I realised today that I never made a post that I promised to make after my holiday to the Great Barrier Reef last year. This is going to be a long thread/post with lots of photos! Best holiday ever and I recommend any Australian resident or visitor to head to this gorgeous, tiny town. :)
We flew up to Cairns with a stop-off in Brisbane, then tooka bus to Port Douglas. I cannot reccomend this lovely little town enough. Westayed in the gorgeous Pepper's hotel (Photo 1: the pool!) The best thing aboutthis hotel was definitely the pool. I had no desire to swim in the beach, as itwas stinger season (box jellies being the worst, but there were also otherlittle nasties around) with a chance of sharks and/or estuarine (saltwater)crocodiles. Peppers has this lovely sandy man-made beach around the pool withwarm, clear saltwater that was a joy to bathe in. It's also protected from the wind and there's a fun waterfall that staff can turn on for you if you ask nicely. I should say that all the staff at this hotel were extremely helpful and friendly. The food was alos lovely.
Port Douglas itself is a nice little town – basically onemain street, plus the wharf – with lots of places to eat, some tourist shops, acouple of massage parlours and a local shopping centre. The fountain outside the complex is full ofguppies and plecos, all happily breeding in the muggy QLD climate, which willswim up and explore your hand very thoroughly if you stick it in.
We arrived early in the morning, so we headed out toHartley's Crocodile farm. We did a little cruise around their lagoon and gotvery close to some salties, male and female, and saw feeding time. They alsohave a large and lovely selection of mammals and birds. It's a great place to go if you enjoy watching crazy croc-keepers jumping in the water withyoung male crocodiles and hand feeding them. This juvie (Hagrid) wasa good 2.5m and very grumpy. He broke the gate to the enclosure. The crazy feeder kept wondering through the water that Hagrid was lying in.
Photo Two: Female saltie jumping (she's little at just over2m)
Photo Three: An adult flopping his way onto the bank
Photo Four: A freshwater crocodile (much skinnier nose thana saltie, much lighter and smaller and not nearly so bad-tempered)
Photo Five: A golden orb spider. Prolific, non-deadly, buthuge and creepy. The one is this photo has a body the length of a man's middlefinger and a leg-span easily the size of my whole hand, fingers and all. Theyget bigger.
Photo Six: A cute adult wallaby (just to offset the ickyness of the huge spider ;))
(Sorry if these photos go up in the wrong order. I'm sure you'll be able to figure out which is which. )
More photos from Day One:
- A koala in Hartley's
- A fat and cheeky kookaburra that hung out in the koala pen
- A cassowary (very endangered. They are dangerous if annoyed and can gut a human easily with those enormous claws. Slightly bigger than an emu. We hand fed these guys at Hartley's. )
- A very pretty parrot, common in Queensland, but whose name I have forgotten. >
- A spotted quoll having a nap (endangered).
Sorry that I'm uploading these in little sections - I can't seem to post more than 5 pictures at once!
On the second day, we headed out on a tour to get to knowthe area better. With our wonderfulguide and an amazing old lady called Meryl (she took up scuba diving at 78 andhas since racked up more than 2 weeks underwater!) we drove up into thebeautiful Daintree Rainforest and learnt a fair amount about it. I took the plunge and licked a green ant’sbottom. At first I thought this was acrazy prank, but no, they actually taste like citrus. We saw trees with huge roots, trees thousandsof years old, trees that only grow with cassowary poo...all very cool. Also, enormous golden orbs, becauseAustralia. We also saw some red-footedfowl and some lizards, Boyd’s Forest Dragon in particular. From there, we headed down to Emmagen beach,the only place in the world where you can stand in two World Heritage Sites atonce (the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree) and saw a bull shark cruisingoff the coast. At least, I think it wasa bull shark. Definitely a shark,definitely not a reef or great white. Possibly a tiger shark, but it looked more bullish. We then headed up the lookout, and wow, theview. After that we drove to Cooper’sCreek and went on a crocodile spotting cruise. The nesting season was nearing its end, so we didn’t see any, but theriver and the estuary were stunningly beautiful, surrounded by mangroves and mountains.
We had lunch at a gorgeous guesthouse tucked away in theDaintree by a crystal clear river. Thefood was great (portions in QLD are HUGE! To me, anyway. From what I hearfrom friends who’ve visited the USA, Americans may not think they are anythingto write home about ). After lunch, wedrove through more lovely rainforest and went to a fruit plantation, where wehad amazing ice-cream with some unique flavours, made on site from tropicalfruit grown there.
