Archive for the ‘Port Douglas’ Category

On the Reef

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The next day we all got up early, packed and headed to the airport to meet our flight to Cairns. It was my last morning in Sydney and I left it on a cold and dreary day. Thankfully, when we arrived in Cairns it was bright and warm. We were picked up from the airport by a Sun Bus shuttle driven by a very talkative Australian woman. On the 45 minute drive from the Cairns airport to the Meridan hotel in Port Douglas  she talked all about the amazing diversity of wildlife to be found in that region. We heard about venomous spiders, sting rays, jelly fish, crocodiles, and snakes. It really made all of us enthusiastic to spend time outside. By the time we got to our hotel and checked in the day was winding down, and even though the temperature was in the 80′s it was still technically winter, so the sun started to set around 6pm.

Hotel in Port Douglas

Pool at the Meridian, also the view from our room

The beach in Port Douglas

After checking in we headed out to the beach, about a two minute walk from our hotel, to take in the last remaining half hour of sunlight.

Parents

tiki hut living

Having had a late lunch in the airport we weren’t terribly hungry, so mom went to the grocery store to buy some munchies and a cheese plate for us to snack on, and dad went to the bottle shop to get a bottles of liquor and a bottle of tequila. Since Julie is of legal drinking age in Australia, dad was fascinated by the idea that he could do shots with his youngest daughter, so once he got back to the hotel with his bottle shop purchases he started pestering Julie to do a shot with him.  I think he had anticipated Julie being unable to throw back a shot of tequila without wincing, but once she agreed to do a shot with him, she did so without even flinching. Clearly that side of the Lapointe family can take their alcohol, I can’t say the same for me and mom. Once the novelty of this had passed we snacked and watched some movies on TV before all turning into bed.

The next morning we were up quite early to meet a shuttle that took us to the Marina so we could meet up with Sailaway, which was the boat service we booked for the day to take us out to the reef. Sailaway is one of the smaller companies that does trips to the reef from Port Douglas. They use a small catamaran boat that takes about 30 people out each day, and they sail out so its a very green operation. The ride out was a bit chilly since it was so early in the morning and it was a bit overcast, but by the time we got out to the low isles where we would be snorkeling, the sun had come out and it had warmed up quite a bit.

Our Yatch for the day. Sailing Away!

Riding the boat out to the low isles

Low isles

shrimping boats in the distance

Ready to snorkel!

We were given wet suits, fins, and snorkel gear and then shuttled out to the islands in a small glass bottomed boat. On our way to the island we were able to see all that was below us through the window in the bottom of the boat. We saw all sorts of colorful coral in all sizes and shapes and all manner of wildlife. There is a very large sea turtle population on the reef, and as such they are a big draw for tourists, but we were cautioned not to get to close or to touch them at any point. Our tour guide said “Sea turtles can get to be hundreds of years old, and the last thing you would want if you were a hundred years old would be someone chasing after you in a funny looking mask.” Point taken.

We managed to see quite a few sea turtles and they were HUGE. We also spotted some clown fish, and they were much smaller in person than I thought they were going to be. Mom and dad set out together and looked quite comical trying to get out to the deeper water in their flippers with their pool noodles in hand. Dad was especially uncoordinated, and towards the end of the day his noodle started to get away from him, and in diving after it he got too close to the coral and impaled himself on the reef. He was ok, and just kept laughing about how of all the dangerous things in Australia that could have attacked him he ended up bleeding because he ran into a stationary object. Julie and I fared a little better, although Julie was a lot less daring than I was when it came to getting close to the reef.

Sea turtles! One of the main attractions of the day

Nemo= found.

We snorkeled for about three or so hours, taking breaks whenever we needed them. Around 2pm we loaded back into the glass bottomed boat which took us out to the bigger boat where we had an amazing lunch of shrimp, kebabs, fresh fruit, sandwiches, beer, wine, salad, and assorted deserts. It was such a relaxing way to end a wonderful day. We could not have asked for a better tour company or better weather. As we were finishing up lunch some of the smaller children that we hanging around the back of the boat noticed that we had attracted some friends. Three or four black finned reef sharks were circling our boat, so we began to throw them the leftover shrimp shells and heads, which of course only attracted more marine attention.

black finned reef sharks eating our leftover shrimps

beautiful blue water and a reef shark lurking below the surface

Once back in Port Douglas we headed back to the hotel to shower and change, and then walked up the main street to find somewhere to eat dinner. We landed on this rowdy bar/brick oven pizza restaurant called Rattle and Hum. Since we had a big lunch we all ordered light meals and drinks. I had to assist Julie in ordering a cocktail since she had never done it before. I started her out on a Cosmopolitan, a nice girly classic. After a long day out on the water none of us were up for too much excitement after dinner, so we all went to bed fairly early.

