After Sydney, we flew all the way up to Cairns! Chris and I hadn’t yet been to Queensland, so we were pretty excited to arrive because it meant we had officially visited all of Australia’s states. Also exciting was the fact that it was nice and warm up here, a nice contrast to the winter-y (by Australian standards) weather we had been getting in the south.
Our first day in Cairns was spent wandering around the esplanade and watching the flying foxes. There are thousands of them that live in some of the trees in the town (especially by the library), and at dusk they all fly up and away in search of food. It’s pretty crazy. Like being in a vampire movie or something.
Great Barrier Reef
The main reason to visit Cairns is to see the Great Barrier Reef obviously, so we decided to go on an all day boat trip. In order to cater to everyone, we picked the Seastar, a boat the offered diving (Me, Chris, Ky for the first time, and Jeff), snorkelling (Maddie and somewhat Ed) and glass-bottomed boat rides (Ed and Rita). The boat was nice but the open water was pretty rocky on the way out. A bunch of people on our boat got seasick, but thankfully we were all smarty-pants and took motion sickness medication beforehand.
Once out on the reef it was time to go diving! It was Ky’s first ever time scuba diving and Jeff’s first time in a couple years, so we opted to go for an easy first dive so we could all go together. No one panicked and drowned, so it was a great success! Everyone was feeling a bit more confident on the second dive, so we went a bit deeper and longer, and swam right by a reef shark!
Due to the season, everyone on the boat was given stinger suits to wear while in the water, which basically look like big hooded rompers or something. It was pretty hilarious to see Ed in his stinger suit, and also to see him almost drown while snorkelling (Not really! But only because he had a floaty ring.). I don’t think he will ever swim in the ocean again. At least he tried though, Rita just sat on the beach and read a book. But to each their own!
Our second day in Cairns we spent the morning lounging and shopping. In a bit of a twist of character, Maddie decided to lie by the pool while Ed went to the mall, as for some reason the shoes he had brought were a size too small and suffocating his feet. He also likes to wander around and check out all the noodle shops along the way.
Later on we went on an afternoon/evening wildlife viewing tour with Paul of Wait-a-While Rainforest Tours. The Wait-a-While name actually refers to a plant (which has hooked leaves that get you stuck, so you have to “wait a while” to be rescued), and not to the wildlife viewing experience, which surprisingly did not require too much patience!
We practiced using our binoculars (or binos, as they say here) on some of the flying foxes in town, before heading out to the suburbs. We went and looked at some wallabies in some people’s backyards – kind of weird, as if you were taking tourists to look at squirrels in our backyards, but it’s an easy way to tick them off the list.
Next it was up into the rainforest of the Atherthon Tablelands, on pretty much the windiest road ever. Our first stop was the Danbulla State Forest, where we took a bit of a walk around a giant strangler fig tree dubbed the Cathedral Fig Tree. On the walk we spotted some musky rat kangaroos (so fast and impossible to photograph) and Boyd’s forest dragon (basically immobile and easy to photograph).
Further on was Lake Eacham, where we spotted some saw shelled turtles.
Then, it was time for the tree kangaroos! Tree kangaroos are pretty rare and almost impossible to find unless you’ve got someone like Paul who knows where they live I think. Funnily enough, the ones we went to see don’t live deep in the rainforest or anything, but in the trees along the road by this very noisy tea factory that’s kind of the in middle of nowhere. The little guy we saw seemed oblivious to the factory racket and was just munching away on his leaves. Tree kangaroos are a weird species, like evolution changed its mind halfway through. Super adorable though.
After the tree kangaroos it was time to look for platypus. Fortunately they didn’t take their time, and a couple actually popped up right as dusk fell. Platypus are actually quite easy to follow once you’ve seen one because they produce bubbles and pop up every 45 seconds or so to breathe. Everyone was excited to see their first wild platypus. We watched them paddle about and feed until it got too dark.
We stopped for dinner at a country restaurant before going searching for nocturnal animals. For this part we basically followed Paul and his big flashlight (or torch, as they weirdly say here) as he looked for eye shine. We say lots and lots of possums, of several different species (turns out possums come in many colours), as well as some lizards and a giant spider. By the end of the night we were pretty exhausted, except Ed and Jeff, who asked to be dropped off near the main strip to get snacks on the way home.
They next morning, it was off to Alice Springs!