When we got off the OceanQuest II, we were very tired and more than a bit messed up from all the diving we did (clogged ears and blistered feet from the bad rental fins), but happy and looking forward to our the next part of our Cairns trip: a visit from my cousin Jasmine! Jasmine is in grad school in Brisbane, so she bought a plane ticket into Cairns to share a few days with us on our trip. We’ve met a lot of really nice people, but there’s nothing like seeing a familiar face while you’re traveling…and family at that!
Diving is by far the biggest tourist attraction in Cairns, but you can also hop around to some of the offshore islands via ferry. We chose Fitzroy Island, because we read that Green Island was more touristed and Fitzroy attracted more locals. The ferry to Fitzroy costs about AUD$63 return (approx. US$48), and it takes about an hour to get to the island. There are a few small beaches and one resort there, where you can rent snorkeling gear and stinger suits: ridiculous-looking full-body swimsuits that prevent you from being stung by the deadly jellyfish in the water.
After putting on the suits, your fins, and snorkel mask, the only skin exposed is on your forehead and around your mouth…and you still get stung around your lips (though only by harmless but stingy jellyfish and not the super deadly kind). We were both a little freaked out by this but once the current came up in the afternoon, it washed all the stingers away and you could get in the water without the Blue Man suit on.
It was a really lovely island and we spent the day relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and checking out the new resort they just built on the island.
The following day, we rented a car and drove up towards Cape Tribulation, which the brochures describe as a place where “the rainforest meets the reef.” One thing I haven’t mentioned about Cairns: it’s hot. And wet. Like, 90 degrees hot and 100% humidity wet. Also, remember the deadly jellyfish? If not, there are helpful signs everywhere to remind you:
All you want to do is jump in the water when it’s this hot and wet, but you can’t because of the deadly jellyfish, and oh yeah, did I mention there are crocodiles here too?
All of this makes Cape Tribulation a bit boring, since you can’t really swim or walk on the beach and there isn’t really much else out there. BUT, we did do a “boardwalk” (literally, a boarded walkway) through a mangrove forest. And this was actually really cool because it turns out that Jasmine is some sort of mangrove expert and could totally be a mangrove tour guide if there was such a thing and she decided that life as a grad student wasn’t for her. She told us all these cool facts about mangroves, like the fact that the long pods that hang off the tree are actually mangrove seedlings that have already germinated, so they just fall off the tree, float in the water until they hit land, and immediately take root.
Mangroves also send up root stubs above the ground in order to get more air, like little snorkels:
We also spotted a cassowary! In case you don’t know what a cassowary is (I didn’t), it’s an enormous bird like looks kind of like a ostrich or emu, except its body is covered in black fur, and its head looks like a psychedelic turkey. They are weird, but super cool looking animals.
Mostly though, we just spent the time seeing some stuff around Cairns and getting to know Jasmine a bit better. Jasmine and I grew up together in San Diego and our families are really tight, but we really haven’t spent much time together as adults, and it was really cool to see the interesting human she has become. Thanks for coming to visit us, Jasmo! We had a great time with you and really appreciate you spending the time and money to come see us on our trip. xox