It’s the 24th of December, 5 o’clock in the morning, and I’m getting myself ready to go to Sydney’s Domestic Airport. After a quick bus and train ride arrive and check in my bag. This is the first time flying completely on my own, so I’m a little bit nervous. After a simple drug test at customs everything is done. I sit down to enjoy a nice breakfast and make good use of the free Wi-Fi. Time flies and before I know it I’m boarding the airplane of Virgin Australia. Slowly the plane starts moving and up in the air we go. On the plane I met a lovely women with her husband and two kids. They live in Sydney and we have a nice conversation about this and that.
About 2,5 hours later I arrive at Cairns Domestic Airport and after the bag pick up I make my way to my hotel. This year, I wanted to celebrate Christmas a little differently. And because I also really wanted to make a small trip within Australia, I figured this would be the perfect time. So, I planned 5 full days to enjoy and explore everything I could about Cairns and beyond.
At the hotel I freshen myself up a bit and then start walking to the centre. From my hotel, Cairns Colonial Club, it’s about a 50-minute walk, but pretty doable. The heat however is a whole other story… In 30-degree weather I make my way to town where I get a simple yoghurt and muesli lunch before spending time at Rusty’s Market. Like you probably know by now, I love markets. Especially with beautiful, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and other products. My eye falls on the tropical fruits that are way too expensive to buy in The Netherlands. So, I load up on some lychees, dragon fruit, mango, watermelon and jackfruit, and walk straight to the Esplanade Lagoon. Soaking up the heat, enjoying my fruit and talking to strangers, my first afternoon in Cairns spent well.
For my first full day in Cairns, I planned on going to Fitzroy Island. So, after a nice breakfast at the hotel and packing my bag with everything I need, I make my way to the pier. Here I can get my boarding pass for the boat. The harbour looks very nice and it’s very easy to see what Cairns’ main source of income is: tourism. There is a nice atmosphere and the sun is shining in abundance. The boat ride itself was great, as the views are gorgeous and the wind nice and cooling. 45 minutes later I arrive at Fitzroy Island and I’m impressed by the breathtaking nature, crystal clear waters and flourishing, green hills. It’s about 11:15 a.m. and I immediately start my walk all the way to the top. The path can be very steep and in combination with the pressing heat, it’s not a walk you can do within an hour. First stop is the lighthouse with a beautiful view over the ocean. From there you walk a bit back and are able to go all the way up to the summit, the highest point of the island. This look-out point is absolutely stunning with an amazing (almost) 360 view over the Island. This is the place where I meet three amazing people. Two guys (American and Swedish) and one girl (Australian). They are a little older than me, about 25, but we have great conversation. From superficial and very funny to actually interesting and informing talks. Together we have a late lunch at Foxy Bar and make our way to Nudey Beach for a relaxing afternoon.
As this was my first time in a tropical area like this, Nudey beach was absolutely incredible to me. The water was perfectly clear and there were cute, tiny fish all around. The water was warm but refreshing and the jungle behind us formed a breathtaking background. It’s 4:00 p.m. when we’re heading back to the boat and surprisingly we were able to see a baby reef shark!
It’s Christmas eve and together with these 3 strangers I’m going to celebrate it. After a quick shower in one of their rooms and a pre-dinner drink we head out. What we’re having? Korean BBQ on Christmas Eve! I’m not at all familiar with cultural cuisines, especially not from Asia. But I’m really excited to try it and as two of our company have Asian roots, they are able to explain me everything. It’s very interesting to hear about different cultures and I can say without any doubt that this was the weirdest, yet most fascinating Christmas I’ve had so far. After an amazing night it’s time to go home, edit some photo’s and then off to bed.
Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
The next day, after having a nice big breakfast, I get picked up by Active Tropics Explorer for a day trip to the Daintree Rainforest. This rainforest is known as the oldest continuously surviving rainforest worldwide and is the only place where two World Heritage listed area’s meet (The Daintree Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef). The tour bus makes its way to Mossman Gorge. This gorge has been carved out by water from the mountains. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place where you can take a swim together with the fish and enjoy the view. The traditional owners of these lands are the Kuku Yalanji people, and by going through a smoke ceremony everyone gets cleansed from evil spirits.
Up north we go, crossing the Daintree River to get a beach lunch at Cape Tribulation. This is a place where the border between two sights on the World Heritage List becomes visible. During the Marrdja Botenical Boardwalk I learn a lot about the aboriginal people, the geography, history and nature of the Daintree Rainforest. This area really is one of the world’s wonders and I truly believe that we should preserve and support the existence of this amazing place. From this walk, the day is slowly coming to an end, and that means time for ice cream. Floraville Ice Cream Factory is the Daintrees’ biodynamic/organic ice cream in amazing tropical flavours like Ironbark Honey, Black Sapote, Goji Berry, Passionfruit and many more. After eating this delight while enjoying the gorgeous rainforest sights it really is time to head back to Cairns. It’s a long car ride but it was definitely worth it. Because of the long drive and many activities, the tour does feel a bit rushed from time to time, but being able to have seen this wonderful place was totally worth it.
