AUSTRALIA, QLD: In Seventh HeavenJust once in awhile I get to do the stuff dreams are made of, as I was due to spend a couple of nights in paradise out at Green Island – the front doorstep to the Outer Barrier Reef.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2010
I was sitting in a café with a New Zealand friend of mine who had just arrived in Cairns that day to begin a new life with his newly married wife. “I simply just love the tropics,” he declared, “I just love the heat and if you want to cool down just look at what’s out there.” He was of course referring to the Great Barrier Reef.
Exploring islands and coastlines is to me the best of both worlds. Beautiful sunny days combined with cool sea breezes can be a blessing when the temperature knob is at full throttle.
I couldn’t help but feel relaxed as I knocked back a cold-one on Cairn’s waterfront. The weather was mild and the pace of life laid-back and no wonder when there are picture postcard views of the marina and the rainforest highlands from the front terrace.
Just once in awhile I get to do the stuff dreams are made of, as I was due to spend a couple of nights in paradise out at Green Island – the front doorstep to the Outer Barrier Reef.
For those of you who don’t know the Great Barrier Reef stretches 2300km along Australia’s northeastern coast and features more than 3000 reefs, coral cays, coral islands. The largest natural feature on the planet also has over 5000 species of sea creatures.
The first people I met on Green Island besides the check-in clerk were two female backpackers serving 5pm champagne cocktails beachside. Ricky-Lee was from Nelson, New Zealand and Kendal was from Scotland. They had been in Cairns just three-days and had already landed a cushy job at the resort. “Are we the luckiest people alive or what,” whispered Ricky-Lee as she served a honeymoon couple two fruity looking cocktails. Yes was the answer.
Earlier that morning I’d been whisked away to the outer reef with Great Barrier Reef Adventure Cruises in their beautifully appointed 34m giant catamaran – a bona fide smooth-as-silk two hour trip including a drop-off at Green Island.
At their specially designed Outer Reef Platform, families and couples either made their way straight to the buffet lunch counter or went to get their jellyfish protection suits – both a sight to behold and a perfect digital camera snapshot.
Having dived on the reef years ago I didn’t wait to squeeze into a suit, so I simply chose some flippers and goggles and made for the rear platform where they make it easy to enter the luminous sapphire coloured waters. Within an hour the surface was a colourful vestige of swimmers in rubber suits all flapping about searching for an array of unimpressed colourful fish amongst the famous coral.
Back on board the platform I ate a light lunch as more holidaymakers lined up to board a semi-submersible – yes here was the chance to take a submarine ride. For many this is the safest and most secure way to get a look-see at this unique underwater botanical garden and its marine life without getting a tiny bit wet.
As you’d expect there are many options on the pontoon; snorkeling, scuba diving, or you can cruise the reef on your own underwater scooter, called a Scuba-Doo. No experience is necessary and non-swimmers are welcome. It's all good fun and your professional guide will take you on an underwater journey to remember. For those wanting to see what it’s like from a seagulls perspective try the ten-minute helicopter flight over the reef that opens up the size and circumference of what you’ve been peering at under the water.
Play and stay on the Great Barrier Reef! My particular favourite was a few days spent overnight at Green Island Resort. With just 46 air-conditioned suites, this renowned eco-sensitive resort is graciously nestled amid native trees and palm-fringed white sandy beaches - an intimate and luxurious retreat, and secluded from the day visitor facilities. This is a place to enjoy the romance of 5-star luxury with its unique reef and semi-rainforest environment.
Before dinner I sauntered barefoot around the island which took all of ten minutes. Cool breezes floated like chiffon off the ocean as the sounds of birds fossicking for food broke the stillness.
The next morning I spent relaxing, swimming, and snorkeling. Later that day I popped my head into the undersea observatory for another peek at what lurked beneath. And if that wasn’t enough many day trippers were joining the glass bottom boat tours for their once in a lifetime experience.
When encouraged, it also didn’t take too much persuading for me to go out and try my hand at hanging off the end of a giant tent too – a spot of parasailing before sunset really does whet the appetite for a few cocktails by the beach.
Dinner was at Emerald’s Restaurant, my opportunity on my last night to order courses that reflected my location – so I ordered all the dishes featuring seafood, as the waitress cheekily smiled and said, “I thought youse Kiwis only ate lamb?”
By mid-afternoon the next day I was sipping a chardonnay back on the waterfront in Cairns – all courtesy of a sensational Cairn’s Seaplane flight back from Green Island. To appreciate the location and backdrop to a great city like Cairns, jump in the co-pilots seat and soak it all up enroute.
This region of course is internationally recognised for protecting two of the world’s major eco systems – the Wet Tropical Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Both have been listed by the United Nations as World Heritage sites.
So remember when in the tropics go tropical and you’ll wake up in Seventh Heaven.
Green Island Resort
Tel +61 7 4031 3300
Tel +61 7 4031 4307
Great Barrier Reef Adventure Cruises
Tel +61 7 4044 9944
Getting There IS EASY
Fly direct to Cairns, Tropical North Queensland with:
• Air New Zealand from Auckland non-stop. You can also connect from 25 NZ provincial ports to the Auckland / Cairns direct service. www.airnewzealand.co.nz -
Or fly to Cairns via Brisbane or Sydney with:
• Pacific Blue from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch www.flypacificblue.co.nz
• Qantas from Auckland or Wellington www.qantas.co.nz
• Jetstar from Christchurch or from Auckland via the Gold Coast www.jetstar.com.au
• Talk to your preferred travel agent for flights with these main carriers and other options or book online.
•For more information on Cairns Airport go to www.cairnsairport.com
Getting there CAN BE part of the journey:
•Rail: Journey along Queensland’s coast from Brisbane by rail. If you like to travel by train check out the Sunlander or the Queenslander at www.traveltrainholidays.com.au
•Car: Queensland offers great self drive holiday opportunities. Cairns is located 1,700km north of Brisbane. www.driveqld.com.au
When you’re there:
•Airport Transfers: Sun Palm Transport offer limousine and coach transfers from Cairns Airport and city, south to Mission Beach, and north to Palm Cove, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. www.sunpalmtransport.com
•Public Transport: Public bus transport operates to all Cairns City areas, suburbs and beaches.
•Taxi: Reasonably priced and available from cab ranks at airports, railway stations, coach terminals and other locations throughout the city.
•Rental Cars: Major rental companies are represented at the airport. Reservations prior to arrival are recommended.
•Tour Operators: There are over 700 tour options available for you to explore Tropical North Queensland.
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