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One Week in Cairns

Author: Pati O.
Date of Trip: April 2011

One week in Cairns and I am not sure I could have possibly done anymore unless I forfeited sleep.

My 6:00am flight Monday morning saw me landing at around 9:15 and with a quick shuttle into the city I arrived at my accommodation at 10:00. Luckily my room was ready so I was able to freshen up and settle in. My first order of business was to contact the Gales, a family from back home whose kids I had taught and were now in Cairns on a teacher exchange. After a bit of phone tag we did connect and planned to get together for dinner that night.

The rest of the morning was filled with wandering about to get the lay of the land, investigating and booking some activities for the week. My hotel was located right on the Esplanade in Cairns right across the street from the lagoon (a large man-made public pool) and a very short five-minute walk from the harbor. It couldn't have been in a better place.

The weather was gorgeous, a hot sunny 29, which I was very grateful for considering that they had had miserable rainy weather weeks on end and it was supposed to continue the whole time I was there. I felt like the sun had followed me and I needed to take advantage of it so I decided a dip in the lagoon was in order. I certainly wasn't the only one with this thought but although it was rather crowded it was so refreshing splashing around in the water and relaxing hanging on the edge over looking the ocean. After that I took a stroll to figure out where I would need to report the next morning for my first excursion. A little time wandering through some shops and it was soon time to get ready for my evening visit.

Cindy picked me up and took me out to their place for a great evening. We had a lovely meal and it was so nice to catch up with her Scott and the kids. We also agreed that Cindy, the kids (Scott, unfortunately was away for work) and I would catch up on Saturday for a road trip. Now that they were the locals they would be the perfect tour guides and they planned to take me to a few of their favorite locations in the Atherton Tablelands.

Tuesday morning I woke to another glorious sunny day and I was off early for my first official tourist activity, kayaking and snorkeling at Fitzroy Island. After a 45-minute ferry ride out to the island and a bit of wandering time, we were finally decked out in our flattering stinger suits and lifejackets. Armed with my beautiful purple paddle, I hit the water with a teenage girl from Victoria as my partner. Once again this kayak was slightly different from any I had used before with pedals and a rudder for steering, eventually I got the hang of it without crashing into too many rocks or other kayaks. I definitely much prefer to steer with my paddle. Oh well, when it is time for me to purchase my own boat I will have lots of experience to guide me.

After about 90 minutes we stopped paddling and beached our boats so we could go for a swim and check out the coral surrounding the shoreline. After ensuring I was completely covered up, looking very much like a not so sexy avatar, I made my way into the water. It was very calm and the visibility was fantastic. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the coral and felt invigorated as the colorful array of fish swam around me. Every time I turned my head there was something new and wonderful. I also experienced several mouthfuls of water as I jerked to look below me and submerged my snorkel, no worries though I eventually sorted this out.

Another hour or so on top of the water and it was back to the beach house to trade in our paddles and lifejackets for lunch. Then the rest of the day was filled with more snorkeling and a little bit of beach combing.

While waiting for everyone to board the ferry home I was so lucky to experience my own personal live "Nature's Wonders" show. Beside the boat there were schools of hundreds of fish swimming around near the surface. After a little bit asking around I found out that the little ones on top were sardines and there were two other kinds on layers below them (unfortunately I can't remember their names). It was fascinating watching the sardines move around in their group, apparently using some sort of sonar to stay together. Then sadly one little guy was left behind, he was obviously hurt and not strong enough to keep up so the group banished him. I felt so sorry for him swimming haplessly all alone. At one point the school returned close to him and despite my cheering and urging he was not able to penetrate the perimeter. Sadly, his fate was much worse than a lonely existence as eventually a much larger fish swam up from depths, jumped up with an open mouth and ate him! And so ended my nature lesson for the day.

By the time we arrived back in Cairns and I made my way back to my hotel I was ready for a relaxing supper and a soak in my spa tub. I was quite content to stay in and take it easy knowing I had another early start scheduled for the next morning when I would be off exploring again...




Cairns Part Two

Wednesday the plan was head up to the rainforest village of Kuranda. The day began with being treated to stunning views if the local landscape stretching as far as the coastline while chugging up through the rainforest on the historic Kuranda steam train. It was a rather warm day and despite having all the windows down the car it was in was quite uncomfortable so I ended up standing outside for most of the time on the little platform between two cars, as it turned out I think it was actually the best place to be.

The village of Kuranda is a lovely settlement with a history of being an artist's haven. I spent my first couple of hours meandering through the markets discovering numerous unique local wares and products.

Next I decided to visit the Kuranda Butterfly sanctuary. As it turned out I would have to say this was definitely the highlight of my day. The main butterfly area was essentially a large beautiful greenhouse with hundreds of butterflies fluttering about. Not sure how many species there actually were but I believe it was well over a hundred, although most of my attention was captured by one type. A large vibrant blue Ulysses butterfly caught my eye as I entered the sanctuary and it was love at first sight! I desperately tried to capture the beauty of this species with my camera but had no luck, as they never seemed to stay still. Once I resigned to the fact that I was not meant to get a photo I stopped chasing them around and decided to just sit down and enjoy what was happening around me. So I sat on a large rock and dug my water bottle out of my bag, just as I had raised my bottle to my mouth a several butterflies, including a Ulysses began to show interest in me. It wasn't long before one of these vibrant blue beauties landed on my water bottle having a drink of the condensation. Amazingly he was a little more willing to stay still at this point and I did manage to get a few shots. Several other butterflies also stopped by for a visit, landing on my bag as well as all over me. It was such a peaceful experience and I was in no hurry to leave.

Eventually I did move on and after a bit of lunch I entered into Bird World. I must say that at first I was a bit disappointed in this venue as it was rather small and only took about 5-10 minutes to walk around. Being me though, I wasn't ready to give up that quickly so I decided to head up in the little patio area where several macaws, parrots, lovebirds and galahs were gathered.

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