After recharging our batteries and catching up with Mum and Dad, it was time to take an Adams Family holiday up to the tropics of Cairns. Our flight was at 0630, meaning a check in at 0500, leaving the house at 0400, out of bed 0355, right? Bed head is a given on early morning travel and an accepted norm. Mum had seemingly got up at 0230 to prepare herself for the journey though had neglected to remember whether or not the hair straighteners had been unplugged, remembering just as we reached the terminal. It’s that awkward choice between risking missing your flight or having the house burn down. They build houses with wood in Australia – back we go!
Two hours flight up the coast, Cairns sits in a tropical bay surrounded by tree-covered mountains facing out to the Coral Sea, Pacific Ocean and eventually South America. Having escaped the mythical Australian sunshine in our journey so far, we were pleased it was quite a lot hotter.
Ditching our bags in our amazing apartment, including a bath overlooking the coast line, we headed up to Port Douglas and spent an afternoon meeting the locals at the Wildlife Habitat. Dad was first to make friends with this stalk. ====>
Turns out dad is a right Dr.Doolittle making friends with a stick insect too!
We took a tour through the habitat learning about the native birds, fish and animals of Australia. At $20 per person cheaper than the zoo, this really would be our top tip if you find yourself in the area. Loads to see, get up close and personal with the animals and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Couldn't recommend it enough, even with on the red eye from an early morning flight!!
When people think of native Australian animals, they think kangaroos, koalas, crocs, possums, snakes, wombats and maybe even an emu. Even spiders make a mention in most peoples repotoire. An animal that is often left out is the cassowary. If you were to describe it to someone or even show a photo, most people would think it was as real as a drop bear.
This prehistoric bird can reach up to 2m in height and is burdened with a 18cm casque on their heads with which to part the rainforest and protecting them against falling fruit! No wonder they're endangered if falling fruit can kill off animals that have a fruit only diet!
What an interesting looking animal!
The main reason for our visit to the habitat was to meet Australia’s cuddliest looking inhabitant, the Koalas. Having seen them in the wild in Melbourne, I couldn’t wait to give one a squeeze.
The most common misconception about koalas is that they are bears. They are in fact marsupials and closer related to humans than they are bears. With a gestation period of 35 days a baby koala the size of a fingernail will climb up its mother’s pouch where it will suckle for 6 months. Emerging from the pouch they will live the next month feeding of its mothers ‘pap’ of faecal matter………mmmmm not so cute now!
And don’t let that cute face deceive you, despite being incredibly docile (it is a common misconception that eucalyptous makes them high), if you poke this non-bear he will quite literally rip your face off.
It wasn’t long before we got to meet Kody. Kody is a 7 year old male with a working contract you could only dream of; A maximum of 30 mins ‘work’ (if you consider cuddling work) a day, 3 days a week, and all the gum leaves you can eat, he had it sorted. His fur was like a matt cotton wall, very soft but water would bounce off it in the rain. He was also surprisingly heavy, and his claws are sharp as hell. All the better for climbing trees with!
Once hunted for their fur by settlers, often sending 100,000 skins back to the Britain in one boat, the outlook for these fuzzy balls is not so bright. Where they used to dominate the eastern coast of Australia, the current estimate is of 75,000 still in the wild. Their problems don’t stop there; being solitary, territorial creatures and given the vast size of Australia, their habitat is decreasing through deforestation, and about 1/3 of koalas having chlamydia, the chances of finding a successful mate are looking slim. Here’s hoping the work of the Habitat and numerous other voluntary groups can reverse their future.
Feeding the Wallabies
The habitat also had a great walk through grasslands sections where you can get up close and personal with the wallabies and kangaroos. And they are inquisitive little fellas!
After a day spent visiting the fantastic local market in Cairns and walking round town, we headed back up to Port Douglas to soak up the sun and browse the festival that was on. This is outdoor living at its best, tons of local produce, crafts and art to keep you entertained. A boat was docked in the Marina with a live band on and fish was being sold fresh off the boats.
A massive box full of prawns later, a photo stop of four mile beach, and we were on the road home. As I was driving we crossed a river and saw a group of people on a parallel pier looking into the water. Deciding to go see what all the fuss was about, we were treated to a real spectacle. A couple of locals had bought a few chicken carcasses off the butcher, tied it to a length of rope and thrown it in the water. Turns out this guy was quite hungry!
I would not like to mess with him. About 4m long and some pretty gruesome looking teeth, you could tell from watching him just how powerful he was.
As luck would have it another friend was in town too. Although we hadn't seen each other in 9 years, a few happy hour jugs of beer later in the Rattle and Hum and it was just like old times. Great to see you Laura, friend and family #22 seen on our travels!
The Great Barrier Reef
A trip to Cairns, or even Australia wouldn’t be complete without a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, and she does not disappoint. At over 2,000km long, you are spoilt for choice for the number of operators and dive sites available. Thankfully, large parts of the reef are marked as protected land and we should be able to enjoy this marvel long into the future.
We took a trip with Silver Series stopping at three different dive sites for a snorkel. A 90 minute boat ride out to the reef took down the three weaker Adams members; I of course was fine having gained my sea legs on the Cook Strait!! Clambering into our lycra suits, fins and snorkels, we grabbed a noodle and jumped in. There was plenty to see.
I think ironically, that when most people think of the barrier reef they think of the wildlife, where in reality it’s the coral that is really quite something. Bright colours and a thousand different types builds the reef that homes a plethora of fish, crustaceans, rays and turtles.
Our favourite for the day was the Maori Wrasse, named after the detailed pattern on their faces similar to the tattoos of To moko worn by Maori people. This territorial fish can grow up to 2m long and most interesting of all, only has one male per territory. When the dominant male dies, a female fish in the area will change sex to take over the area, how amazing is that?
Sunrise and Wild Kangaroos
The final morning was an early rise for me to play with my camera and catch some snaps of the sunrise. Couple of important rules for taking photos of sunrise:
1.) Don't guess what time sunrise will be, set an alarm and wait for the sun. It's in no rush
2.) Check the weather for clouds!!! Doh!!!!
On the way to the airport we stopped in a field to snap some roos. They are as common as rabbits in Oz and are, as you can see literally everywhere! Cute little things!