Friday, July 29, 2011

A Cairns Evening and the Great Barrier Reef

After our Thursday arrival into Cairns, we checked into The Heritage Cairns hotel and took a shower and a nap.  Exciting start to our advneture :). Later we met with our host Laurie Priitchard for a walk around Cairns and a bit to eat before attending a reef marine lecture to get an idea about the things we may get a chance on our Friday adventure to the Great Barrier Reef. 

Friday morning -- time to head for the reef. 
Yesterday they were telling us how nice and sunny the weather had been the last week – so of course – today – cloudy and overcast.  We walked from our hotel to the Esplanade and on to the boardwalk along the waterway. This is a beautiful walk with the water on one side and park areas and shopping along the esplanade.  They have barbies set up with gas grills at the ready for public use and a really nice public pool. 

We made it to our vessel, The Sea Quest, and got ready to start our day.  Along with the cloudy day came a nice strong wind making the water a bit rough for the 1.5 hour trip out to the Great Barrier Reef.  There were a lot of people “brown bagging it” - and I don’t mean bringing their lunch.  Once we made it to our first dive/snorkel spot I got suited up.  I chose to make 2 dives while my traveling companions, Marylin and Yvette, chose to snorkel.  I donned my wetsuit, got geared up, and jumped in anxious for all I may find!  The coral life was simply amazing.  We spotted a Black-tipped reef shark resting on the bottom and a bit later another shark –not sure what kind- swimming amongst a small school of fish. Unfortunately, with the clouds and waives came poor visibility. I saw Nemo and several kinds of butterfly fish, parrot fish, and wrasses. Brain coral, staghorn coral, plate coral, and so much more!  As my tank was running a bit low - I climbed aboard - removed my dive gear and joing my cohorts for a bit of a snorkel.  The colors of the corals and the fish were amazing.  After a quick lunch we moved to our next site with great expectations!  Unfortunately, the visibility was even worse here.  Once you got close - it was still remarkable- but the surges made it a bit dangerous to get too close.  Regardless, it was still an amazing reef experince

We tied up briefly to the Ocean Quest, the companies Live Aboard vessel, to off load a few of our passengers and to give a few others a ride back to Cairns.  We got a chance to explore the boat.  It seemed very comfortable with spacious outside areas, nice sized rooms with a great view, and a really nice bar area for relaxing.  Then we settled in for the ride back to Cairns.  On the way home, we spotted to humpback whales breaching - it was amazing!

This evening we had dinner at a local Greek Restaurant.  Very entertaining and quite good food as well.  Tomorrow - it is off for our first Rainfores adventure!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Day 1 - Thursday, July 28
Arrival in Cairns. This afternoon you will have an orientation and review of your itinerary before heading to a reef presentation.

Day 2 - Friday, July 29
After breakfast, depart for the Great Barrier Reef. The day will be spent snorkeling and scuba diving at two different reef locations.

After your evening return to Cairns, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 3 - Saturday, July 30
After breakfast you will meet your guide who will teach you about the rainforest and aboriginal culture over the next two day, beginning with a rainforest walk. The Kuku Yalanji are the only tribal rainforest people in Australia who still have their own culture and language, and this morning you are welcomed by an aboriginal guide for a 1.5 hour walk in the rainforest.

Afterwards you will move on to Mossman Gorge. You will continue north after lunch, crossing the Daintree River by ferry and stopping at lookouts.

After checking into your lodge, dinner will be served at a local restaurant.

Day 4 - Sunday, July 31
After breakfast you will travel approximately two hours to Port Douglas to visit The Wildlife Habitat, a park and refuge for Australian animals such as crocodiles, kangaroos, koalas, and countless exotic birds. If you would like a photo with a koala, here's your chance!

After lunch, move on to hunting and tracking with brothers Linc and Brandon of the Kuku Yalanji aboriginal community: you will learn how to properly throw spears, hunt for mussels, periwinkles, and other delicacies in the mangroves, and catch crabs and other seafood in the traditional way. Afterwards, go to the family home for the dinner you caught. In the process, you will learn more about aboriginal culture.

In the evening you will depart Cooya Beach and return to Cairns in time for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Day 5 - Monday, August 1
After breakfast you will ascend the Great Dividing Range for an exploration of the Cairns Highlands.

You will visit:
Granite Gorge: where a boulder-filled canyon offers limitless opportunities to explore, and rock wallabies come out to play.
Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine: ancient volcanic craters - or maar - now in a national park. Walking tracks around these lakes take you through higher altitude rainforest.
Massive fig trees: giants that eerily "strangle" their hosts surrounded by a rare type of mabi rainforest.
Mt. Hypipamee National Park: tonight after dinner you explore a rare type of volcanic pipe - aka "the Crater" - and an abundance of nocturnal wildlife typically found here.

This afternoon you will check into your treehouse bungalow.

Day 6 - Tuesday, August 2
After breakfast you will travel to Woodleigh Station. Woodleigh is a real working cattle station. Upon arrival you will be taken on a short tour around the property to discover the homestead that was esablished more than a century ago when pioneers first arrived in this area of Australia. This will be followed by an authentic Aussie "barbie".

This afternoon you will continue your exploration of the tablelands before returning for the bungalows and dinner.

Day 7 - Wednesday, August 3
After breakfast you will continue your exploration of the highlands, including a walk in the high-altitude rainforest around Lake Eacham, the giant fig trees, and platypus spotting. Later depart for the Waterfalls Circuit.

Millaa Millaa Falls are the icon of northern Queensland, and perhaps the most photographed images in the Wet Tropics. There is a fantastic swimming hole at the base of the falls, and you can scramble on the peculiar columnar basalt behind the falls to. The less-visited Elinjaa Falls and Zillie Falls are further on the circuit.

Later, travel into Wooroonooran National Park - one of the most diverse places in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and host to some of the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world. You can take an easy walk through the jungle to where Josephine Creek plunges down a gorgeous set of cascades.

After returning to Cairns, dinner will be on your own.

Day 8 - Thursday, August 4
Free day.

Day 9 - Friday, August 5
You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

Journey Down Under

Today begins my journey back Down Under!  The last time I visited Australia was in 1985.

Yes, I was rockin' a killer 80's Perm!
It was my first time to travel outside of the US.  Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand - I decided to start big!  This was the beginning of my love affair with travel.

As a child, I was lucky enough to explore a good bit of the US -and there is certainly a lot more to see - but international travel can really open your eyes and your mind.  Learning about different cultures - exploring the world's forests - encounters with amazing wildlife - seeing extraordinary vistas!  

When I decided to change careers- I remembered how much I enjoyed planning my South Pacific adventure and how influential the experience was - I decided to join the travel industry.  In 1987, I moved from Mississippi to Gainesville, Fl to attend the travel school that was being offered by Holbrook Travel.  At the end of the course, I applied for a position and 24 years later -- I'm still here!  So, to say that my first adventure Down Under was life changing is an understatement.

Join me as I return to Australia and explore Northern Queensland and reconnect to my Aussie roots!  G'day - Good onya - Fair Dinkum!  (a few of my favorite "Aussieisms")

Coming back to see you, Roo!