we flew commercial to Cairns in the Queensland Territory. There we spent a couple of days on a live-aboard boat and did some diving. Deep Sea Divers Den http://www.divers-den.com was our charter. The cost was $260 AU per diver [11 dives].
The people were great. If you book early, you'll get the master suite at no extra charge. We saw whales when we were going out to sea and dolphins when we were returning from our trip. After our dives, we went on a wildlife safari, my husband and I went on separate days because we were afraid our nine month little girl would startle all the animals. We went with Wildscapes Safari www.ozemail.com.au/~wildscap . The cost is $110 AU, well worth the money. The guide owns and operates the business. He knows what he is doing. He takes film crews out to get nature footage. As I said, he knows what he is doing.
The safari in the rainforest is truly a safari. You really LOOK for animals. They are not fed or accustomed to people contact, they are wild. When you leave the truck you go through the forest crouch down and hunt for animals. I saw a family of platypus (very rare to see), tree kangaroos, flying foxes and different species of the Australian oppossums, much cuter than the US version. After a few hours we stopped at a local restaurant and ate dinner, which was included in the fee. I recommend Wildscape Safaris because they only takes out a limited number of people. The more people, the noisier the crowd, the fewer animals you will see.
We rented a BackPackers Van for $480 AU for 2 weeks. It was equipped with a stove, refrigerator, sink and comfortable beds. Very affordable and convenient!
The next day after church, we headed to Kuranda. Kuranda is not a far drive and if you want souvenirs, T-shirts, etc., the Kuranda market place is the best you'll find, even better than the Cairns market place, which I felt was not up to all the promotion. Besides the market place, there are little "parks" in Kuranda, but there are places you do need to pay to get in. We got a good deal $12 AU on the Bird sanctuary/ Butterfly farm entrance, So we went even though I didn't feel it would be fun, it was pretty interesting. Our little girl loved it! They had other things like bungee jumping, which was a joke; it was a big 50 ft crane. They had a Nocturnal animal center, opal mining, and I don't remember what else. Kuranda was a worthwhile trip.
We decided to head up to Cape Tribulation. Supposedly the farther North you travel, the better the diving. We stopped in between Cairns and Port Douglas at a place called Wild World http://www.wildworld-aus.com.au/. There they had Koalas you could handle at certain times of the day, wallabies and kangaroos (Mommies and their babies) you could pet and feed all day if you liked. They had crocodiles, Australian reptiles, dingoes, Emus, and lots of beautiful parrots. At $18 AU, I would recommend this place. There is another place farther North, the Internet advertised, the Rainforest Habitat. Don't waste your money there. The animals are very unfriendly and not as big as Wild World.
We continued our trip and stayed the night in the campground ($8 AU) in Palm Cove, a beautiful beach area. The next morning we were awakened by the sound of parrots and Cockatoos. What a sight to see these exotic birds in the wild. We ate breakfast and drove on.
We stopped at Port Douglas, also an internet posting, to rent a dive charter. The diving prices were outrageous! Port Douglas is a definite tourist trap. Although it is pretty, we didn't stay very long. Our goal was to head up to Cape Tribulation. (The farther north, supposedly the better the diving.)
We were told we needed a four-wheel drive to even reach Cape Tribulation. Wrong, the rental companies were just trying to convince us to rent their expensive four wheel drives. However, I will warn if you want to go beyond Cape Trib. that no regular car will get through, so then rent a four wheel drive from Cairns. Oh, and fill your vehicle's gas tank full before you get to Mossman. There are only "Booneytowns" from there up. Still, that was part of the great adventure. These places were virtually untouched and very beautiful!
The Daintree area, Cape Trib and Port Douglas really "hype" up these Crocodile Rides. I guess it's fun to do once, but don't make reservations. Everyone is on that bandwagon. Tours run from $8 to $24 AU, with not a bit of difference in the tours, just some greedy price range from operators. To cross the Daintree River to get to Cape Trib is a $6 ferry. We had a campervan and not a bit of problem crossing. It helps to remember that the state, town and people can make a big deal about what we might consider to be nothing on tours. In other words, if there is a flyer stating "Come see the Bald Dog" don't take it to seriously. Of course, there aren't really flyers or brochures that mention a "Bald Dog," I said that to make a point. Daintree was nice, but I wouldn't make all your reservations from people in Cairns. They tell you of the most expensive places to see and stay. There are so many, very affordable, little motels and campgrounds, which also usually offer reasonable tours. Don't let all the high price hype scare you off from visiting this area..
After Daintree, we drove winding roads up through the rainforest. We stopped at a wonderful place called Lync Haven,Tel (070) 989 155. Lync-Haven is owned by a charming older couple that take pride in their property. They have a rehab center for Kangaroos and Wallabies, an Aviary and 40 acres of pathed rainforest. Bring your spotlights because there are lots of animals at night! This location offers a restaurant, a clean campground with showers, clean cabin rooms and even a nanny for people like us, traveling with a child. A delightful place!
The next day the dive operator Rum Runners, firstname.lastname@example.org , picked us up at Lync Haven to take us to their boat. There were not any docks, so divers waited on the beach for a Jon Boat to come and take them to the boat. Every charter, and there are only three in Cape Trib, does this same thing.
So we got on the boat which had a "kooky" but very friendly crew. They did everything for you; all you had to do was get your wet suit, tank, mask and fins on and splash! Here you see the most spectacular diving sights in the world. These were untouched reefs! Gorgeous. I am a student Marine Biologist, so it is very hard to impress me when it comes to diving. I could not tell you the species of corals that were there! The reef was called Undine. The clams were huge and the colors of EVERY creature were out of this world! The best part was our next dive. Since my husband and I were advanced divers, the crew decided to check a new section of the reef out. My husband and I and the some of the crew got to explore an untouched reef! This was so awesome! Gorgonian fans everywhere! This is what I expected the Great Barrier Reef to look like! The other two charters were in sight, so the only difference in Rum Runners and Taipan Lady and Quicksilver was the luxury and price. Rum Runners was not luxurious, but we did not care, and we were not going to spend our time on the boat! Rumrunners had a nice lunch, and the crew was hilarious, very patient and understanding to everyone, especially to the first time snorkelers and divers! The diving was excellent! On top of such a great day, if we come back within a year, Rumrunners will give us half off the price! Of course, we couldn't pass that up. We went again the next day!
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