Cairns is a tourist town known best for it's Great Barrier Reef business. There are dozens of charter companies that operate excursions to the reef. The typical excursion takes you out in the morning, you visit several spots for snorkeling and/or diving, they feed you lunch, then return in time for dinner.
We took one of these excursion. Patti and I went on a large catamaran and visited Michaelmas Cay, which had as small, island bird sanctuary. We snorkeled from the beach. They also had a glass bottom boat which was great for hearing about what you were seeing.
|Our ride to the reef|
|Beach shuttle craft|
|The boat had sails that added about one knot to it's top speed.|
|Glass bottomed boat|
Scenes from glass bottom boat
Above the water:
|Bird sanctuary on the cay|
|birds come. birds go.|
|Brown booby says: "What you lookin' at!?"|
Dan took a tour on a smaller boat that went a bit farther out and visited three spots where he snorkeled off the back of the boat. He also rented a camera. Good move! ...as you will shortly see. I did not rent a camera. A good move for me. Flippers, mask and snorkel are about one to many things for me to manage. Add in a camera, and I'd have drowned or been impaled on the coral.
|Dan's ride to the reef|
Dan's underwater pictures:
After our day on the reef, we went back to a "restaurant" on the pier. Actually, it was on a fishing boat. "Prawn star" was it's name/ Really. We had prawns (shrimp) and bugs (mud crabs)....and beer...and wine. It was great!
Tucked up in the mountains just beyond Cairns is the town of Kuranda and a large rain forest. There are three ways to get there. The Kuranda Skyrail Cable Car, the Kuranda Scenic Railroad and a bus. We chose....wait for it... the Kuranda Scenic Railroad. (surprise!) The railroad was built in the late 1800s using 3' 6" Cape Gauge, the standard for Queensland - more Australian railroad gauge follies.
The train, which uses some ancient, nicely restored coaches and locomotives originally built for Brisbane commuter service, wind up through several tunnels, over bridges and by a large waterfall, and finally a stop at a deep gorge before arriving at Kuranda. The ride was accompanied by a narrative and pamphlet that explained the history and sights along the way.
|In Cairns station, ready to go.|
|Yup. Kuranda Scenic Railway.|
|Looking out toward Coral Sea|
|Arrived at Kuranda|
Kuranda itself was a small town with lots of tourist attractions and shops. We visited the Kuranda Koala gardens where you can hold a Koala. They also had Kangaroos and Wallabys you could hand feed and some other native animals on display.
(koala gardens pix)
|Kangaroo (on left)|
|Wallaby (also on left)|
|It's impolite to stare, you know.|
We also too a short river tours that explained the significance of the rain forest.
|Turtle that will shortly fall off the log|
|Fresh water croc|
We caught a bus back to town, got packed, and then got up at ridiculous-o'clock to catch our flight to Christchurch, NZ, via Brisbane.
See ya, Australia!
New Zealand, here we come!