One of the things you realize as you travel around the Pacific is what an amazing seaman Cook must have been. The guy has been everywhere! It did find an old book describing his voyages (there were three of them) and they were all huge! He was killed on his last one in Hawaii and his crew had to find their way home (I'm sure you've all heard the story). Nevertheless, it really is incredible how many places Cook got to and how many places he named - he must have been a master of his time. The only equivalent thing I can think of in our time is space exploration - the risks and the unknowns must have been the same.
Anyway, the area around Cairns definitely shows his mark, as there are many places named after and by him.
We conquered our last Australian bus ride, albeit this one was during the day which made it a lot easier. Arriving in Cairns, we got a nice hostel called Bohemia resort with really nice surroundings and good aircon. We decided that we would go out on the Great Barrier Reef for a day to do some more snorkelling and then take a jungle tour up to Cape Tribulation, where Captain Cook ran a ground on a reef and had to spend 2 months making repairs.
It is a little more humid up here, but not so much so. The temperatures have been in the low 30's, so it's hot enough!
Our day out on the reef was great. We took a 50' catamaran called Passions of Paradise - a brand new boat with really nice facilities. It takes a good 2 hrs to get out to the reef because it's 63 km away from shore. You really are in the middle of nowhere, and the reef simply rises up in front of you out of nothing. It really is an amazing place. The first snorkel was at a place called paradise reef. Everything here is just bigger, bolder, and with even more biodiversity and colours than in the Whitsundays. It seems impossible to be able to count the number of species there must be here. It's just incredible. It was a little wavy though, which filled our snorkels a couple of times making for interesting semi-choking events! =P.
The second location was Michaelmans Quay. This place was unbelievable. Like a movie. A very small bird covered sandbar with amazing reef circling all around. We just could not believe the life here. The most spectacular were the giant clams which measured at 1.5 metres across at their largest. They look like they could eat an entire man! Actually, they just filter plankton out of the sea water, kind of like the whales do, and fish swim between the edges of the shell with no problems. However, we were told that when disturbed, they protect themselves by closing rather quickly, and they will not open for days! So, don't touch them, or put you fin in there, because they can drown a man! Everything in this country is dangerous in some way it seems!
The next day we decided to go up past Cape Tribulation on a jungle tour. A complete contrast to the reef, but equally as good. We were picked up by our guide John in a converted Toyota Landcruiser at 7:15 am. John is a typical crusty old Northern Aussie, complete with a well worn Akubra. It was great to have a good naturalist along to tell us about everything. We saw an incredible amount of wildlife on this trip. IN addition to countless birds and bugs, here's a list of what we saw: fruit bats (actually flying foxes), baby crocodile, the endangered cassowary (which is like an emu with a brightly coloured head), wild turkey, yellow bellied black (a small poisonous snake - in the swimming hole we were in), perch, Wallabies (small Kangaroo like animal), two kinds of goanna (lizards) one of which was pretty big and tried to steal a camera case, a dragon lizard (similar to Komodo dragons but smaller), and of course, Kangaroo, which we were able to feed.
The scenery was equally fantastic, especially the strange vines that seemed to wrap themselves around everything in sight. The rainforest is alive everywhere and you can hear the noises all around you!
Today, we catch our flight from Cairns to Darwin. We will likely do a tour up there for a day, get cleaned up and buy some more supplies (toiletries and stuff), before heading off to Indonesia on Thursday. As our time in Australia draws to a close - we have been reflecting on Australia vs. New Zealand a bit - which one inevitably does. And with all due respect to all of our Australian family - we think NZ is the winner. That's not to say things are not fantastic here, they are, but New Zealand just has a sort of serenity about it that makes the place and it's beauty just feel more welcoming. Make that's just the Canadian way...