Australia: 12/10 – 12/16

Cairns >>> Great Barrier Reef >>> Cairns >>> Cape Tribulation >>> Innisfail >>> Airlie Beach >>> Mackay

12/10 – Boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef! Snorkeling and Diving from aboard the Live-aboard Reef Encounter!
12/11 – Full Day of Diving and Snorkeling and Eating on The Great Barrier Reef!
12/12 – Final day of Diving and Snorkeling and then Drinking with the Crew back in Cairns!
12/13 – Picked up our Jucy campervan and drove from Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest!
12/14 – Daintree Rainforest Hikes and Doing the Waterfall Circuit
12/15 – Drove and hiked through different areas along the East Coast in search of Cassowaries!
12/16 – Corey’s Birthday!!! JetBoat Tour of The Whitsundays and Whitehaven Beach!

12/10 –
Boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef! Snorkeling and Diving from aboard the Live-aboard Reef Encounter!
+ Picked up from our hostel at 7:30 am and taken to the Cairns marina. Got on the boat “Reef Experience” which was owned by the same company but comprised primarily of day-trippers.
+ 90 minute boat ride out to meet the live-aboard boat, Reef Encounter. We had a special area desginated for us since we were the rich and fancy people staying on their Reef Encounter boat! We felt so posh! lol. In the air conditioned cabin area, we ate delicious Bacon + Egg Sandwiches (Corey got Liz’s Bacon and she got his Eggs) and other fruit snacks and tried not to get seasick.
+ Met up and transferred onto the Reef Encounter boat. Then we sat through a few different briefings from the crew, cook, and photographer before getting to check out our room and change into bathing suits. The room was pretty large and also nice and cold! It would definitely be nice to have a place to come back and shower and change in between eating and diving.
+ We weren’t allowed to dive yet so at our first stop here we snorkeled Hastings Reef.
+ After finishing that 90 minute session and seeing all sorts of cool marine life, we had only a 20-30 minute break in between taking off and putting back on our skin-tight Lycra stinger suit to get back in the water. These bright blue full body (I’m talking hoods and even little mittens for your hands!) suits made us all look like silly smurfs but offered protection from the marine stingers that are common and dangerous this time of year. This time we dove Hastings Reef! Although we could pay extra to go with a guide, we felt we had enough experience between us and chose to save money and explore ourselves. It ended up being a cool dive and we saw some different aquatic animals.
+ Back on board the boat moved to a new location while we ate some delicious lunch! We could already tell we would love the food on this boat and probably gain some weight during these 3 days!
+ Later that afternoon, Corey went diving at Norman Fingers reef. Liz wasn’t feeling well so she chose to hang back and nap (since we’d hardly slept at all the night before).
+ We ate dinner with all the other passengers and crew in the dining area and were treated to one of the best dinners we’d had in a long time!
+ Norman Fingers Night Dive – Lots of White and Black tipped Reef Sharks, Lot’s of big Black Travellis, and a Ginormous Triton Sea Snail! Probably 3+ feet circumference around and a foot long Siphon!
+ Dessert was chocolate mousse with a berry compote and chocolate ice cream too! Yum!
+ Went back to the room, showered and passed out before 9:30 PM!