Surfing the Daintree

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Monday morning we were up early again to meet a shuttle, this time to the Daintree Rainforest, which was about a two hour drive from our hotel in Port Douglas. The sun bus driver who picked us up was an older German man, who, like so many others we have met in Australia, visited the country when he was quite young on a whim, and liked it so much that he never left. He had a thick German accent and talked to us about Europe and Australia all the way up to the rainforest.

Lookout over the Daintree Rainforest

The family- I'm pretty sure my father is incapable of smiling

As we were getting closer to our final destination the foliage on either side of the road got more and more dense and we started to see lots of signs for cassowary crossing. A cassowary is a large black flightless bird that is quite mean. It is the largest bird to be found in the pacific region and definitely the largest one in Australia. While it can be found in parts of Paupa New Guinea and on some island nations in the pacific, the largest concentration of them can be found in tropical north Queensland in Australia. Since cassowaries do not fly, they forage for food on the forest floor, often eating fallen fruit, and they are capable of eating many fruits and plants that would be toxic to other animals. Interestingly, cassowaries are solitary birds, only paring up during mating season, and once the female lays the egg it then becomes the males job to build the nest and incubate the egg by himself. These animals look more ridiculous than intimidating, but they have thick razor sharp claws that are capable of doing serious harm if provoked, and from what I have heard this is easy to do, i.e. they are mean. While these birds are very populous in Queensland they are slowly working their way onto the endangered species list due to habitat loss and being hit by cars, hence all the signs. While we saw a bunch of these signs on our drive up, we had to stop and get a picture of this one:

They've got jokes

The bottom sign had previously been a speed hump sign, until someone with a sharpie and a sense of humor had a better idea. We all had a good laugh at this. But seriously- cassowary roadkill is serious business! It happens!

After 2 and a half hours driving up through the foliage we finally arrived at the base office for the jungle surfing company. There we were met by a different shuttle that took us another ten minutes to their base camp of operation where we were each fitted with helmets with nicknames and harnesses.

Looking so thrilled

Fitting nicknames. Julie- Elektra, Dad- Peter Pan, Mom- Mother Earth

Once the basic rules of the day had been explained, our family, along with about ten others headed up the mountain through the rainforest to the first platform where our jungle surfing would begin. On our walk the tour guide started talking to us about the Daintree. The Daintree Rainforest is the second biggest rainforest in the world after the Amazon, and at 1200 square miles it is the largest area of continuous forestation in Australia. It is also the second most diverse environment on the earth after the great barrier reef. Our guide told us: “On this ten minute walk you will pass by more species of plants than you would if you were to walk across the entire continent of North America.” It has been estimated that upwards of 430 species of birds live in the canopy of the forest and the region is also home to many animals that are endangered elsewhere like the cassowary and the tree kangaroo.

Once we arrived to the first platform we were hooked onto the zip line and one by one sent to the next platform. It took about an hour and a half to get through all seven platforms of the course, and the views along the way were stunning. At times you could see beyond the trees to the pristine blue waters of the reef.

Starting out

Mom and dad swinging through the trees

Safe on the platform

I was Barbie. I didn't pick it obviously.

All the Lapointes tethered to a tree. Dad making another awful face.

Towards the end of the course as we became more comfortable we started to get daring, and when someone suggested that we try going upside down we all had to try. Well, everyone except mom who was having enough adventure already just being up in the air that high.

Julie struggling to turn herself upside down

me upside down!

Dad said that this way all the blood would rush to his head and he would get smarter

Mom arriving safely but looking quite flustered

"Growing up sucks" all too fitting for Dad

It's true, we do!

After we had completed the course we went back down the mountain to meet up with our German driver who took us back into Port Douglas. On the drive back Mom asked if he had any restaurants he would recommend in Port Douglas, and he said we should check out this local place on the water called the Tin Shed. The woman who had driven us from the airport had also recommended this, so we figured we would check it out. Instead of going back to our hotel we had him drop us off at the restaurant instead. We arrived around 4:30pm so the sun was getting low in the sky and all the boats that had been out fishing and doing reef tours were beginning to come in. The views were wonderful.

Watching the sun set and the boat come in

ready to eat

We were all pretty hungry since we hadn’t eaten lunch, and this restaurant, a bastion for locals in the area, turned out to be one of the cheapest places we had eaten in Australia. Julie and mom both got seafood while I got a pasta dish and dad picked at everyone elses food. Once the sun went down it got a bit chilly, so after we ate we headed back to the hotel so we could shower, pack and sleep since we had another flight to catch the following day.