second in a series from Queensland, Australia
Much of the land accessible to travelers along the coast in northern Queensland, Australia, lies between Cairns and Cooktown. From Sydney, I flew into Cairns, then made my way north through Daintree National Park.
The primary reason to go to Cairns is to book a snorkeling or diving boat to the Great Barrier Reef, either out of Cairns or nearby Port Douglas to the north, where I ate my first spangled emperor for dinner (look it up). The Reef, at 1,200 miles long, is the world’s largest living organism.
Getting to the outer reef and back by boat takes a full, long day, though there are shorter snorkeling and glass-bottom boat trips to inner portions of the reef. Prices are $80 and up.
Tour operators can arrange bungee jumping, white water rafting, and a Skyrail cable car above the canopy of a rainforest. You can do hot air ballooning to spot wild kangaroo, or hug a koala at the Cairns Tropical Zoo.
You can swim for free in a large pool beside the ocean, built by the city because the ocean beaches are not safe from sea crocodiles that hide in the mud. Crocs do not venture ashore (local folks promise).
I never saw a Cairns croc. The most difficult task for me in Cairns was figuring out a way to say the name of the town. It's not Canz or cahns. Somehow, you are supposed to sneak the “R” into the pronunciation without actually saying it, as I did, "carns" with a long "A". Thing is, everyone in Australia knew which city I was talking about when I mispronounced Cairns, so I wouldn't worry about it.
Crocs stalk Australian men
In Australia, I never tired of reading local newspaper stories about the daily connections between man and beasts, especially about hungry crocodiles awaiting the unwary.
In Buffalo Creek, Australia, an undeveloped suburb (for obvious reasons) of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, I read a report of a croc chasing two men up a tree. Seems the men were fishing when the evening tide began to rise. As they trudged through newly knee-deep water to get back to land, they attracted the attention of a croc, about 9 feet long.
Lucky for the men, they found a mangrove tree sturdy enough to hold them high enough above the water while the men used a cell phone to call for help. They were rescued by men in a boat, responding to the phone call. The croc got away.
So, if you are planning a fishing trip to Buffalo Creek, you might want to note four bits of information from this story. 1) When fishing around Darwin on foot, it’s smart to leave before the tide rolls in. 2) Look for sturdy mangroves in case you paid no attention to the tide. 3) Bring a cell phone.
Because 4) there’s a good chance the croc in question is still hanging around Buffalo Creek, waiting patiently for dinner.
Next: Visiting Daintree and Cooktown, with history on my mind
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at TravelMavenBlog.com. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com
Excerpts from this blog series appeared in David Molyneaux's monthly cruise column in the Miami Herald.