Palm Cove – Monday 17th November – I woke early to the sounds of the tropical dawn; cockatoo and other such birds and thought I’d arrived in heaven it was such a joy to hear. I remained in bed until Tina woke so that we could share the moment of looking out of the apartment window at the view and when we did we knew we had arrived in heaven! Just peeking between the palm trees was the Pacific ocean in all its glory, with its golden sands and almost certainly warm water, we were going to enjoy the next few days. It was still early yet the temperature was high and it was only going to get warmer as the day went on. This is what we’d travelled north for though.
We went in search of some provisions as we wanted to eat breakfast in the apartment rather than buy out and used the supermarket next door, pleased that even they stocked gluten free cereals. After eating we checked in at reception, meeting Margaret, one of the managers of the hotel. She gave us some suggestions as to places to visit and advised on who to use for the great barrier reef excursion we planned to undertake whilst in the region.
Back to the room to gather some things for the day then we went off exploring. We headed for the rainforest village of Kuranda, which was high up in the mountains and had a number of attractions to visit and lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. The road up was pretty winding but as we reached the top we were rewarded by a magnificent view of the Cairns region and of the Coral Sea coastline. We continued upwards and shortly reached Kuranda and parked up.
As it was lunchtime we found a great restaurant that served gf food and I enjoyed a nice lasagne. Afterwards we visited the butterfly attraction, containing hundreds of the native butterflies found in and around the region and rainforests. Lots of filming and photos later we then grabbed a drink, browsed some of the shops before making our way back to the apartment. After freshening up we revisited the same restaurant as the previous night, staying there until most guests had departed then back for a drink on the balcony.
Palm Cove – Tuesday 18th November – We decided to visit Kuranda again, but this time ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, a 7.5km cable car system that travels from Smithfield, near Cairns to the rainforest village we’d been to yesterday. Firstly though we booked our trip to the Great Barrier Reef through the hotel manager, Stephen, who sorted out the arrangements for us.
We then drove the short journey to the Skyrail station and parked up, paid for the tickets and boarded the cable car. We stretched to ‘gold’ tickets on the flight up; which afforded us a glass bottomed car allowing for great views of the rain forest canopy. The views of the Cairns region as we rose high above the trees were magnificent, with the coastline stretching out North and South. The trees were ancient and tropical, ferns and other wonderful species and there was plenty of birdsong too, it was such a special place. The ride was divided into three sections and at each station you can get out and walk around the rainforest and experience it from ground level. The second station, Barron Falls had a look out point that afforded great views of the waterfall, although it was pretty tame as the rains were yet to arrive. We boarded the car to head for the final stop and this leg gave us great views of the Barron River, which was huge.
We arrived at Kuranda and grabbed a drink before doing some more shop browsing and ordering lunch at the same restaurant we ate at yesterday. We then walked back to the Skyrail station and rode it back down, not before I bought a wide-brimmed Australian hat that was made from Kangaroo skin. Very fetching and will be ideal for dog walking, although I’m not sure what Rio will think.
On arrival back at Smithfield we jumped in the car and drove into Cairns for the first time, spending a bit of time at the lagoon, a spot built specifically for everyone to chill out. This area has a large pool, BBQ stations and toilets and is all free. Everyone seemed so chilled out and relaxed, such a nice way to spend an afternoon. But it was hot and seeing as we’d only paid for an hour parking we retuned to the car and drove back to the apartment.
We returned to Cairns later that evening and found a nice seafood restaurant before heading back for an early night, once again exhausted from the days excursions.
Palm Cove – Wednesday 19th November – Another early start as we had to be in Port Douglas at 9am to catch the boat to the reef. We left the apartment just before 8am and headed north and were soon driving along one of the most beautiful coastal roads, with great views of the Coral Sea to our right. We arrived at the port in plenty of time and grabbed a coffee before joining our boat for the day. There were quite a few people waiting in the queue but apparently it wasn’t that busy so we had no trouble finding a spot on the top deck to enjoy the sunshine during the onward journey to the pontoon.
Once the boat, a catamaran made completely of aluminium, set off we were cooled by the sea breeze as it sped up the coastline before heading eastward out to sea. The journey took around 90 minutes and so we enjoyed the ride, stretched out, slowly burning in the heat of the morning. As we approached the pontoon we started to see the clear waters of the reef and the golden sands surrounding them. We crossed onto the main deck of the pontoon and soon donned our stinger suits and snorkeling gear. There is a high risk of getting stung by jellyfish in the coral seas so it is advisable to wear the lycra suits (at an extra cost of course) and it seemed everyone was wearing them so it was silly to ignore advice. I fact getting stung by a box jellyfish can be lethal.
Once Tina had sorted out some prescription google’s were were off; I having done snorkeling before got straight to it but Tina, a first timer, was a bit more wary. But she soon got to grips with breathing (always helpful) and we spent a good hour exploring the reef and looking in wonder at the varied fish and coral below. The waters were so clear and the fish didn’t seem bothered by us, swimming up really close at times. On my only previous snorkeling trip, with Matt in Florida, I thought what we saw there was great but it was no comparison to what we saw at the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic.
We returned to the pontoon for some lunch, a really good spread with plenty for me too, before getting back into our suits for more reef watching. An hour later and we were both exhausted so we got out for a drink and relax before the trip back.
Soon we were making our way back to port, not before the captain stopped the engines for a while when a pod of minke whales were spotted close by. I got some great video of this rare encounter, they were apparently unusual to be seen this late in the year. Eventually the captain said we had to move on, which was a shame as we could have watched them all day. At port we grabbed a coffee before driving back to the apartment for a rest before going out for a pizza in a restaurant close by.