12/11 –
Full Day of Diving and Snorkeling and Eating on The Great Barrier Reef!
+ Woke up bright and early and dove at 6:30am Norman Fingers again! Saw 2 turtles and did some really neat swim throughs where there were some giant white Barramundi cod on the other side!
+ Ate breakfast – lots of different options on the breakfast buffet, we stuffed ourselves. Talked with Caroline for a while who was from Holland and had recently finished a campervan trip up the coast of Australia.
+ The boat moved to new location, then we snorkeled Saxon Reef for about 70 minutes.
+With only about a 20 minute break out of the water, the next water session was beginning so we got back in again and this time dove Saxon reef for 40 minutes. We’d been in the water 3 times already and it was only about 11:20 am! Crazy!
+ Back in the room and dried off, we hung out for a few minutes watching part of the movie “Bad Moms” and then went downstairs for lunch.
+ Around 1:15 we were back in the water for another snorkel session. This time we saw a tan colored stingray with flourescent blue spots and a shark.
+ For the afternoon dive time, we were both feeling tired so we chose to skip it (since we’d be diving the location 2 other times anyways). After watching some episodes of Community on the tablet, we took a nap.
+ Had a nice salmon dinner downstairs with a much smaller group of people on board now (the others had left that afternoon when the Experience boat reconnects and picks them up before heading back to shore). This boat we were on, the Reef Encounter, stay out on the reef all year round. The other boat, Reef Experience, brings the day trippers out to the reef and also connects with the live-aboard boat to bring on new passengers or take other passengers back to Cairns. It really is a great system they have! This way it offers the greatest flexibility in booking and they can probably host many more guests this way!
+ Night dive again! The weather had gotten much more windy in the late afternoon and therefore the water visibility was much worse as well. You could only see 2 or 3 feet in front of you in the open water. And since we hadn’t been at this location before (and didn’t have a guide), it was probably the hardest dive we’d done in a while and struggled a little bit with our navigation.
+ We still saw some sharks though (one came pretty close before our flashlights finally scared it off) and more intimidating trevelli.
+ After some yummy dessert again, we hung out on the superrrrrr comfy couches downstairs and watched some episodes of Community before retiring to our room.

12/12 –
Final day of Diving and Snorkeling and then Drinking with the Crew back in Cairns!
+ We still didn’t get great sleep since the boat was rocking back and forth. But we were excited for another morning dive to wake us up and get the day going!
+ This was the same location as last night and now that the water was clearer we were able to get a better layout for where we went before. This time, we headed to our right and spent the dive circling around a big reef mound or “bommie” called Shark Mountain. We did indeed see a shark as well as some stingrays and a turtle munching on some coral.
+ When we started to head back to the boat, thinking the coolest part of the dive was over, we saw an octopus, Cuttle Fish, and Eel all within about 2 minutes of each other! Liz actually spotted the Octopus and Eel! Usually Corey is the one to spot the animals but Liz definitely won the award on this dive! This had been our best dive so far!
+ We repeated yesterdays sequence of events with breakfast, another dive, and then a 3rd dive that finished at around 11:30 am! 3 dives before noon, Whew!
+ After stuffing our faces during what would be our last meal aboard this Reef Encounter, we put those Lycra suits back on one last time for a final snorkel session (we were only allowed to snorkel this one since we’d have to be up and changed in time for the boat to pick us up). We didn’t mind though since we found some cool areas to snorkel and with the sun fully out overhead, the colors were all really vibrant and you always see different fish and invertebrates anyway!
+ The Reef Experience picked us up and (along with what seemed like half the crew from the Encounter boat) started it’s journey back to shore. The surprise onboard was we had free wine and cheese so we (especially Corey) went to town and enjoyed talking with some of the different passengers and crew.
+ Back on dry land, the shuttle bus took us to the office to grab our bags and then back to JJ’s hostel where we were going to stay for another night.
+ We were only there long enough to change clothes before getting JJ’s free shuttle back into town where we’d planned to meet up with some of the staff at a local bar they liked.
+ Pier Bar was cool and had a bunch of different pints for only Aus $5 ($3.75 US) and we all hung out and drank and listened to different stories about crazy passengers or other crazy Aussie stuff!
+ From there we caught the shuttle back to JJ’s and although we meant to eat some dinner, pack our bags, and do some planning for our campervan trip the following day, we had a completely unproductive night because we both just passed out and went to sleep instead! It’s ok though because we needed it after doing a total of 9 dives (8 for Liz) and 4 snorkels on the GBR in a span of about 52 hours!

12/13 –
Picked up our Jucy campervan and drove from Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest!
+ Woke up early, took showers and packed bags, then checked out and stored our luggage at JJ’s.
+ Used wifi to prepare for trip, caught free shuttle into town then walked another 25 minutes to the Jucy office. On the way we saw a guy dressed up for court wearing one of those old-timey white wigs like people in the 1700 and 1800’s used to do! Do the judges still wear that here??!?!
+ Picked up Campervan, drove to grocery store and stocked up for our trip. Australian food was expensive! No beer. Too much $$$.
+ Drove back to hostel, then walked next door and got Pizza Hut for lunch.
+ Came back, picked up our bags and then took off heading north.
+ Drove a few hours north into the Daintree National Forest. On the way we stopped at 2 overlooks where we had great views of the jungle-lined cliffs meeting the beautiful white sands and crystal clear blue water.
+ Rex Lookout was very pretty and then we stopped at a beach access where we walked out to a viewing platform along the cliffs with a spectacular view as well.
+ Drove all the way north to Cape Tribulation which was the farthest point north recommended for vehicles without 4 wheel drive. Then went back down to a campground we had passed that was recommended (and cheap) on our app WikiCamp. After we arrived (and it was now after dark) we found out you needed to book online or by phone. There was no data coverage here but WikiCamps reviews said there maybe better coverage out on the beach. We walked out onto the beach to get signal on the phone and called the parks office to make the booking. Corey had to hold the phone up and tilt his head funny and hold it there in order to keep the signal. It was quite the sight but best of all, we were successful!
+ Ate leftover pizza in the van and watched some episodes of Community. Then went to sleep!

