Today we are going under (water that is) Down Under to the northeast coast of Australia's amazing Coral Bay in Queensland. We will snorkel or scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef – the largest living organism in the world (visible even from space!). We will whitewater raft the thrilling Tully River, voted as one of the Top 5 day rafting trips in the world, and hike and explore the most diverse ecosystem on the planet with more rare plants than found anywhere in the beautiful Daintree rainforest. Download the FREE Cheat Sheet with all the details and links you need to plan your adventure. Listen to the complete episode by clicking the player button on the black bar above, or read the transcript at the bottom of this page. Adventure on!
Here is the complete transcript of today's episode:
00:03 OK. The guide tells us: do you want to go underwater or do you want to get tossed in the raft?
00:07 My husband Bill decided for the whole raft. We're going under.
00:11 So this week we're going unde,r Down Under.
00:17 It's time to switch it up a little bit from the last couple of adventures where we've been going hiking. Today we're going to do something a little bit different and we're going to get wet. We are going to go snorkeling and whitewater rafting but I'll still throw in a little bit of hiking because it is my favorite thing to do. We are not just going under water: we're going down under. We're going to Australia. Welcome to Cairns. C A I R N S Cairns. They throw a little R in it and you can hardly hear it. It sounds like cans. Cairns. Alrighty, always always you just got to that I going to mispronounce almost every odd name out there. So sorry about that. Anyway so we're going to Cairns which is in northern, north east Australia and it's in a tropical area. Australia is huge so it's not a place you can just go for a week.
01:03 Frankly I would say you really need to plan at least. I would say two weeks, at a minimum really three at a minimum. When you go to Australia it's like trying to see the United States in one visit. You just can't do it. So when you go you need to pick certain areas to go to. When I went, I went to to Cairns, Melbourne, Sydney and Kangaroo Island. In Cairns which was one of the highlights. You have the Great Barrier Reef. We also white water raft the Tully River which is Nat Geo's Top 5 day white water rafting trips in the world. And there's Daintree Rainforest which I did not go to but I have done some research so I can add that to to this adventure today. Cairns itself is a cool little town on the Coral Sea.
01:48 One thing that I don't know why I think of it so much is, one evening the whole town turned out to do Zuba on the beach. I was like how cool is that? Everyone just goes out there and does Zuba. So it's a very active town. There's lots of things to do both in the water and in the hiking all that kind of thing so it's an adventure person's Mecca. It is in a tropical area so the wet season is around January February March. From what I understand it rains really really hard briefly but you will still even get sunshine during those months. But generally speaking most people tend to go the other months. One of the top things to do is either a snorkel or scuba dive (if you have a license) the Great Barrier Reef. I have a photo of me on the Web site which I probably shouldn't put out there because I look ridiculous. Because the sun is so strong in Australia instead of giving you scuba outfits because it's warm they give us sun suit.
02:45 So am in this ridiculous Blue Sun outfit that is probably my most unflattering photo ever. But just for you I'm going to put on the Web site. So you're in this gear and you go down there and then all you see is masses of color. There are coral and fish and turtles and it's just remarkable. You just feel like you're in this underwater Wonderland. You know it's like so cool. You take a boat out to the islands in the end you go down you snorkel. It's just a blast so you can do this a day trip.
03:15 You can also go to certain islands and spend over night if you want to. It's just extraordinary. The reef itself is the largest living organism in the world. You can actually see it from outer space. The reef includes 900 Islands and is about 2300 square kilometers or about 4000 square miles. It's in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland Australia. It has been a world heritage site since 1981. It has about 400 species of coral. Thirty species of whales, dolphins and porpoises go in the area. Fifteen hundred fish species including our little clownfish Nemo, six different kinds of sea turtles nest there. There are 215 kinds of bird species that either visit or nest on the area islands, and almost 2200 plant species. And if you hurry on today's date October 5th that I'm releasing this on the full moon next week, that is when that inner reefs are spawning.
