Cairns and Cape Tribulation

September 30, 2009 - Cairns, Australia

OK, now its time to expand on our previous 'Australia is awesome' statement. Cairns, our first stop in Oz (as it shall be known from now on to save typing time), is located in the tropical north of the east coast and as a result is drenched in sun all year round. This has given the city a relaxed, 'permenant holiday' atmosphere that was more than welcome after the badly organised chaos of south east asia.

We spent most of our time recouperating from our asian exploits but were able to spare a day for a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. This was an excellent experience including stops at two different reefs where we had the opportunity to snorkel or view the reef from a semi-submersible boat. We were also given the option to try scuba diving which we both accepted only for Nick to fail the medical :-( (don't worry mum, it was nothing serious) ....... but Mike says it was cool. Whether snorkelling or diving we both saw some really colourful fish including some recognisable characters from 'Finding Nemo', Baracudas and some very big fish that we don't know the name of, a long with spectacular coral formations. The trip finished with a helicopter flight over the reef (and back to Cairns as we were lucky enough to have our flight extended free of charge!), which was really amazing and gives you an appreciation of the scale of the reef that you just don't get up close.

We then headed north to Cape Tribulation with Jenny who, if you've been paying attention, you'll remeber from our several failed attempts to travel from Xi'an to Chengdu and now lives in Cairns. Cape Tribulation is billed as the place where the rainforest meets the ocean, which turned out to be an extremely accurate description with beautiful beaches backed by thick jungle. The only drawback is that you'd have to be crazy (or Australian) to swim in the sea where you risk being killed by a jellyfish or a 'saltie' (salt water crocodile), one of only a few species in the world to actively hunt humans in their territory! So, keeping a respectable distance from any forms of water, we set about exploring the area looking for some of the less dangerous forms of wildlife.

This turns out to be pretty easy and we had our first animal contact with a monitor lizard (I think) while we were having lunch on the beach. We then went on an afternoon sea-kayak trip around some of the beaches and mangroves (the only time we violated the proximity to water rule) and were lucky enough to see a Dugong - similar to a Manatee and just as endangered. Pretty pleased with ourselves already we headed back to shore for prehaps the highlight of the weekend, a night-time animal spotting trek through the rainforest.

We were picked up by our very Australian guide Mick (quite like the one from Crocodile Dundee actually) and before we'd even reached the start of the trek had seen a Red Bellied Black Snake, number 21 on the list of the world's most venomous snakes (viewed from the safety of the car). Mick gave us a brief overview of the type of animals we might see before we set of into the jungle with our torches, Nick terrified by the prospect of a seeing a Bird-Eating Spider! Luckily our spider encounters were limited to the smaller (but still way too big!) Wolf spider and we were able to spot some more interesting animals. On the mammal front we saw some local forest mice called Millamies and a couple of Giant White Tailed Rats, which were over a foot long atleast! We saw a few different types of frogs including a Green Tree Frog but it was the reptiles that were the real highlight. First we spotted a Boyd's Forrest Dragon, a lizard that looks quite like a chamelion, before seeing a Brown Tree Snake. At this point our guide enhanced his reputation by picking it up whilst telling us that it was only sub-venomous (whatever that means) and you'd only be 'a bit crook' if it bit you! Finally, on the road back to our hostel, we came across a 3 meter plus amethystine python (our guide picked this one up too!), which was an amazing way to finish an excellent day!

We've now picked up our camper van (named Millie) and have started heading south, we'll keep you posted with more entries soon....


Sheila Livingstone:
October 16, 2009
What an amazing amount of wildlife to see in one weekend- I can't wait to see the photographs!

Happy camping-vanning.
Emma Livingstone:
October 17, 2009
Wow sounds like you've been having an amazing time...esp the great barrier reef! Australia was never on my list of places to go, but reading this makes me think I might have to add it (although less keen on the spider-snake options!!)I've not been on your website for ages (due to restricted internet access in Western Isles) so I was wondering where you had got to. Hope everything goes well for the rest of your trip and don't get eaten by crocodiles! xxx
October 27, 2009
Australia might be awesome, but it can't be as awesome as Stevenage! They have this amazing concrete town centre (built in the 60's of course) and a great leisure centre too (I mention it because there's not much else to mention).

I'm a little disappointed (but not at all surprised) to see that you two haven't managed to increase the post rate (not that I can talk really). It's cool that you met up with Jenny again and I hope you had fun with Millie! I wish I was in Australia as well, instead of in the cold dark rain there is over here...

Oh, and Nick - you haven't seen any Belgian girls lately I hope?!?
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