Artherton Tablelands Waterfalls
It’s 5:45 a.m. and my alarm is up and going, and that means that I have to get out of bed too. But, no harsh feelings because I’m so excited for todays tour to the Artherton Tablelands Waterfalls with Barefoot Tours. When I walk outside to look for my tour bus I’m welcomed by an amazing guy called (Captain) Mattie. This legend made the trip absolutely fantastic with his amusing sense of humour, outstanding knowledge of the area and the relaxed vibe he brings along. Other than yesterday, this trip was more laid back without any rush. First stop is a huge lake, originally the caldera of a volcano that exploded many thousands of years ago. The lake is very deep and it inhabits one fresh water crocodile. The key is to just not think about the croc while swimming in the lake! Here we have a nice morning snack before heading out to our next waterfall. Spontaneously we decide to stop by another waterfall to get into that adventurous feeling, because for our next stop our group chose to get some adrenaline in. Zillie Falls it is, a gorgeous cascade only accessible by following a steep and rocky path down the hill. Here the term “barefoot” really starts to make sense, because daring as we are, we want to get behind the waterfall. As the rocks are as slippery as dish washing soap, barefoot is the only option to get a good grip. The view from behind the outpouring is overwhelming and as we make our way down, we decide to go straight through the stream, following the waters’ natural flow and small cave pools. You can sign me up for waterfall climbing any time!
The Milaa Milaa Falls will be our next stop. This spot is very popular and a bit more crowded. We take our “sexy hair flip photo’s” (as Mattie calls them) and swim to the waterfall. While enjoying a refreshing swim, the well deserved lunch is served. Our very last stop of the day will be another gorge where we can enjoy a natural waterslide. But first, a banana snack: Mattie buys us some bananas from the side of the road. When we get to the spot everybody takes a turn on the waterslide and it’s so much fun! A little hard for your ass, but so worth it. Time flies when you’re having fun, and that really counts for today. After a typical Aussie Tim Tam snack outside the van we drive back to Cairns and get dropped off. This was really one of the most awesome and adventurous day trips ever, made even better by a great tour guide and a lovely group of people.
Great Barrier Reef
Yesterday evening got quite late because of all the editing, but that’s no excuse for snoozing! Especially not if you have a boat to catch the next morning. So at 7:15 I arrive at Reef Fleet Terminal, the harbour of Cairns, to hop on the Passions of Paradise. A beautiful catamaran with many places to enjoy the sun or relax comfortably. The staff is very friendly and make the trip even better. After departure we make our way to the outer reef. I walk around the boat for a bit, exploring the different sights and talking to some nice strangers. After morning tea and a fruit platter it’s time for our first stop. Scuba diving is something I’ve always wanted to try and now I’m here at the Great Barrier Reef actually taking this opportunity. So after filling out some important papers and getting all the info/instructions we need in advance, it’s time to get ready. With a snorkel, a stinger suit, flippers and of course the dive gear we make our way to the water: toes over the edge and then one big step in the deep and clear waters. One instructor keeps an eye on max. 4 students and the professionalism of the divers make the experience very comforting and enjoyable. They check up on me every so many times and after a while swimming together I can go on my own for a bit. It’s truly magical to see the reef, the corals the many fish and how this whole ecosystem is working together. The first dive was about 20 minutes, but together with the instructions and the new experience, that’s more than enough for the first time. After getting rid of my oxygen tank I go on snorkelling to soak in as much as possible of this beautiful area.
When I get out of the water, an amazing lunch is served. Healthy salads, breads, platters and curries are served up and you can take as much as you like. So after loading up my plate, I ended up having another small one, I go to one of the soft lounge area’s outside to snuggle up and take in everything I’ve seen so far.
Before I know it, a voice calls around that those who want to go for a second dive need to get down. Without any doubt I rush downstairs, my plate with some rice and salad still in my hands, and make clear that I would love to do a second dive. This time, we can skip all the instructions and almost straight away hop into the water. Very quickly I’m able to swim on my own for a bit and I really notice that my experiences as a former competitive swimmer help me get the most out of my dives. We stay under water longer and this new spot is even more immense and overwhelming than the last one. Unfortunately, no sharks or turtles showed up, but so many amazing fish and other marine life did. Those 30-40 minutes went by way too quick, but it’s time to go back to the surface. Now it’s really time to relax, enjoy this beautiful day on a boat and soak up the sun. I talk to some more people and it’s fascinating to hear all the different stories coming from all around the world.
That evening I head into town for a bit, looking around the Night Market and grabbing a light dinner. Now it’s off to the hotel because tomorrow I have to catch my plane, leaving this paradise behind and making my way back to Sydney again. But this experience, all by myself, will not be taken away from me by anyone. It was truly amazing!