Our final stop was a lovely, but extremely popular waterhole. The water was again, crystal clearand pleasantly cool. The hole was fullof rocks – the nice, large rounded ones, not nasty sharp ones – with tinysucker-fish swimming all over them. There were also large schools of jungle perch which would let you getreally close, as long as you didn’t try to touch them. There were some small rapids for those whoenjoy hurling themselves through rocky, fast-moving water.
- Boyd's Forest Dragon, a cute little lizard that stays really still and is very easy to miss.
- Cooper's Creek, with the mangroves all around. The water was gorgeous (no swimming though - this is croc territory).
- A pretty little river in the Daintree.
- Emmagen Lookout, up in the Daintree overlooking the Coral Sea.
Day Three was my favourite. All the days were wonderful, but this was the day of the Great BarrierReef! I’m a bit of a fish nerd, soseeing fish in their natural environment is a huge thrill for me. It was also exciting for another reason,which I’ll get to.
We sailed out on the Calypso, which is run by the samecompany that did our tour. We headed tothe first reef (I think it was Diamond Reef, but I can’t remember), where weall snorkelled. From there, we went totwo more reefs, and those two times were really special. My sister and I opted to do an introductoryPADI diving course. No experiencenecessary – they give you the kit, teach you how to use it, you do a short testto show you can recover your breather thing if you lose it, and down you go ina group of four with one instructor! Wedid it twice and it was the most incredible thing. Snorkelling is all well and good, but I can’tgo deep with a snorkel without hurting my ears, and I forget I’m not supposedto inhale. Scuba-diving was effortless;no pain, no trouble breathing, and the chance to get right up close to thecoral and the fish. We went to a depthof 10 metres (at one point we hit 12) and got to touch some things (a softcoral, a clam, some kind of underwater hedgehog), under our guide’sinstructions. We were so thrilled. The whole experience was absolutelyperfect. I now plan to get my PADI OpenWater Certification if we head back up there.
I'm not going to name all the photos, because that would take forever. I got very snap-happy with a hired digital camera and this is only a tiny fraction of all the underwater things I captured. If you are really keen to know the name of a fish, I can probably tell you (I'm not great with coral, though).
Our last full day in beautiful Port Douglas. We spent it relaxing in the pool, shoppingthe tiny town and I got a spa treatment as a birthday present to myself.
The next day, with much regret, we left to return home. There are only two things I wish I could havedone: seen the Cane Toad races at the local pub, and take another of the toursoffered. However, the whole family foundthis trip so incredible that we may well go back next year or the yearafter!
My tips to anyone who wants to visit this gorgeous place:
·Do take lots of mosquito repellent. I wore bucketloads and it didn’t help, but Iam a mozzie magnet.
·If you are like me, also take lots of topicaltreatment for bites. I also gotjellyfished, so this helped.
·Dress appropriately. It is a very hot, muggy area, so wear lightclothing. My clothing of choice wasconvertible trousers (yes, I know, very touristy, but so practical), because asshorts I was cool and as trousers I was protected from the mosquitoes, asinglet and a light overshirt (again, sun and mosquito protection.
·Take lots of sunscreen.
·Go in February. This worked for us because my sister and I are uni students – our summerholidays end in late February, whereas schoolchildren head back in lateJanuary, which meant our holiday was not filled with families. I much prefer this. The pool and restaurants were largelyempty. However, this is the beginning ofmonsoon season. We were lucky, becauseit only rained once in our trip, but this was not the norm. Rain is fast, hard and torrential, but you’lldry out very quickly when it stops and it’s very warm, so it shouldn’t reallyimpede your enjoyment, unless you really hate rain. Regardless, the time we went was stillfantastic.
·If you are a meat-eater, do try crocodile, emuand kangaroo. It’s farmed locally andrelatively ethically, and it really is tasty. The seafood around there is also pretty good, since it’s a coastaltown.
If you've never SCUDA'd and want to give it a go, the PADI Discovery thing that I did was an excellent way to try it out without having to pay out to do the full course.
I hope you guys enjoy the photos and get a chance to visit this glorious place.
Wow! So cool! I'm really jealous! Going diving out there is a dream of mine! Someday I'll have to make it a reality. But, ill have to get a diving certification and practice a bit at other places before going there.
If you do get a chance to come out here and dive, also check out the Jervis Bay marine park. It's cooler water, and rather than tropical fish and coral it is filled with dolphins, stingrays, turtles, octopus and heaps of cooler water fish, like puffers. We saw those just snorkelling and sailing, so imagine what you'd see diving! There's also a high chance of seeing gentle reef sharks, whales (in season) and wobbegongs. :) Just as beautiful and diverse as the reef in its own way.