Great Barrier Reef adventures

Great Barrier Reef (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef) is the biggest coral reef in the world and the only living system that can be seen from the space. And it’s also one of most interesting places in Australia to visit.

Having said that, of course I couldn’t choose anything else but traveling to AUS Tropical North, Cairns and Port Douglas as my first vacation after 6 months in Sydney.

AND IT WAS GREAT!!!

We spent 3 days in Cairns (were locals are said to pity everyone living south from there πŸ™‚ because Cairns is so much cooler they believe and the weather is awesome), and then 5 days in Port Douglas, small resort town (former fishermen village) 1 hour drive up north from Cairns.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Esplanade in Cairns is great, it goes along the coast and is an awesome place; it has green areas, cafes, and a man-made lagoon (I loved it); I saw there a spiritual movie screened at night, open air, people just sitting around on the grass; jogged early in the morning with a swim in the open air pool (which is the lagoon), walked in the evening just enjoying the breeze and the chilled-out mood of the city;


Skyrail to Kuranda; Skyrail is one of longest cableways in the world, going for nearly 8 kms above the rainforest to Kuranda, a village up in the mountains


Driving around Cairns in mountains for a sneak view on the real rainforest, with mountain rivers, cascades and cliffs covered in tropical plants (falling at one of the hiking tracks left quite a big scratch on my arm, but is also a part of the getting to know the rainforest πŸ™‚


Green Island (part of the Great Barrier Reef) day trip: sailing on a big motor boat to the island, which is a small and very nice place to be, surrounded of course by corals; first exposure to the Reef!

We saw even a big grouper and a shark, which even being a small reef shark, nearly made me jump out of the water

Drive to Port Douglas along the coast is very nice, with beaches and mountain coastline opening at every turn; we stayed in a very cool hotel (I felt like real grown-up having a holiday πŸ™‚

From Port-Douglas as a base:

Trip to Cape Tribulation; the drive up north is awesome, we drove through Mossman (a small town with ancient rainforest trees), took a ferry to cross the Daintree River, took the hilly roads, made detours to the beaches (highly recommend Cow Beach), and finally reached Cape Tribulation, a place that is an iconic place “where rainforest meets the reef” (and after which the sealed road ends, and you are on the discovery in the tropical north forests); the sand there is silver-greyish, and the view of misty rainforest-covered mountains stepping right into the ocean is very memorable


Crocodile watching tours: in a true touristy spirit, we took a boat to see the crocodiles in the Daintree River. It was solar-powered, with a close-up video camera and an lcd display (technology is everywhere :), which was the right choice: there were kingfisher birds, tree snakes, crabs, little yellow birds (that I don’t remember the name of, but read in my school geography books and was more than excited to see in life :);

And of course crocodiles themselves; the tour guides know them all, living along the river, and tell stories that this crocodile did that and that last winter, it’s just fascinating πŸ™‚


Crocodiles are nearly invisible to not-used to eye, as they are the same colour as the water and the land on the river sides; I learned lots of interesting things about their lifestyle πŸ™‚

We saw the rain in the rainforest; and I got fascinated by mangroves; it is a name for all plants that can live near the ocean water, specific being in their roots that can survive low and high-tide in the sand; they are just awesome, so different from plants we have in Belarus and Russia πŸ™‚


Mossman and Mossman Gorge: a beautiful location, mountain river with walking trails in the rainforest. It is owned by aboriginal tribes but is open to public; we saw a little forest stream, swam in the river’s waterhole (I got nearly blown away with the current :), saw wild little pigs (piglets, their mom was making sounds nearby). I enjoyed so much the peacefulness of sun-filled green world – birds singing, sounds of running water in the river, other sounds of the forest – it was so good to re-connect to nature again!..


An interesting thing is that in Mossman town (and actually generally in Cairns etc) I saw much bigger proportion of aboriginal population; good to see them differently – normally -rather than playing music on Sydney streets..

Port Douglas: a wonderful little town, which I just loved; with a cafΓ©/restaurant/shopping street as a center;


our hotel was 1 minute walk to the beach and 20 metres to the centre, how’s that? πŸ™‚
My favorites in Port Douglas:

Seeing the sunset at a seafront of the town
;


Watching the sunrise on Four Mile Beach


Four Mile Beach itself (isn’t the sky reflection on the sand cool??) and oh! The water in Port Douglas! Tender, warm, and you just don’t want to leave the beach πŸ™‚


Relaxing in cafes, visiting Sunday markets, listening to live music at the corner hotel pub, swimming in the ocean, enjoying the sun… This was my Port Douglas life style for several days, and I must say, I wouldn’t mind that for longer πŸ™‚ Very relaxing time…

And! The most exciting part of the trip!
…GREAT BARRIER REEF…

For our second, main and best, trip to the Reef we’ve taken Poseidon, the boat that took us to the very edge of the GBR; it’s hard to describe how cool it is to stand on the boat deck, with the ocean breeze in your face and sun in your eyes, facing this unique nature creation…


We were snorkeling (as they say you see more snorkeling as more life is in warm surface waters, and anyways I’m afraid of being in depth); it’s great, there is the Reef and nothing else; the ocean is the Reef’s domain there.

You swim along the edge of the Reef, and there is a new underwater landscape at every turn; schools of fish are everywhere, completely not afraid of humans (floating humans in snorkel masks are not significant in that system; however can be still influencing it badly).

The life on the Reef is so diverse – fishes are big, small, swimming in groups and in couples, and singles; different shapes and colours; I saw Nemo! (clownfish) luckily close enough, held sea cucumber, saw a turtle floating away in the blue, swam with a school of fish; it’s just great to be there, the Reef is so alive and interesting!..

I managed to take some good pictures with the underwater camera; all is on flickr πŸ™‚
Here’s some sneak preview:



I loved traveling to Australia’s Tropical North, obviously the rainforest and the reef were the highlights; however the whole lifestyle of those places is just so relaxed and nice, you just don’t want to leave πŸ™‚

Here’s some of the trip; see what I saw, through my photographs: Australia’s Tropical North