Cairns & the Coast

After two flight delays Clem–a fellow McGillian–and myself touched down in Cairns on Thursday afternoon. Being the budget-savvy traveller that I am I opted for the no-luggage fare. Keep in mind I have just embarked on a two week vacation and packing all my belongings into my school bag and carrying a sleeping bag as my “purse” was no easy task.

After picking up our rental car we hit the road and began our journey north to Port Douglas. It is a beautiful one hour drive along the coast; we couldn’t help but stop to take in some of the beaches.

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It has been quite some time since I have been full on camping and thus, Thursday night was the first time in a while that I slept on mother nature’s mattress–the cold hard ground. I forgot how luxurious sleeping without a pillow and waking up with enough bug bites to look like you have chicken pox really is.

Friday morning we woke up bright and early to depart on our full day snorkel trip to the infamous Great Barrier Reef. It was around1h 45 mins to boat out to the reef where we stopped at three different sites for one hour each. There was also a marine biologist from the Great Barrier Reef commission on board to assess some of the damage from Cyclone Ita that just passed through the area last week.

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Our first site was sort of a warm up where we were free to explore on our own for the hour and marvel at the countless different species of fish that call the reef home. At the second site we had the opportunity to go on a guided tour with the on-ship marine biologist–Emma. During the tour Emma talked about coral, passed around a sea cucumber, and showed us clown fish in their anemone that were made famous in Finding Nemo. During our lunch break Emma also talked about the reef as a whole and it’s overall health. It is a very fragile ecosystem and if humans continue to disregard this, the reef will be irreparably damaged or even wiped out entirely in a few short decades. The third site was without a doubt the most beautiful, with the most diverse and colourful coral landscape. Overall, the reef is a truly incredible wonder of the natural world and it would be a shame to see humans unnecessarily destroy one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet.

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Saturday morning we got off to an early start and headed towards Cape Tribulation via the Daintree Rainforest–the oldest living rainforest in the world. I volunteered to take a turn driving for the day, little did I know my first time driving on the wrong side of the road would bring me back to my days of playing Mario Kart. The roads through the rainforest are narrow at best with non-existent shoulders and no straight stretch longer than 50m.

We made a number of stops throughout the Daintree Rainforest at various lookouts and boardwalks. The area is extremely lush and full of crocodile and cassowary warnings. We relaxed at our final destination Cape Tribulation beach for a couple hours before heading to our campground located on Noah’s beach.

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The sun sets so early here (around 6:30) so we decided it wouldn’t be unreasonable to get to bed early and try and make it up for sunrise. Boy was it worth it for this view!

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Afterwards we made the most of our morning and enjoyed a barefoot run on the beach before we began our drive back to Cairns.

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On the way back we made stops at Barron Falls, Kuranda Rainforest, and Yorkie beach. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring downtown Cairns and gearing up for our big whitewater rafting excursion tomorrow!

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