Week 5: Reef and Rainforest

This week was the best one yet! We left Melbourne on Monday morning. We arrived in Cairns just three hours later. As we got off the aeroplane, we instantly noticed that we were in a very different climate that we had been in. It felt as if someone threw a hot, wet blanket over us as soon as we felt the outside air. It was wonderful, a week of sweating laid ahead of us.

We slept in the Northern Greenhouse, a backpacker hostel where we were placed in a room with six of us per room. It was a fine place to spend the nights and evenings. They had a pool, and most important, a kitchen where we could cook our own kangaroo burgers and crocodile filets.

The next morning we woke up 6, because we had to be on the boat to the Great Barrier Reef at 7. On the boat travel there we immediately met some other people who were spending a night on the boat with us. When we got to the reef, it was simply stunning. We started off with a snorkel, just to explore for a bit. We saw tons of fish, starfish, coral, and even a turtle on the first swim!
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When we were done snorkeling, we had our first briefing. We signed up for five dives, and we needed to learn how to breathe under water before we were allowed to go back in again. An hour or so later we were ready and we got strapped onto our scuba gear. The first dive took a while to get down to a dept of 8 meters, but when we got there it was even more beautiful than the reef we saw while snorkeling. More and bigger fish, barracudas, eels, turtles, you name it. This was the most beautiful nature I have ever seen.
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We had one more dive during the daytime before dinner. After dinner, two people of our five person group decided to stay an extra night to try and get their open water diving license. They managed to pass all the tests and are now licensed open water divers! After dinner, we all got the chance to sign up for a night dive. 4 of us did, and a few minutes later we headed in. We had heard some rumours of sharks in the area, but we never expected to come face to face with them. Armed with torches we dove into the darkness in search of these predators of the sea. We didn’t have to wait long before we saw the first shark rip a small reef fish to pieces. It was a two meter long great whaler. It wasn’t more than 1,5 meter away from us. It was gorgeous, nature at it’s best.
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Great whaler in the reef, picture from Google, I didn’t take any pictures at night.

After spending the night playing poker with new friends and then watching the stars from a hot tub, we got up at 6:00 the next morning. That was because our first dive of the day was at 6:30. We saw some amazing fish again. More barracudas, tuna-like fish and of course all the beautiful colored reef fish.
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After one more dive and a few more snorkeling trips sadly two friends and I had to leave while the rest of the group stayed on the boat, continuing their diving lessons. We got back to the hostel and after a quick meal we went to bed.

The next day we went to the Atherton Tablelands. Beautiful mountain ranges combined with waterfalls and rainforests. We spent quote some time swimming and sliding of off waterfalls and jumping off docks. We also saw the waterfall where a very popular commercial was recorded, but I hadn’t heard of it yet. Something with a hairflip…
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We met some more people with whom we were supposed to go out that night, but our friends came back from the boat and we got invited to go party with them instead, an offer which we were happy to take. We still ran into some of the other people that night and everything worked out great. We went to a club in another hostel, and we had a great time there.

On our second to last day we went kayaking at Fitzroy Island, a small island located on the Great Barrier Reef. On this tropical island they had a turtle sanctuary where they nursed hurt turtles back to health. We kayaked to Little Fitzroy, a very small island that was located very close to the main island. On this island we had small hike on rock that were extremely hot under the Australian sun, and I think I burned off a layer of cells on the soles of my feet. The view from the island was magnificent.
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Little Fitzroy as seen from Big Fitzroy.

On our last day in Cains we decided we didn’t want to go sit on the beach all day, so we rented a car and drove back to the tablelands. We found some more beautiful scenery, waterfalls and lakes. We ended up climbing through the rainforest to jump back in a lake from a fallen tree, a jump from 7 meters high up. We also took a wrong turn somewhere on a hike and climbed a steep, slippery slope while it started raining in the middle of the rainforest. The way up was difficult while wearing flip flops, but during the way down I spent more time swinging through the air while holding a vine or two than actually walking. This ended with my friends laughing at me when I landed face-first in the mud.
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We were supposed to get on a flight back to Melbourne that night, but as we arrived on the airport we found that we were the only ones there. Our flight had been cancelled and nobody had told us. After contacting our travel agency we got to go back to the hostel for another night and after some more phonecalls in the morning we got on the next flight. Kudos to the friendly backpacker group in Melbourne, who got us out of there fairly quickly.

After spending one more night in Melbourne we flew to New Zealand in the morning, which is where I am right now. I had tons of fun in Australia and hope that the next half of this trip will be just as enjoyable.

Most of the pictures of the reef are from my friend’s Facebook.