Posted by: Jill | August 27, 2012

Australia trip report part 2: Reef and Rainforest

I’m back from a wonderful 3 weeks in Australia. Blog reports coming in three parts: work, play in the tropics [this post], and play in the city.

As soon as the conference finished, 4 of my friends and I piled into a bright orange “Spaceship” campervan and headed north.

Remember, we were in the southern hemisphere, so going north is going more tropical. It was a hot and humid day, so our first stop above Cairns was Palm Cove beach, a lovely stretch of white sand bordered by a shady esplanade and expensive shops and restaurants. We rinsed off in the chilly water, lounged in the sand, and took a stroll along the pier. Because Cairns has no real beach and we were busy day and night with conference work, we all agreed that THIS was the official beginning of vacation.


Levi and Amanda revel in our first real sense of vacation on the beach at Palm Cove.

Port Douglas is a decidedly vacation-oriented beach town about an hour north of Cairns. It served as a great jumping-off point for our diving adventure on the Great Barrier Reef (aka the GBR, as we call it in the biz).

I took this photo of a small piece of the Great Barrier Reef from the window of an airplane!

The GBR is actually composed of a thousand smaller, separate sections of reef. We steamed about 90 minutes offshore to get to a section of the outer reef called Agincourt. We had a great dive guide, and even though we warned him that our group was entirely composed of professional marine biologists, he was utterly confused after our first dive. He was accustomed to showing tourists big fish, sea turtles, and the occasional shark. To the professional eye, those animals are less than impressive. For nearly the entire dive, I had my face down in the coral and seaweed, looking at things like this:

Mask-down in the coral, my inner monologue sounds like this: “What interesting polyp structure! I’ve never seen so many species of Acropora coral. I wonder if this is the same species and just a different growth morphology than that other colony…?”

The divine was beautiful, the boat was well-organized and spotless, and we all had a great time. Also, my lips turned blue from the cold water (a chilly 70F!).

I did take some time underwater to look away from the micro scale and appreciate scenes like this.

After a few days in beachy Port Douglas, Ayana and I drove even further north until we reached The End of the Road. Literally: we drove until the paved road (and our car insurance) ended. North of this point, a 4-wheel drive with snorkel is required.

We saw gigantic saltwater crocodiles, tasted many exotic tropical fruits at the Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm, drank delicious rainforest coffee, strolled on deserted white sand beaches, and even spotted an elusive giant cassowary bird (and chick!) through the blur of the dark green rainforest.

Ayana tastes a dragonfruit. The verdict? Delicious.

The deserted beaches of Cape Tribulation were not a bad way to pass the time. 

One of the highlights for me was taking a private art lesson with Binna, an aboriginal artist. He squeezed us in at the last minute, and we settled in at a table in the back of his studio/art gallery. Even though I had carefully studied my favorite pieces in his gallery and he told me how to use the thin stick to make different shaped prints with the paint, I was intimidated when he handed me the blank boomerang with very little instruction.

At this point, I was not really sure what I was doing with the boomerang…

“Start in the middle and move out to the tips,” Binna instructed. “Don’t worry, you won’t mess up.”

What do you think about the final product? And before you ask (Dad), this is a boomerang for displaying on the wall, not for throwing.

Read parts one (the conference) and three (Sydney) for more adventure!



  1. […] in Uncategorized « Maui Science Whirlwind Australia trip report part 2: Reef and Rainforest […]

  2. […] back from a wonderful 3 weeks in Australia. Blog reports coming in three parts: work, play in the tropics, and play in the city [this […]

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