Great Barrier Reef snorkeling and Atherton Tableland waterfall swimming

Rising early, we caught the 7am bus from Townsville to Cairns. The journey wasn’t too long so we arrived in Cairns for lunchtime. We used our trusty maps.me to locate our hostel and walked along the beach front to get there and check in. The accommodation was basic but we were upgraded from the four bed that we’d booked to a three bed at no extra cost which was handy. We walked through the on and off rain to the supermarket to pick up some grub for lunch and ate it on a bench outside the supermarket (classy I know). I bought some cheesy bread from the bakery, a pot of hummus and crackers and an apple.

We didn’t know quite what to do for the afternoon so we headed to the nearby shopping centre to peruse the shops, picking up a couple of extra things for the NZ winter – you’d have thought we’d have everything by now ey? I also managed to exchange the water bottle I had bought in Typo in Brisbane, as sadly the gold letter ‘S’ on the front had become scratched off.

We arranged to meet up with Sophie and Charlotte at their hostel Mad Monkey and ended up watching a film in their fab communal area. Along with a couple of other girls we watched ‘How to be Single’, which is a light, feel-good film, snacking on chocolate shared out by someone amazing who had been sent an Easter care package by her mum and insisted we help her eat it (what an angel). It was exactly what we needed, especially as it was so miserable outside. After the film, the five of us made a supermarket trip for dinner and parted ways until the Barrier Reef trip we were all going on the following day.

Great Barrier Reef day trip

Another early start to go and snorkel in the reef, we were up and walking to the ferry terminal to check in for the day. Our boat which was the opposite of our Whitsundays experience in that the vessel was significantly bigger than anticipated! As we boarded we were offered free tea, coffee and biscuits, and warned to take sea sickness tablets as it was going to be rough out there, even the crew had taken them…

Let me tell you now that they were not messing around – it was chaos! People were flying everywhere as they staggered up and down the boat clinging onto the rails as the boat rocked, plowing through the waves. The back deck was the designated ‘sick’ zone where a smug crew member handed out sick bags to those looking green.  I wasn’t feeling amazing but Rhianna was not feeling well at all so we sat on this deck, occasionally getting covered in ocean spray and clinging on to stop us being thrown about the rocky boat. It was ROUGH. People were dropping like flies. At one point Rhianna had a very close call but managed to hold it together and came back from the brink vom-free (so proud!). Once we finally reached our destination everything thankfully calmed down. We decided to hire stinger suits just in case and were given flippers and goggles too. Incredibly, the boat had prescription goggles that you could hire for free with the warning of a $50 damage fee if anything happened to them – this meant I could see the coral and fish really clearly – result!

Although we were traumatised getting there, and you could tell the only reason we had to travel as far out as we did was because the poor reef is dying, it was so beautiful. Thanks to my camera’s waterproof case I was able to take photos and videos in the water as you can see below:

We had two snorkelling sessions with a break for lunch in the middle. It was a light bbq with fish and lots of fresh salads so nothing too heavy for the rocky journey back to shore! I’m so glad I managed to see the reef before it’s gone but at the same time I felt conflicted contributing to it’s harm by visiting in a huge boat (I was not expecting it to be that big!) But nevertheless it was an amazing day.

Atherton Tablelands

The next day was another excursion! We were doing a day trip to the tablelands with Barefoot Tours as the final part of our Oz Experience package. We were picked up from our hostel in a cool minibus – had fake grass carpet and lots of flowers inside. driven out of the city and into the rainforest. Our guide for the day was super charismatic and great at his job – even jumping in Lake Eacham at the first stop to encourage us to do the same (it was a cool and grey day so you can see why we needed encouraging). Although it wasn’t the ideal weather for jumping in and out of lakes and waterfalls, you’re only in the Peter Andre’s mysterious girl waterfall once right?

We swam in the lake for a while before drying off and heading back to the van where our guide had prepped morning coffee and snacks of fruit and cake. Lamingtons are delicious by the way. We headed to our next stop, seeing a super cool parasitic tree that had engulfed it’s neighbouring tree as well as another fallen tree:

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Next stop was the Millaa Millaa Falls, the famous Petre Andre waterfall which was also used in a Herbal Essences Advert. The water was freezing cold but we did swim out to the rocks near the waterfall and did the classic ‘hair flick’ from the advert.

We had sandwiches provided for us for lunch which was great and after we’d had our fill we continued to explore the tablelands, walking through the rainforest to see some more beautiful waterfalls. There was a lot of getting cold and wet then trying to dry off and warm up unsuccessfully – Katie’s lips even went blue! We were only there once so were determined to swim at every opportunity but I just couldn’t manage the last waterfall – which had it’s own natural rock slide – so I watched the others do it whilst keeping warm in all my layers!

The whole day was such a laugh and we experienced some really cool things. We even got Tim Tams for the journey back to Cairns (for those of you unfamiliar with Tim Tams, they’re just like Penguins without the joke on the wrapper and arguably better tasting). Conveniently we got dropped off at the hostel, and Katie and Rhianna went to the shop to pick up some bits whilst I started on dinner.

As it was our last night in Cairns we headed to the infamous Gilligans hostel bar which is more bar than hostel! It also happened to be ladies night where we managed to get some free pink drinks, result. Here’s a snap of us with Charlotte, Sophie and some new friends. We had a fab night and were sad to go back to the hostel as that meant our time in Oz was up! 😦

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Finally our time in Oz was over and it was time for our flight to Auckland (via Sydney) for the third and final leg of our adventures! We booked and paid for a shuttle bus to the airport not realising how close it was to the city so we arrived with tons of time to spare before our first flight back down to Sydney. We had splurged on a hotel room for the night at Sydney airport as it was about the same price of a last-minute hostel in the city plus the cost of getting there and back. It was luxury to be in a proper bed and watch TV and the beds were so soft and comfy, much better than trying to avoid the springs in old hostel beds!

And that was our time in Australia complete. Thanks for reading folks! My next posts will be all about New Zealand adventures, how exciting xoxo

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