HAL 2019 World – Day 47 Cairns, Australia

March 11, 2019 Paul Groves

Cairns is a city on the northeastern coast of Australia and is often called the “Gateway To The Great Barrier Reef”.  It is also a major port for exporting sugar cane, gold and other metals, minerals and agricultural products from the local area.

We’ve been cruising between the Reef and mainland Australia for the last two days.    We’ve crossed it twice but only at night so we’ve not really seen it.  During the day we stay quite a distance away.  Buoys mark locations where the Reef begins.  

If you want to visit the Reef you take a shuttle from Cairns and then transfer to a smaller boat, which is usually glass bottomed, at a platform just off the Reef.  Or for more dollars more, you can take a helicopter out to the platform.  If you’re feeling really adventurous you can pay to snorkel or scuba dive.

Another important feature of Queensland is their rainforests.  Our tour today was “Rainforest and Aboriginal Adventure”.  We drove to the Rainforestation Wildlife Park located in the Kuranda Rainforest about an hour outside of Cairns in the mountains.  

The park is divided into 6 different sections.

Section 1 was a demonstration of how to play the iconic Aboriginal instrument, the “digeridoo”.  It’s basically a tree branch that’s been hollowed by termites and finished off with fire.  It’s not easy to play but it sounds great with its low thrumming sound.

Section 2 was learning how to throw a spear.  Spears were used by the Aboriginal in hunting various animals including kangaroos.  Again it’s not as easy as it may appear.  Spears can be thrown by themselves or thrown using a “woomera”.  The woomera is a wooden device that will increase the distance and power of the thrown spear. Two previous presenters here at the park held the Guinness record for spear distance.

Section 3 was all about throwing boomerangs.  As with all weapons there’s really one right way to hold and throw it.  Did you know there’s a left handed and a right handed one?  It’s a good thing that the passengers don’t have to hunt to eat on the ship as our throwing was terrible. Paul came in with the 2nd best throw of our group!

Section 4 was an animal walk.  They had a small zoo with native animals many of which just roamed around in the enclosure.  

One animal of note was the large bird called a “Cassowary”.  It’s basically a fruit eating flightless bird.  It has huge feet and  3 claws for digging however I don’t think you’d want to get into a fight with it. Very colorful.

Some of the animals roaming around were kangaroos and wallabies.  Ron was able to feed and pet one.  He said the fur was very soft.  Kangaroos and wallabies do occasionally mate and they produce a “wallaroo”.

One of the important displays here were the saltwater crocodiles.  In Cairns, you can only swim in designated, netted areas.  If you swim anywhere else, you risk getting bitten by these guys.  These are small versions of what’s out in the Australian waters.

I guess it was break time here at the zoo as many of the kangaroos laid down for a rest. They looked quite happy not to be bothered by the people milling around.

Of course there were Koalas, wombats, etc., in the park as well but we’d seen them on other tours.

Next we moved on to Section 5 which was a demonstration of Aboriginal dances.  There were dances about mosquitoes, emulating emus, honey tree harvesting, and tribal warnings.  They even brought a few passengers on stage and taught them one of the dances.  It was not a pretty site.

Our final Section 6 was our “Duck” tour on a WWII amphibious vehicle.  They drove us around the forest and nearby lake showing us both useful and dangerous plants.  Due to the heavy rain at times we only saw one lizard and no other animals.  It rained heavily several times during our visit, but since this was a rainforest it simply added to the experience rather than feeling like a problem.

As we left the park, we heard loud screeching noises coming from the nearby trees.  The sounds were made by wild parrots but they were very beautiful.

When we arrived back at Cairns, our guide pointed out several trees full of what appeared to be hanging fruit.  That was not the case.  These were fruit bats!  There must have been hundreds of them in the trees waiting for night to go hunting for food.  Glad we left port before the sun went down.

Sadly we’ve only got one more port in Australia, Darwin.  We’ll be there in three sea days.