Cairns 24-29th October

I seem to be my fathers daughter when it comes to trains. I got stuck on the journey for about 4 hours behind another broken down train and my father is perpetually delayed on public transport. It was very similar to when I was in Rochester where my train broke down for over 6 hours. Anyway, at least the train was very nice and comfortable with in-seat entertainment.

Day 1 in cairns was still tough, still feeling constantly exhausted and also mildly beginning to panic about the next phase of my trip. 

Nonetheless I headed out in search of the weekend markets but, naturally, I went in the complete wrong direction! By the time I’d realised, I was really near the botanical gardens and I did want to visit them as well so I just carried on that way on the bus. 

The gardens were very different to other botanical gardens I’ve been to. It is way more tropical and rainforest-y which I guess makes sense given that Cairns is in the tropics but it felt quite odd walking through this mini rainforest knowing that the city is just on the other side of the trees. Sadly, quite a chunk of the gardens had been destroyed in a cyclone and there were signs all over detailing the damage and the issues they were encountering while trying to restore the gardens. I did then eventually make it to the markets and, naturally, bought some earrings! However, that was about all I had the energy for that day. 

Colourful eucalyptus
Rainforest style gardens

On day 2 I booked a trip up to Kuranda, an aboriginal rainforest village. It was a really scenic train ride up on an old wooden train from the 30’s although, it was quite slow! There were some great views back down into Cairns on the way.

Back down the valley to the sea

Up in the village there were loads of market stalls and music with all sorts of Australian/Aboriginal things (naturally, a didgeridoo being played rather well, not that I know much about the instrument but it sounded very cool!). I would have loved to have bought some things but I only have some much money and space and unfortunately none of the things that caught my eye fitted both those criteria (not sure a didgeridoo would fit in my backpack…).

I had a wander around the river and up to the wildlife parts. There were some amazing birds that knew nothing of personal space, climbing all over people’s bodies and heads. Also a butterfly house which has some amazing specimens. I never knew just how big some butterfly species could get with wings bigger than my whole hand!

Beautiful plumage!

Day 3 was swimming on the Great Barrier Reef. I booked a tour about half the price of all the other tours as the only info I could find about why it was so cheap was to do with the vessel but they still provided all the gear and some lunch/refreshments so I assumed it would be fine, and it was! Yes, the boat was a little out dated and rough around the edges (slats on the toilet door with at least a few of the slats missing…) but everything else about it was great! The staff were really helpful, friendly, and informative. They may have been a little over bearing on how to snorkel (do you really need to talk more than a quick 2 mins?!) but I guess I’ve learnt that you really can’t trust a lot of tourists to not be idiots! 

Three other women on this tour saw that I was by myself and adopted me into their group for the day which I was really appreciative of. It made the day much more enjoyable!

I saw quite a number of very colourful fish but I could also see how the reef is dying and probably being mismanaged with tourists not understanding how to ethically visit a reef. I think the staff on board could have spent at least a little bit of time explaining how to look at the reef without damaging it. There were plenty of people who were trying to hold onto coral or standing on it while they took they’re mask off which kills off any remaining coral that’s still alive. Maybe I should have tried to get a more eco-friendly boat trip but I hadn’t thought about that side of things until I got there and I could see the damage sustained, as well as how many tourists don’t understand how much damage they could be doing.

The second reef we went to was in slightly better condition, helped by the fact that it was much deeper down so most of it couldn’t be stood on very easily. However, as there wasn’t a sharp drop off, it meant the boat had to moor further away from the shallows. So when I hopped off the boat thinking I’d see the reef and some fish straight away like last time, I was greeted with dark blue surroundings. No sea floor, just vast open waters (and a boat). That panicked me with sudden thalassophobia (fear of the open water) and I swam as fast as I could, flippers and arms going crazy and splashing everywhere so I had to keep clearing my snorkel until I finally got to the reef. I had no idea I would be panicked so much and then when I got to the reef and calmed myself down, I then realised I was gonna have to go back through the open water…

Giant clams
Spot the big blue beasty

Clearly I survived the journey back to the boat and I’m puzzled now why I was so scared. Maybe it was just the shock as I was expecting to see the reef below me instead of being greeted by the deep blue.

Back on dry land, after assuring my mother that I was safe and hadn’t been swept away by any currents, I packed and got ready to head out very very early the next day.


  1. VAH

    I have absolutely no idea what that big beauty is!

    • Jess

      Neither! Unfortunately I couldn’t get any clearer pictures as he was too deep down

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