Travel

Australia 2014: Queensland and Port Douglas

Australia, Port Douglas, Wildlife Habitat Koala photo

The final leg of the journey (or so I thought; I always seem to have these bonus adventures when I’m abroad, don’t I?) took me to Queensland in northeastern Australia. We did a lot of iconic things, and I’ll give you the rundown here.

After saying goodbye to my dear friends in Perth, I met up with my folks at the Pullman Resort in Port Douglas. Our first major stop (after I got in late on travel day and basically crashed that night) was the Wildlife Habitat, an ecotourism animal encounter place with emphasis on education and all native species. Other than the sheer diversity of their collection, the highlights of this visit definitely included hugging a koala (see the top? eee!) and feeding kangaroos in their open, mixed species exhibit.

Australia, Port Douglas, Joanna feeding kangaroo
We all got into the action, and after a little practice, learned how to coax them closer with the promise of a snack.

Australia, Port Douglas, dad feeding kangaroo
Our second full day in Port Douglas, we boarded a bus with a really fantastic local guide and took a trip north and into the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world. Our first major stop was Mossman Gorge, a visitor center and trail system maintained by the local Indigenous people.

Australia, Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge rainforest
We took a guided walk into the trees, over the river and across gullies, where we could hear the birds and insects and smell the rich mustiness of the rainforest. From there we headed even further into the forest…

Australia, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation
…until we reached Cape Tribulation, which is the nearest point between the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, two world heritage sites, and the only location in the world where two such sites share a border. It was absolutely beautiful, and I would have liked a little more time on the beach, but by then it was almost time for…

Australia, Port Douglas, crocodile cruise

…a crocodile tour! We got on a flat bottomed boat to cruise the river looking for crocodiles, though the only ones we saw were very small. Still, wild crocodiles! Then we headed back into Port Douglas…

Australia, Port Douglas, rainforest fire dancers
…for the outdoor dinner show Flames of the Forest, which included family-style local foods and music, not to mention a couple of fire dancers. Our tent got visited by a tree snake, which was very exciting for me (yay wildlife!) but not so much for the staff, who shooed it back into the trees.

The next day we got up extra early to catch another boat…

Australia, Port Douglas, reef diving platform
…to the Great Barrier Reef! You can see in this photo where the water looks a little brown? That’s where the reef comes up almost all the way to the surface. The large white structure on the right is a diving platform with a small submarine beside it to optimize the ways you can see the reef.

Australia, Port Douglas, reef coral

The coral diversity was unlike anything I’ve ever seen (which is mostly in Hawaii), and I learned that the different colors are actually algae growing on the coral body, which is otherwise white. And, because I have wanted to see this place since I was eight years old and didn’t want to miss a thing about it…

Australia, Port Douglas, Great Barrier Reef diving Jo

…so I took a diving lesson to get as close to the coral and fish and everything else as possible! I got to touch an anemone (it felt like a sticky cloud) and a giant clam, and I spotted a shark and a giant grouper (it was larger than me), an eel and iridescent squid that had purple edges, and so many kinds of coral I couldn’t count them. It was seriously one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

We were scheduled to take a ride up and over another part of the rainforest the next day, but the news came through that there was a fast-approaching cyclone, so our plans changed…

Final installment of the Australia Adventure coming soon! ^_^

Places we ate I’d recommend:
Mocka’s Pies: a famous pie shop in Port Douglas, very affordable and good selection of Australian bakery goods.
Flames of the Forest: as mentioned, native foods and good entertainment.
On the Inlet: a seafood place with fresh, local catches every day, right on the water in downtown Port Douglas
Mayi Cafe at Mossman Gorge: try the bush tea and damper if you can, it’s lovely!

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