04:16 They do it the first full week after the full moon in October. The outer reefs spawn in November and December. I'm not quite sure you'd see there but I thought that was kind of cool. soI thought I'd throw that in there. Well I wasn't lucky enough to see one, the dugong, which is kind of like a manatee: one of those big sea cows, a cousin of the sea cow that eat the sea grass are out in the reef as well and the Aboriginal folks that are native there are still allowed to hunt them. But of course they're protected from everybody else. As a little side note when I was doing some research on the Great Barrier Reef I saw that James Cook the famous explorer who is a descendant of my late husband actually ran aground on the coral reef out there which I thought was kind of interesting. [Note: should have said my husband is a descendant of James Cook]. He had to dump a bunch of the stuff off the ship to lift up the boat enough to get off the reef
05:05 Over two million people a year visit Cairns not just to see the Great Barrier Reef but also do such things as white water raft the Tully River which Nat Geo has rated in the top five day trip whitewater rafting trips in the world. I was lucky enough to do that a couple of years ago and it's a blast. It's a little bit vigorous I would say class three sometimes class four. And there's this one fall where right before you get to it the guide asked us, “Do you want to go under water or do you want to flip out of the boat?” because on this one section it's class four on the other side the really crazy people go over the class 5 (which we would have died).
05:43 But the class four we decided to go under we're literally the raft goes under the water for the longest three seconds of your life. There were two other rafts in our group and they're kids saying, “Like oh yeah we want to pop out!” and they popped out like corks. And it was kind of fun. There's also a place when you go down you go under a waterfall and you all get wet that's kind of fun. Another area where you stopped and rested for a little bit. There's this big rock that you can climb up and jump off. In my memory it was like 30 feet tall. But looking at some photos online was like maybe it's like 20 feet but all the young kids are doing like I'm going to show them the old lady can do it too. So I did as well. It was kind of fun.
06:21 There's areas that are calm enough that you can get out and kind of float in the water and towards the end of it all of a sudden the guide says, “OK everybody keep all your hands and feet inside the raft!” We are are like why? There's been crocodile sighting around here. So anyhow the guides know what they're doing, they know where it's safe, and they know how to take care of you so that you're going have a great time. It was a thrill. I loved to whitewater raft.
06:44 I've probably only done in half a dozen times in my life. But two of the times I've been in the top rivers in the world one is the Tully, and the other the Pacuare.I'm going to be doing the Pacuare again next winter in February. And so we'll be highlighting that in a springtime episode.
07:04 But this is if you go to Australia and you love the water you loved white water raft you'd definitely want to do the Tully River. For those truly hardcore there's extreme Tully river. And if you'd go to YouTube and and and put in the search thing extreme Tully river you'll see. That's too hard core for me. It looks like fun but that's probably a little bit too scary for me. This one I would say is fun exciting a couple twitches like going over that thing was a little bit twitchy but still fun. They wouldn't let us do it if it was unsafe. But that extreme thing that might be a little bit more hardcore than I'd like but it is available for those that would like to do it.
07:43 Before we get to the next part I want to talk to a little bit about the people of Cairns. At the hotel that we were staying at, the folks are so nice. Bill and I were walking to dinner one night and all of a sudden a rainstorm came out of nowhere. The owner [Note: it was the manager, not the owner] of that hotel sent somebody out to find us walking in the street to drive us to that restaurant so we wouldn't get wet. And then said to call them when we were finished dinner so they could pick us up so we wouldn't get wet. I have never had a hotel do that before in my life. And in fact, I wanted to wash some clothes. We've been traveling for a couple of weeks and I said I need to get some change for the laundry. She said, “Use the one that says it's broken. That one is free.” because that's the one they used. They were just so kind.
08:28 And here's another one (and guys you'll probably get embarrassed about this story so close your ears):
08:31 But girls will probably think this is funny. I'm a little bit older. I thought I was fully into menopause. And on the day that I have got to go snorkeling and the next day Whitewater raft, after it has been at least eight months since my ‘friend' had visited, guess who comes to visit that night? And now 7:00 in the morning I'm getting picked up to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. I'm like, I have nothing. There's nothing open. I've flown halfway across the world. I'm going in. I don't care if the great white sharks eat me or not. Gratefully on the boat that took us out there, they had some supplies but when I got back to the hotel the lady drove me to a pharmacy. You couldn't ask for nicer people… like they treat us like family. I mean they treated me actually better than sometimes family does. It was just really really kind good people.
09:24 And I just love Australian people there's something in their character and their nature that just exudes warmth friendliness and kindness. So anyway, so back to our adventure.
