We arrived in Cairns to a big change of scenery and at around 28deg it was significantly cooler than Darwin. The scorched red and orange earth was replaced by lush green mountains and tropical vegetation. As we drove north along a winding coastal road the scenery was spectacular with beautiful sandy beaches where the green mountains met the turquoise ocean.
Our home for the next two nights was at Crocodylus Village in the Daintree Rainforest National Park. I guess it could be described as ‘glamping’ as our room was a wood-framed canvas tent with real beds and an enclosed bathroom in the middle of the jungle. We joined the 2-hour night hike that evening and discovered all sorts of wonderful trees, plants, insects, spiders, a baby snake and some sleeping birds (I had never seen a sleeping bird until we went to Costa Rica, they just sit there on a branch motionless – they’re really quite nice to see!). Unfortunately we didn’t see any mammals, we were hoping to see at least a possum. Afterwards we were lulled to sleep by the sounds of the insects in the jungle and awoken in the morning by the birds! We all slept surprisingly well both nights.
We spent the following two days exploring the area. We drove north up to Cape Tribulation where the Rainforest national park meets the Great Barrier Reef marine park and made our way down stopping at swimming holes and pretty beaches on our way back. We were a little bit nervous about the ‘beware of crocodiles’ signs at most of our stops but we found a few croc-free swimming holes, one with a Tarzan-style vine hanging over which the children, big and small, enjoyed very much.
We also visited the very informative Rainforest Discovery centre. The Daintree is the oldest Rainforest on earth at 165 million years old and the aboriginal people are the oldest surviving continuous civilization, from up to 65,000 years ago. It was fascinating to learn about all the Australian megafauna – enormous lizards, kangaroos and wombats that were around during that time and would have been hunted by those early people and are depicted in some of their rock art. They also found complex methods to process poisonous fruits and berries to make them edible, no doubt through years of trial and error. This region is also home to a huge flightless (and sometimes vicious) bird called the cassowary which we very much hoped to see (from a distance) but no such luck!
We headed south again for a few nights in Cairns from where we booked a snorkelling trip to Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef. The children have never snorkelled before so we paid a bit extra for an additional tour in a semi-submersible boat, just in case the snorkelling didn’t go well. However, after a few mask adjustments the snorkelling went very well. The children loved it. We saw lots of coral, brightly coloured fish and a ray. While swimming with Kaitlyn, James came close to a 2m white tip shark. Before he could get a photo, or point it out to Kaitlyn, he made a sharp exit which she was disappointed about when he told her later. We were so proud of how well they did. In Ellie’s words “that wasn’t just awesome Mummy, it was AMAZING”. The semi-sub trip was also fun and we saw a few sea turtles which made everyone happy. We are already Looking forward to snorkelling again.
Click here to check out the rest of our Reef and Rainforest photos.