We spent the day at Kuranda National park where we had our first glimpse of Australia's wet tropical rainforest. One of the oldest remaining rainforest in the world that inhabits creatures and plants millions of years old.
|Kuranda National Park|
Queensland Adventure - Day Two
We picked up our rental car and set out on our Queensland road trip. We headed South West towards the tablelands to a small town called Yungaburra. Why? To explore the waterfall circuit and see our first Platypus! Actually there were two of them frolicking in the murky river. Amazingly strange creatures. It's almost hard to believe they really exist. In fact these animals are so different from any other on the planet that when the first English explorer returned to England with a Platypus specimen scientists thought it was a joke. This animal has fur and produces milk like a mammal yet has a bill and webbed feet like a bird and lays eggs and produces venom like a reptile. Odd, very odd.
Australia was once completely blanketed with tropical rainforest before a great environmental phenomena took place and only the strongest flora and fauna survived. Today 900 000 hectares is all that remains and within it some of the oldest living creatures and plants that exist NOWHERE else in the WORLD!!
Understandably strict protective measures are in place and in 1988 it was deemed a UNESCO site and steps for preservation were enforced. "The site contains many unique features such as over 390 rare plant species, which includes 74 species that are threatened.. The endangered Southern Cassowary and rare Spotted-tailed Quoll are some of the many threatened species". - Wikipedia-
|Cassowary Crossing Sign|
Then again, maybe it was our fortune not to encounter one of these birds. Evolved from a Velociraptor a Cassowary can be quite dangerous. Bill Bryson describes this bird well when he explains it as a “flightless, man-sized bird that lives in the rainforest, with a razor claw on each foot with which it can slice you open in a deft and appallingly expansive manner”.
However, later that week we took a crocodile boat tour down the river and sure enough there they were basking on the muddy banks of the river. We saw several crocodiles to confirm the danger, from large 12ft long male Scarface who could eat a horse to small one year old newbie only a foot long who preferred small fish and mice. These dudes are another sign of the Jurassic days gone by. Crocodiles are so efficient in their design that they have barely evolved over millions of years. Smart, quick and predator-less these things are amazing and scary.
“What are you doing? Get back in the Car!! Don’t go close to it!! I yelled. Clearly a bit of a snake phobia here.
“Yup, it’s a snake!” he confirmed.
I snapped a few picts from the window and once on the ferry showed it to the attendant. “Do you know what kind of snake this is?”
“Oh that’s a night tiger, got lots of those around my place.. my wife got bit by one the other day.”
“Are they poisionous?”
“ Uh, well.... Ya. But only if they get you with their back fangs.” He says with a full hearty laugh.
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
Stretching more than 2000 km along the Queensland coastline and covering 35 million hectares, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef. More than 1500 species of fish, 4000 species of molluscs, 400 species of sponge and 300 species of hard corals live here.
It was a long rocky boat ride out to the reef. Both Maddie and I had queazy tummies and green faces for the entire ride. The dive master briefed us on the way, but with the roar of the boat motor and his strong Aussie accent, I understood very little of the safety brief. Good start to the day :) I hoped my luck would soon change and I wouldn't become one of those fatality stories (ie. the couple forgotten on the reef while diving).
There it was the GBR in all it's glory, it definitely was one of the biggest reefs I've ever seen but I must admit I was a bit disappointed with the quality of the reef. I have seen healthier aquatic ecosystems and it was a bit sad. I would hazard to guess that Agincourt is the "every mans" reef where they take all tour groups and do their damage thus preserving the other reefs for more experienced divers who won't kick and poke them to death.
We saw a few nemos, various coral and lots of other tropical fish swimming around. I thought I saw a manta ray which was really exciting but it turned out to be a big rock. I didn't see any sharks on this dive, which honestly I was fine with for the time being. From below I watched the snorkelers flopping and splashing around at the surface and for the first time understood why sharks would want to pray on them.
The water was quite chilly and choppy so by the third stop we all had enough and just did a quick snorkel which was a bit unnerving after seeing the sharks view from below.. but fruitful in the end 'cause we saw a sea turtle so close I could have touched it! And of course more nemos.
A long barfy ride back to shore and we were safe on solid land with some great memories. An awesome day on the reef, we'll definitely be back (with sea sickness pills next time).
The Queensland adventure continues with a 4WD to Cooktown but this is where I'll close off for now. I hope this post has enlightened you on more of what Australia has to offer. It was definitely an educational and eye opening trip for me.
Cheers for now,