09:36 Now we're going to go to the Daintree rain forest which is the world's most diverse ecosystem. It has the greatest biodiversity of rare species on the planet. You can make Daintree a day trip or there's a eco luxury resort that you can stay in as well. They've got the tropical jungle, they've got beaches, they've got trails, you can swim, you can paddle, or you can take boat rides to explore the rivers. They've got volcanic lakes and waterfalls.
10:08 You'll be able to see the famous salt water crocodiles with their mouths open cooling themselves off. It's a birder's paradise has so many birds migrate here. Daintree has the largest population of primitive flowers in the world. Of the 19 species in the world 12 of them are found in this forest. While you're there take advantage of the hour and half guided hikes so that you can learn a lot about the Aboriginal culture and the plants.
10:36 On the Web site this week for this episode I've included a lot more YouTube videos than normal just because there are so many beautiful things to see that I wanted to share them with you.
10:46 I also want to just break away from my normal adventure thing. If you are going to Australia and you are going to Melbourne make sure, and I know you're going to be dead tired at the end of the day, but you're going to see a bus tour to go see the fairy penguins GO DO THAT. That is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my whole life. So this has nothing to do with adventure and I'm sorry for diverting but I have to tell you if you're going to Australia and you're going to Melbourne, you've got to go see the fairy penguins.
11:14 These little things are out at sea all day long and right around dusk they start coming into shore and you're sitting on these little benches looking out at this little cove. There's only a certain area. They come in, and you see these little black dots in the water like little black mushrooms popping up out of the water. And these dots are ebbing and flowing and it's like they're out there talking: “Do you think it's safe? I don't know. What do you think? I not sure if it's safe or not. I think it might get us. I don't know.” They come a little bit, not too scary. They go back out again. Now I want to go back, now way too scary. They go back and then finally someone says to heck with it we're going in, and then out of the sea comes thousands of these little miniature penguins. It is one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in my entire life. So if you go to Australia and you go to Melbourne you're going to be tired. Get on the bus you're going to sit on the bus for about two hours and then you will see the most striking things of your whole life.
12:14 But I digress. Back to Cairns. If you'd like to see some platypus, not too far away is a platypus park. So you go there you can also camp there if you'd like. Another excursion is to go to that to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center.
12:30 It's about 15 minutes from town and they do performance dance, music and storytelling about the world's oldest culture – 40000 years old.
12:45 One final note about Cairns in the evening. They have these fruit bats which looked like little baby foxes with bat wings and apparently they call them flying foxes. I didn't know that until I was doing some research, but when it gets a little bit dusk the skies fill with these massive bats and I guess they just eat off the fruits, and they live in about 40 different colonies in the city. The locals hate them but the tourist think is very cool. The locals think they're noisy. And they do make some noise. I didn't know what it was at the time, and they smell. But I have a deviated septum so I can't smell anything. And I'm guessing the guano can drop on people. I didn't have that issue either. All I know was I thought I was cool.
13:26 My verdict on this vacation is as a activity level, probably two maybe not even that cause mainly on the rafting you're kind of sitting and paddling but it's not you, it's the water's doing most of the work. Snorkeling as much as you want to do. Same thing with scuba diving but it is an active vacation.
13:46 It's an extraordinary vacation. It should be on very high on anybody's bucket list to go to Australia is probably the most fascinating places I've ever been to. You can get all the nitty gritty details on the cheat sheet available at activetraveladventures.com for this episode.
14:03 You can also see the show notes and a transcript of the episode. I've got tons of YouTube videos of different areas that we talked about today. If you haven't done so already, I'd like to please ask you to subscribe to the podcast. It really does help others like yourselves find the podcast, particularly since I'm so new. And if I could ask you also to please share this podcast with somebody else, introduce other adventurers to the podcast and spread the word. I'd be so grateful!
14:32 Before I turn off, I would also like to thank all of you who have taken the time to e-mail me to give me encouragement. And it's just been so heartwarming. I know I'm kind of fumbling with the words and all that I'm doing the best I can and am trying to learn and trying to do a good job for you and your e-mails have been so encouraging to me. I just thank you from the bottom my heart.
14:51 So I'll see you in two weeks and until next time, Adventure On.