Cairns Travel Experience

I absolutely loved my time in Cairns and didn’t found the humidity unbearable at all (contrary to what everyone had warned me about). Cairns is a wonderful, vibrant city with a fantastic lagoon/esplanade area. The lagoon has something to suit everyone – deep areas for swimming, sand for the children and shallow areas for babies and young children. Not only was the lagoon beautifully warm at around 31-32oC but while sitting in the lagoon you could see the helicopters swooping in and landing at the marina less than 50m away. I loved this.

When I first arrived in Cairns I spent 3 days living on Fitzroy Island. This Island is a National Park that is covered in rainforest and surrounded by reef - paradise. There are varied walks that you can take all over the island and the magic of these are that after only a couple of minutes you are surrounded by nature and feel like you are the only person there, apart from the lizards!

The coral reefs around Fitzroy Island are abundant with marine life. I went on a night dive around the jetty in an only a 2m2 area but saw more ‘special’ marine life than when I went out to the outer reef. This included octopus, mantras, parrot fish, eels and thousands of fish. The other thing I loved about Fitzroy Island was being able to snorkel just a metre off the shore, yet have all these different fish around me. There really was no need to go deeper – although I did to find my turtles!

The desire to see turtles was one of the reasons I learnt to dive several years ago. Many of the staff on Fitzroy Island had mentioned how there were always turtles around but I just couldn’t find one. By my last day I was desperate and took to turtle searching on the beach. One of the beach staff had seen a turtle earlier in the day so I snorkelled out about 30m into the general area of where he had seen it. After about 15 minutes I was about to give up when I spotted it, and then another! I was able to watch them eat (quite boring) and then follow them as they swam up and down in the water. It was incredible watching them swim so calmly and majestically through the water.

Back on the mainland (Cairns) I swapped from a more ‘up-market’ backpackers accommodation to one that was 1/3 the price and included dinner. Although the new hostel was very basic the people there were fantastic. This hostel was quite small, filled with overseas backpackers (particularly Germans!) but it had a ‘family’ feel to it. This was probably the best decision I made as I got to the know the staff and many of the backpackers who were staying there. It reminded my of school camp.

Later I took a 2 day/1 night tour package up to Cape Tribulation. It had rained heavily the night before we left and so before crossing the river onto Cape Tribulation we had to wait while they cleared away the landslide that had washed away half the road! This was also the trip where I learned that although the bus driver may repeat the phrase ‘no worries’ like a mantra he hadn’t quite yet put it into practice. On the way up he was constantly preoccupied with the time and how late we were, but ‘no worries’!

Pk’s Jungle, where I stayed, was about a 5 minute walk through rainforest and mangroves to the Cape Tribulation beach. Once on the beach you can walk up further to a river inlet or join onto a boardwalk through the rainforest. You shouldn’t get too close to the inlet though because there are crocodiles in it! It was amazing to have such diverse environments so close to each other.

Although it absolutely poured with rain overnight, by the next day the sun had come out. Coming back we stopped at Alexandra Lookout, something we hadn’t been able to do the day before because of the weather. We also went on a crocodile cruise where we saw 2 juvenile crocs (~1.5m), a big male (~5m), a crocodile nest, tree snakes and white lipped tree frogs (my favourite). We then travelled further south towards Cairns and stopped at Mossman Gorge for a swim. The water was absolutely FREEZING but that didn’t stop some people from swimming in it. I just got a bit wet but at least I can say I’ve been in Mossman Gorge. This is also a very beautiful area with many walks which looked wonderful but I didn’t get to explore.

The Kuranda Skyrail is a major tourist attraction for Cairns but by this stage I had see enough lookouts and rainforest to know that I wanted to be in the rainforest not above it! Instead I opted for a $2 bus ride up there to explore the town. This is very touristy town although many of the art there is hand made and they have a very talented glass blower.

My trip to Cairns would not have been complete without a dive trip to the outer reef. The company that I went with were very small and hence the boat went very slow! Being the wet season there were only 18 people on the boat (rather than 40) and only three of us were certified to dive. The first place we stopped at was Michaelmas Cay. This is a bird sanctuary sand cay that people can only walk on in one place. The diving here was average and very shallow (about 5 metres). The water however was clear and warm and I saw plenty of Clownfish (Nemo’s).

Our next stop was Hastings Reef. This was a fantastic dive. In fact the best one I have done. Hastings Reef is about 12-15m at its deepest, however, a lot of it is only 3-4m below the water. There are open topped swim throughs, reefs shaped into bowls that you can swim into and a toilet bowl! While diving at Hastings I was also lucky enough to see a White Tipped Reef Shark - a great finish to my dive. I could have spent much longer diving here but unfortunately ran out of air!

Two weeks in Cairns may seem like a lot but there is so much more that you could do. This was definitely one of my favourite holidays.