Arriving in Cairns wasn’t as exciting as people may have expected. When we first arrived, it was cloudy and even raining a bit. Getting out of the plane, the sight of mountains in the background encased in fog was a bit of a surprise. The trip to the apartments was very quick; it made me realize that even though this was one of the major towns along the coast, it was still very tiny. The apartment was very nice; there was high end furniture, great views, and extremely close to the beach and the town center. After we got to the hotel, the first thing I did was take a shower from the airplane. After 34 hours of traveling, a shower is a necessity. Next, we gathered as a group and headed down to explore the boardwalks in front of our hotel. After walking for a bit, we came across a tiny boat called Prawn Stars. This was actually a small restaurant on the water, with two friendly girls staffing the boat. We decided to get three kilos of prawn for the table, and that was the day I tried my first ever prawn. We had an excellent first dinner, and decided to check out some areas downtown. We came across some cool stores, a big casino with a wildlife dome on top of it, and a huge market that had everything including Australian souvenirs, half a dozen different Chinese food stands, massage parlors, and much more. It was an extremely fun first night, and we finished it up by hanging on the balcony of the apartment and just talking and relaxing together for a few hours before heading to bed.
The next day, we got up early and had a quick homemade breakfast before heading into town to catch a bus to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Village. The ride out to the village was stunning heading towards the mountains. The town in the daytime reminded me of a town in Florida, but the tropical forests reminded me of a rainforest. When we arrived there, it was nothing like what I expected. I originally thought we would be going into the dessert and speaking with people in huts. This was a completely incorrect view, and during their cultural talks and creation story they shared with us I learned a tremendous amount about their culture and their history. They also let us take part in many of their activities such as painting our faces with special symbols, taking part in traditional tribal dances, and painting our own boomerangs. We also learned what types of foods and medicines they use from nature, how to toss a boomerang, and even how to throw a spear. In addition to all of the teaching, they provided us with a delicious lunch of salads, rice, chicken, kangaroo, beef, and much more. This was also the first time I had ever tired kangaroo, and it tasted very similar to venison.
When we got back, I had a quick dip in the pool and then got ready for a dinner in town at Outback Jacks. The food was good and the atmosphere was even better. We ended the night with another few hours just talking on the balcony overlooking the sea.
The last full day in Cairns was spent out at the Great Barrier Reef about 60 miles off the coast. This was by far one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I had only ever dreamed of seeing the reef in person, yet today I was actually going to dive it. The boat ride out was pretty nice. I have been on boats all my life, so the large waves were actually relaxing and fun for me. Shortly before we got to the reef, I was given a briefing on what dives I would be completing during the day, what the conditions were like, and what types of fish I could expect to see when I went down. It was great to get the SCUBA gear back on, and the water was warm in the high 70’s. During my first dive I saw dozens of different species of fish, giant clams, and even a sea turtle! The reefs were breathtaking, and I can safely say I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. When I came out of the water, we decided to go on a glass bottom boat tour where our driver gave us some fun and entertaining lessons and stories from the reef. By the time I got back, it was time for my second dive where I went into a different section of the reef and saw even more species and even a barracuda nicknamed “Barry”! Each dive lasted between 30 and 40 minutes, but even 30 or 40 years would never be enough time to experience everything the reef has to offer. We finished the time at the reef with a relaxing snorkel trip where we were taking away from the main boat and then simply drifted back to it at our leisure. As we were preparing to leave, one of the boats broke down which resulted in a bit of a delay and us towing one of the smaller rifts back. I enjoyed this as it gave me more time on the water to relax and appreciate the reef. There was plenty of footage I got below the surface, but it’ll take a while to go through and see which shots were the best. By the time we got back to the docks, the only thing on most of our minds was a nice clean shower.
We quickly showered and then headed out to dinner at The Cotton Club. The calamari was delicious, and it was the perfect end to our stay in Cairns, Queensland. I only wish I had another week to stay and explore, but for now, it’s off to Melbourne!