The plane landed in Cairns, the last leg of our Australian trip. As we walked to collect the luggage, after the dry Uluru, I could feel humidity return to my skin. Cairns is a nice little beach town – very humid, casual and tropical.
After a quick check-in, we went to the night market and got massage. You must go to the night market for massage. Massages are so cheap in Australia than in US. We indulged at every opportunity. After massage, we walked along the esplanade and checked out restaurants all along before settling on an Indian restaurant. After dinner, with so many pictures taken, we were running out of disk space and went on a quest to find a place where we could copy our pictures to a disk.
Next 2 days were highlight of our Australia trip. We did an Liveaboard Intro Diving trip with Ocean Quest in Great Barrier Reef. We had 5 dives over 2 days. The first day, a transfer vessel took us to the outer Great Barrier Reefs. After about 90 mins, we reached the reefs. The transfer boat was pretty crowded but the staff was friendly and food was good. They took very good pictures after we geared up. I couldn’t dive on day one as I had some sinus issues, but Vipul did and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
In the afternoon, after lunch, we were transferred to Ocean Quest. I totally loved Ocean Quest as there were fewer folks on board. Rooms were comfortable and clean. There were only 4 intro divers on Ocean Quest. Almost immediately after lunch, there was call for another dive which we skipped and snorkelled instead.
After snorkelling we had tea and chatted with other guests till dinner time. We went up to the deck to watch sunset and came down to the dining room for dinner. Dinner was fabulous and served piping hot by the crew- chef had earlier asked everyone for their dietary preferences. We made new friends at the dinner table and learnt about their diving experiences – some from different areas in Australia, some from South East Asia and Japan. Following dinner was a night dive for certified divers.
Next day we had 3 dives – the first one was at 6:00 am. The crew woke us up in time for the dive. Since the other intro diving couple was sleeping we had a private lesson. It was my first dive and the instructor was very patient. Over the 3 dives, we went down up to 12 meters, and were down for 30 mins. We saw sea turtle and tons of Angle fishes, butterfly fishes, clams, Christmas worms, nemos etc. the early morning dive was the best one – as the ocean was calm and conditions were perfect.
Stringer suits were complimentary – and wearing them prevented sunburns. We got a fresh suit for each dive (unlike the transfer vessel).Before each dive, we had a briefing on the reef map, currents, tide etc so that the certified divers who went in larger groups could explore on their own and come back in time. It was the most memorable time of the trip. I highly recommend Ocean Quest ‘s overnight diving trip. We reached Cairns by late afternoon.
After the trip we drove to Port Douglas – another scenic beach town with two Heritage areas – Daintree rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. We had booked Daintree rainforest tour with Tony’s for the next day and they don’t do pickups from Cairns. So we drove to Port Douglas. The drive is beautiful and hugs the coastline.We checked into a condo and then went off for dinner to Salsa bar and grill – their chocolate soufflé is to die for!
Our guide was a naturalist/botanist so we got to learn a lot on the rainforest trip – rare trees and plants, took a river cruise, saw poisonous fruits, . We saw Cassowary and her chick crossing the road and had some chickoo ice-cream. Though we didn’t see any crocodiles as the weather was too hot.
For our last dinner in Australia we decided to go to Nautilus on a whim and totally regretted the choice. It was a bit stuffy compared to the light and fun Salsa bar.
Next morning saw us scrambling to pack, drive back to Cairns and on long flight to Hawaii via Sydney.
We had a great time in Australia. I wish we had more time in Melbourne to drive the Great Ocean Road and see the twelve apostles drive down the Gold Coast and learn to surf, sail the Whitsundays … if things work out, we will probably visit again – with more days to spare 🙂