12/14 –
Daintree Rainforest Hikes and Doing the Waterfall Circuit
+ Unfortunately it was a miserable night. It was so so hot and humid! Stagnant air. We sweated all night!
+ Corey woke up super early around 5 and then watched 2 episodes of Fear the Walking Dead while Liz continued sleeping.
+ From there we drove through the jungle a little bit and then stopped to do 2 different hikes in the Daintree Rainforest. We were the only tourists on each hike and it was pretty cool feeling like we were alone out there!
+ On one of the hikes, we stopped to look in the water while crossing a river and saw some sort of 5 foot long river eel swimming between the rocks! There’s sooo many different kinds of crazy creatures in Australia!
+ Drove back down south, crossed the river again on the chain ferry, ate lunch at Subway in Cairns.
+ Drove southwest to a popular tourist attraction called Curtain Fig Tree. It was huge and over 500 years old!
+ Went to Malamba Visitor center, where the nice volunteer told us about places nearby to see tree kangaroos and platypus.
+ We hopped back in the van and sped over to the Tea Plantation and saw 2 tree kangaroos! First was hopping across lawn then after 20 minutes searching we found 2 in the trees. Also saw a kookaburra on the power lines!
+ Then traveled over to the Platypus place but it was closed for the day already.
+ We decided to drive the waterfall circuit. Started a Milla Milla. Corey did a short hike and saw more tree kangaroos! They were jumping down from the trees and then running away!
+ 2nd and 3rd waterfalls were better than the first and also had short little hikes you could do around them.
+ Drove east back to the coast. Stopped at a McDonald’s to use their wifi and book a place to stay for the night.
+ Stayed at August Moon Campground at Innisfails. Cooked pasta in their kitchen for dinner and then went to bed shortly after.

12/15 –
Drove and hiked through different areas along the East Coast in search of Cassowaries!
+ With the windows cracked and our location not being smack dab in the middle of the jungle, it was a little bit less hot and humid. Plus we turned on the A/C in the car for a couple minutes right before we went to sleep so we could at least fall asleep in some nice cool air.
+ Woke up at 8, took nice cold showers since we’d been sweating again most of the night!
+ Ate some croissants for “brekky” and drove east over to Etty Point in hopes of seeing a Cassowary. Walked around the beach/campground area where they’re often found but we didn’t have any luck.
+ Drove south to Mission Beach area on the Cassowary Drive tourist route. Supposedly this is the area with the highest concentration of Cassowaries in Australia but after 2 hikes in the dense jungle and driving the whole route, we finished our exploration without seeing any.
+ What we did find however is that after the 1st hike Liz had a little tiny leach attached to one of her feet! Whoa! It had only been there a couple of minutes before being discovered but after Corey pulled it off it left a little blood mark on Liz’s foot. Crazy! (UPDATE: 2.5 weeks later and the bite is still healing! Hope Liz doesn’t transform into some leach monster soon!)
+ Drove south to Townsville, stopped at McDonald’s to use wifi, but it didn’t work. At least we got to eat 2 ice cream cones while figuring that out! Ice cream cones were the cheapest thing on the menu at $0.60/each.
+ Went to tourist info center, talked to rep about deciding between Magnetic island and The Whitsundays. She helped us decide to do Whitsundays and skip Magnetic island.
+ Drove another 4 hours south to Airlie Beach, stopping in Ayr just for a little bit too book our campsite and next day excursion using wifi.
+ Camped at Seabreeze Tourist Park. The place kind of stunk because the wifi didn’t work and they cut power to the kitchen much earlier than they were supposed to.
+ Cooked pasta in the kitchen and watched a little bit of The Last Samurai on their TV.
+ Corey went to bed while Liz took a shower and then did the same.

