Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest

Trip Start Jan 13, 2006
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Trip End Feb 15, 2006


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Thursday, January 26, 2006

PORT DOUGLAS-CAIRNS

Port Douglas is our first mini vacation as we stay put for six days and have some free days to relax and do some laundry, as we both are a little stinky. The only potential downfall to our mini vacation in North Queensland is that we are going there during their wet season, which we quickly confirmed on arrival and our bus ride to Port Douglas, which we cut down on the beach time. Then again you can't swim in the ocean due to the Box Jellyfish (Aussies call it a Stinger), which can kill you, the sharks, or crocodiles, which could also kill you. {Side Note: We came to realize that there is a lot of things that could kill you in this area...don't worry parents we are writing this after leaving the region}

Port Douglas is 40 minutes North of Cairns and lies along both the Daintree Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef. This is significant because it's the only place in the world that Two World Heritage Sites touch and also makes for some pretty exciting sightseeing (remember all those things that can kill you), so this entry will focus on those two sites as I am sure no one cares about our laundry or us hanging out.


Daintree Rainforest:
We used Deluxe Tours, they asked us to mention them (and by they way they were great...we highly recommend them), for our Daintree Rainforest tour, which was also our first tour, as I am sure of many.

The first stop was a site consisting of a beautiful stream running through the rainforest called Mossman Gorge. This is included on every tour as its well photographed (we agree as we got some good shoots) and close to town. From there we headed to a look out over the bay and the chance to put on some Mosquito (Aussies call them Mossies) Repellent. Nothing like a little Deet in the morning!

The next stop was Cape Tribulation, which is where the Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef meet, and also where we had morning tea (We discovered the goodness of the Tim Tam Cookie). As legend holds the area got it's name as its where Captain Cook ran aground on the reef, and thus started the trying period of his expedition as he tried to keep the boat afloat, fix it, and escape what he called the Labyrinth, which of course was and is the Great Barrier Reef. We also got a quick explanation how the Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef support each other by basically creating their own weather -cycle of rain, streams, nutrients, etc. If anyone wants more information about it, buy me a beer when we get home and I will diagram it on a cocktail napkin for you.

Around mid-morning we got a walking tour thru the Daintree Rainforest and spotted some unique birds, some even flying from Papua New Guinea to lay their eggs, and learned about different kinds of plants (some that can kill you) and trees (some that were over a thousand years old) that are in a continuous fight for light. We also learned that the Daintree Rainforest is over 150 million years old, and currently is under 5% of the landmass of Australia. This is amazing/scary/interesting as at one point the rainforest was 80% of the landmass of Australia, then again at one point it was also connected to the South Pole and mostly underwater. (Once again if you want more info on the subject stop reading this blog and do some internet research.) The last interesting fact we learned was that we have only tested about 1% of the rainforest but derive about 30% of our medications from that 1%. Scary to think what cures we are losing in our rainforests by destroying them.

After those heavy subjects and making each of us seem really small in the big world order we went for Ice Cream!!!! Nothing makes you feel better than some homemade ice cream and mango juice from the Daintree Ice Cream Company.

The final part of the tour was a riverboat ride up the Daintree River to search out Crocodiles (another killer of the many of animals, insects, and reptiles we learned about during the day that could kill you) and other wildlife. During the ride we got up close and personal with a couple of Crocs, say hundreds of bats in the trees, tree frogs, and some huge birds. Overall it was a great tour and the best part it didn't rain on us!

Great Barrier Reef
The true purpose of coming to Cairns was the Great Barrier Reef and it lived up to most of its billing. Once again we avoided the rain and got a great day out on the water. After the hour and half out to the outer reef we did our first dive (really we only snorkeled). Before we jumped in we put on our hot full body Lycra suits to protect us against the killer Box Jellyfish and other Stringers that are in the water (more killers).

The color of the corral was absolutely amazing and filled with lots of life. The second dive was even better than the first, beyond Scott doing a yard sale with his equipment by loosing his snorkel, and both fins while out in the water. Luckily he was quick enough to dive down and recover everything before that were out of reach. The other highlight was seeing a shark somewhat up close, then again you can judge for yourself as we have a picture of it.

After a decent lunch on board and a discussion of fish changing sexes and sleeping with their parents and other siblings...Jerry Springer style. We did our third and last dive, which was by far the best one of the day. Thousands of fish, which liked to get up close and personal with you. After 40 minutes, Scott did get a nice present as he got stung on the ankle (one of two places, with the face the other, that isn't covered by Lyrca) by a jellyfish. So he booked it back to the boat as fast as he has ever swam. (Well as I am currently writing this it was not a box jelly fish but did scare the hell out of me for a couple of minutes as well as Amy...what a great fiancÚ.) Even still it was a great day and we got some OK pictures with our throwaway water cameras.

Overall we both agreed that the snorkeling was good but not great, and wondered why people talk it up so much. But it must be because of the mere size of it as we only dove one of thousands of reefs. Plus it's the only living thing you can see from space and the combined square footage is larger than England, Scotland, and Ireland put together. Simply it's Big.

TRAVEL NOTES:
1. Stay in Port Douglas as its closer to all the tours (Great Barrier Reef and Daintree) and will save you an hour a day on transit, plus Port Douglas is a nice town.
2. Seasons here due matter. The Wet season from January-March is greener and has more animals about in the Rainforest but be prepared to get wet everyday and can lessen the color out on the reef. The Dry season May-August is the busy season but is drier.
3. You need to do a tour in the Daintree, and Poseidon was the most recommended boat for the Great Barrier Reef.
4. Don't plan to do a lot of classic California beach time as you can't swim in many of the beaches.
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