Cairns Queensland

Sunday September 1, 2019

By: Anna Marie Mateescu

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond. While the greatest moment in human life, is a departure into unknown lands. That goes without saying “MAN CANNOT DISCOVER NEW OCEANS UNLESS HE HAS COURAGE TO LOSE SITE OF THE SHORE”

The Great Barrier Reef , Cairns Queensland, AUSTRALIA – The highlight as one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and pulling away from it, and viewing it from a greater distance, you can understand why. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth. One of Australia’s most remarkable natural gifts, the Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world’s largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the world’s most beautiful sunsoaked, golden beaches. Because of its natural beauty, the Great Barrier Reef has become one of the world’s most sought after tourist destinations. Although coral reefs have been around for over 500 million years, the Great Barrier Reef is relatively young at 500,000 years, and this most modern form is only 8,000 years old, having developed after the last ice age. A visitor to the Great Barrier Reef can enjoy many experiences including snorkeling, scuba diving, aircraft or helicopter tours, bare boats (self-sail), glass-bottomed boat viewing, semi-submersibles and educational trips, cruise ship tours, whale watching and swimming with dolphins. Have traveled all over Asia, Hawaii, nothing can beat the colorful, live scenic view of the Barrier Reef. (A MUST SEE) Snorkeling & Diving gets you up close and personal with the reef.

CAIRNS & FRUIT BATS Cairns Region, Queensland, Australia. Far North Queensland. The Barrier Reef by by Catamaran takes around one hour from Cairns. Flying-foxes (also called fruit bats) are members of a large group of mammals called BATS predominantly found in Cairns and other parts of Australia. This fruit bats usually fly at 6:00pm and during the day they remain hanging on trees. There are microbats and megabats. Flying-foxes are usually found in coastal areas of melaleuca and casuarina swamps, mangroves, heath, dry and wet eucalypt forests, woodlands and rainforests.

During daylight, bats hang in the trees outside the Cairns City Library in mass roosts called “camps.” The animals look like large black fruit dangling from the branches. At sunset, they wake up, wheeling acrobatically into the night sky to spend the night feasting on Eucalyptus pollen, fruit, and nectars. Bats live in other Australian cities, but you usually have to journey a bit to see them. But in Cairns, the bats roost right in the city center. Sadly, the Cairns City Council does not like the bats being there, and has already removed some roost trees to discourage the animals from making themselves at home. But in Cairns, a Queensland city that acts as a gateway to both tropical north with its world heritage rainforests and the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, you can see Spectacled flying foxes in the middle of town, roosting in the grounds of the beautiful library. You can even stay in the adjacent Novotel hotel and overlook the camps and watch the evening flyout in comfort from your room.

FLYING OVERHEAD & WHITEHAVEN BEACH Sometimes the best view is achieved from great heights, and no place is this more apparent than the Great Barrier Reef. Curious coral islands such as Heart Reef in the Whitsundays or the heavenly escape of Whitehaven Beach are at their most beautiful when seen from a bird’s eye view. When trying to decide if I should snorkel in the GBR or do a scenic flight over it, I couldn’t choose. So, I did both! It was expensive, but I knew I was probably only going to go to Australia once in my life. That and the fact that the Great Barrier Reef isn’t always going to be around unfortunately. It was worth the splurge for sure. The next decision I had was whether to fly over the GBR or Whitehaven Beach. In my research, I stumbled upon GSL Aviation, who offered a Reef and Island Scenic Flight that highlights both!

I also got some personal recommendations to go with this company after I had already booked with them, so I felt really good about my decision. Word of mouth is the best advertising, right? Oh, and GSL aviation offers planes with guaranteed window seats, which is super important when doing a scenic flight, obviously. I chose the 60-minute Reef and Island Scenic Flight far longer than most scenic flights. If I was going to do it, I was going to get the full experience!

TURTLES OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF Home to six of the world’s seven marine turtles, the Great Barrier Reef is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of these timid reptiles. These friendly giants are also crucial in the wellbeing and future growth of this complex ecosystem; turtles are one of the few marine lifeforms to eat seagrass, a form of sea vegetation. This grass needs to be kept short (and is, thanks to turtle grazing) in order for other lifeforms to flourish on the sea bed.

KALEIDOSCOPIC FISH One of the main draws to the Great Barrier Reef for any curious traveler is the opportunity to see some of the world’s most beautiful fish. There are an estimated 1,500 species of fish along the reef, representing over 130 different families of fish. Covering all shapes, characters, sizes and (sometimes changing) colors, these impressive, colorful schools span 2,900 individual coral reefs across this World Heritage Site.

The reef ’s islands range from tiny rocky outcrops, to sprawling national parks of untouched rain forest, to exclusive private resorts fringed with powder-white beaches. In the center, the Whitsunday an archipelago of 74 islands – can accessed by flying directly to Hamilton Island (the islands’ main hub), or by ferry from Airlie Beach, the closest hub on the mainland. Stay on popular Whitsunday holiday locations like Hamilton Island and Long Island’s Palm Bay Resort. On the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is an eco-haven, with turtle nesting sites and an on-site research station. At the northern end of the reef, Lizard Island – 240km north of Cairns – is home to an ultra-luxe retreat with just 40 rooms.

There’s an air of mystery surrounding the elusive yet curious dwarf minke whales. Where they go to exactly, no one yet knows,” explains Dr Matt Curnock from James Cook University. “They seem to love the northern waters of the Coral Sea for just a few weeks every year and then simply disappear. No one has yet tagged them so they simply disappear off our radar.”

Getting up close and personal with huge marine mammals underwater, especially whales is something many dreamed of doing and the overwhelming allure of something as mystical as the dwarf minke whales is impossible to resist.

Most tours to swim with dwarf minke whales depart from Cairns or Port Douglas. There are two types of tours either a day trip or on a longer liveaboard that gives you the best chance to see dwarf minke whales over a number of days. Operators who run liveaboard experience include Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, Spirit of Freedom, Divers Den and Eye-to-Eye Marine Encounters.

Operators who offer a single day trip include The Silver Series and Poseidon. All companies offering minke whale encounters must be licensed so check this first and remember they are wild animals and simply might not even turn up. It’s important to note that the encounter is controlled to minimize the impact on the animals and this includes not swimming after the animals. Minke whales are curious so just float around and let them come and eyeball you.

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