12/16 –
Corey’s Birthday!! JetBoat Tour of The Whitsundays and Whitehaven Beach!
+ Woke up 45 minutes early to make sure we had stuff ready for our trip to the Whitsundays today!
+ We were going with a tour company called Ocean Rafting that had a Jet Boat that would take us all around the islands and let us see some beaches and snorkel too. Although it was expensive, we were hoping it was going to be fun!
+ Our boat had about 25 passengers in it and the ride out to the islands was fun with the captain doing lots of twists and turns.
+ 2 snorkel stops around Hook Island (another island in the Whitsundays). Both stops were very underwhelming (especially after having done the Great Barrier Reef). Tons of jellies everywhere! Although most were non-stinging we still tried to avoid them which sometimes proved very difficult! By the end of our snorkel people were picking up the jellies and putting them on their friend’s heads!
+ After our snorkel, Corey got a free birthday beer from the skipper!
+ Motored in the boat to our next destination (and main attraction) Whitehaven beach! On the way we stopped the boat to watch a turtle (biggest green Turtle I’ve ever seen!) come up to the surface for a breath.
+ After arriving at Hill Inlet on Whitsunday island we climbed the short hike up to the lookout. The view of the blue water and swirling white sand was fantastic! It was very high tide so the view didn’t quite look like a Google photo and our guided explained how the view up here is constantly changing and can be different every single day! What a job to come up and see this every day! Wow!
+ After getting our fill of the views (and roasting in the very strong sun) we climbed back down the path through the bush to the other side of the lookout. On the way down we saw a lace monitor! Crazy how there are monitor lizards just roaming around like how there are iguanas on our beaches at home.
+ The sight of Whitehaven beach at ground level was even more like paradise! We took some more pictures of the clear blue water and then waded through the small pool over to our boat for lunch.
+ Yummy buffet of different salads with cold cuts, chicken, and tons of refreshing fruit!
+ After lunch we LATHERED ourselves with half a bottle of sunscreen. We could already tell we were burned/would be burned worse by tomorrow! While we waited for our sunscreen to dry we went walking to the point on Whitehaven Beach. After exploring the rocky point we were about to melt under the sun so we splashed into one of the blue tidal pools in between the white sandbars. As we slowly made our way through the pool back towards the direction of our boat we saw lots of little fish and even a good number of baby lemon sharks swimming around us.
+ We lounged around in the water until it was time to board the boat to head back to the mainland.
+ On the hour ride back our skipper played games with the other Ocean Rafting boats returning to the mainland. We took turns riding the wake of their boat and doing some twists and turns. At one point we even rode close enough along side the other boat to splash each other!
+ It was a beautiful day and a fun way to spend a birthday!
+ Back on land, we rode the shuttle back to the caravan park with a German couple from our tour who were also staying there.
+ After some quick showers and disappoinment that the wifi was still not working, we got in the van to start heading south. By this time we were quite fed up with the staff here not caring about the wifi and nickel and diming us for every little thing.
+ We felt a little better when we saw a wild Kukkaburra sitting in a tree next to our van! Corey had even spotted some wild kangaroos in the park when he got up to use the restroom the night before! At least this park is pretty good for wildlife!
+ Before leaving town we stopped at a Hungry Jacks to try them out and use their wifi. Exactly like Burger King but they can’t use that name in Australia bc there’s already a restaurant with that name that has threatened to sue.
+ Drove south 2 hours to Mackay. It was very dark and rainy the whole time but luckily no kangaroos jumped in front of us. Camped at Baker’s Creek Caravan park. Bathrooms were really nice with screen doors which meant sooooo many less bugs! Why didn’t every campground do this?! And the wifi was fantastic!!
+ We were too lazy to go back out to pick up food (and delivery made the order like 3 times more expensive!) so we ended up just cooking hot dogs in the kitchen while Corey enjoyed his 2 birthday beers!
+ We didn’t have any birthday cake so Liz surprised Corey by writing Happy Birthday in Ketchup on his hotdogs. It was adorable and Corey was obviously super impressed.

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