CAIRNS, Australia, March 20 – 23 – If you want to explore Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or its “northern north east” rain forests, then you’ll most likely be in Cairns. This tropical seaside city was once just a sleepy fishing village, later a busy port of export, and now a thoroughly pleasant little city on the coast intent on having its own identity. Palm trees and tropical flowery trees and shrubs line the seaside boulevards. Massive Mango trees and Banyans abound. Along one of the city’s main streets the trees are packed with ‘flying foxes’ (fruit bats) hanging resting in the daytime (upside down) and replaced at night by noisy chattery Lorikeets. All of this alongside two World Heritage Sites, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Queensland tropical rain forest. Our two days here were to visit both.
For our day out to the nearby Great Barrier Reef, Lakani arranged a private large catamaran “Ocean Freedom” … usually carrying over 60 people, we were just over 30 with a fun and friendly professional crew of 9 to look after us. We set out from the marina in front of our hotel for the hour’s fast cruise out to the reef. We were happy to be in Cairns as Hurricane Nathan had been swirling around until just the day before, leaving in the very early morning of the day of our arrival. As we headed out into the great blue it was a beautiful hot day. While serving morning coffees & teas and French pastries and large platters of fresh tropical fruits, our crew quickly briefed us on all the safety requirements of the day. Some would be snorkeling, some would be scuba diving, and some would be venturing across the reef in our own glass bottom boat. Everyone was in good spirits and eager for this good day. We would not be disappointed. We visited two private sites along the Great Barrier Reef and at each all the water activities were enjoyed. Between these sites we indulged in an excellent lunch on board. The water temperature was a ‘bath warm’ 80 degrees and in places the water clarity and colours just spectacular. Our friendly crew looked after us and entertained us, they guided us well. It was all too soon that we were docking back in Cairns in the late afternoon.
Our second day adventures up the nearby mountains into the tropical rain forest included our skimming across the top of it, walking through it, and meandering back down through it by historic train. We began our morning ascending in gondolas … skimming us silently up and over the tree tops of over 12 miles of the forest. Here this is aptly known as the ‘sky rail’. This is a unique and unusual way to see a rain forest … not to mention comfortable and easy. Along our route over the forest we alighted from the gondolas at two forest “stations” where local ranger guides took us on short guided hikes to points of interest. One of these included short hike to Barron Falls. At the top we were in the little town of Kuranda – initially established as a ‘gold rush’ mining town over a hundred years ago and, after the closure of the mines evolved to a hippie enclave of artistic renown. Today Kuranda is a sweet little tourist town of artists (or is that clever ‘escape artists’). Here we strolled through the town to visit the Koala Sanctuary and our guided tour which included much more of Australia’s wildlife (koalas, wombats, crocodiles, kangaroos & wallabies, and dangerous large snakes). At the Kuranda Trading Post we enjoyed a lunch of local variety – an interesting menu of kangaroo carpaccio, crocodile, as well as beef steaks, Barrier Reef Salmon (a tasty white fish entirely different from our well known North Atlantic salmon), and tropical fruit plates that included custard apples, red dragon fruit, mango, lychee, and macadamia ice cream. Our return down to Cairns was aboard the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway – a spectacular trip through the rainforest with spectacular views of gorges and waterfalls, as well as out to the Great Barrier Reef, and no less than 98 ‘twists and turns’, many tunnels, and several ‘adrenaline pumping’ over gorge ‘bridges. All too soon we were back down home. It had been another great day!
Our guests enjoying ‘dine by choice’ each evening here, sampling some of the best that Cairns has to offer. Good reviews. This place is certainly no longer a sleepy little fishing village …
And so onward in our beautiful silver ‘sky bird’ to Indochina and the country kingdom of Cambodia …our next UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor and the world famous ancient temples rediscovered and recaptured from the jungles recently. As with so many of our flights, our direct non-stop flight from Cairns to Siem Reap cannot be achieved by any commercial flights. Seamlessly connecting these unusual destinations by private jet is a great asset of this world trip.
On board, our excellent crew and ‘sky chef’ indulged our guests with champagne and caviar service as well as an excellent luncheon of salad with mixed green vegetables & grilled Halva cheese, Australian entrees of grilled Barramundi (Australian fresh seafood similar to Halibut) or mildly spiced chicken with a marinade of cream green chili cardamom, and the always irresistible dessert plate of petit lemon tarte and blueberry cheesecake.
Stay tuned in a few days for our updates from the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia.
View a short video clip of some of our divers in the Great Barrier Reef…
Click any photo to enlarge.
Click here to read more about our journey through the ruins of Angkor Wat and other Cambodian treasures.