesque esplanade full of trees and greenery is right in the CBD and stretches along the city's foreshore leading to vibrant salt-water lagoon which looks out onto the ocean. Spending a couple of hours by the lagoon enjoying some of the warmer weather along with the fresh sea breeze was an ideal way to end the stay in this modern, tropical city before beginning our road tip along the east coast.