Great Barrier Reef

Natural Wonder : The Great Barrier Reef

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Hi everyone!  Juz here…

 

My mum came to visit us in Cairns during the Christmas period, and while she was here, she wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  I was also keen to see the natural wonder so a booking was made with Ocean Spirit Cruises.

 

The day started early – we needed to be at the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal by around 7:30am to board the catamaran by 8am.  We had our bags packed with all the essentials – togs, towels, thongs, tonnes of sunscreen and an underwater camera we hired from a shop in Cairns for $45.

 

Great Barrier Reef
The boat took about two hours to get to our destination, so we did some sunbaking, watched a presentation about the animals that we might see, and we were treated to complementary morning tea.  Michaelmas Cay is a small sand island surrounded by reef, about 41km from Cairns.  It’s actually a national park and is a protected sanctuary for around 23 species of migrating seabirds like sooty terns and boobies.  The boat was anchored about 100 metres from the cay and after a quick fish feeding session, a shuttle boat started to taxi people to the island.

 

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With 4 hours to spend on the reef, we spent as much time as we could in the water, looking at colourful coral and watching the fish.  The parrot fish were particularly memorable, especially in big groups – if you held your breath and listened, you could hear their hard beaks crunching away at the coral.  Other highlights included seeing a green turtle, giant clams with fluorescent colours and tiny clown fish.

 

Great Barrier Reef

 

After a few hours of snorkelling, it was time for lunch.  We caught the shuttle boat back to the catamaran for a full buffet lunch that included chicken, prawns, ham off the bone, vegetable curry and various salads, and for dessert, there was fruit salad and carrot cake.  Everything was absolutely delicious, and due to our severe food coma, we didn’t go back to the island.  Instead, we went on a tour of the reef in a semi-submersible coral viewing boat before collapsing in the lounge of the catamaran with no more energy to move.

 

It was at this point that I realised that I must have been sitting down when I applied sunscreen, because my butt and lower back were burnt to a crisp. The two hour journey back to Cairns was spent on the verge of napping, but we held it together for a complementary glass of sparkling wine.

 

Great Barrier Reef

 

Once we got back to Cairns, we went to the store where we hired to underwater camera to retrieve our images, which were handed to us on a complementary 4GB SD card.

 

All in all, it was a fabulous day.  Seeing the reef was a humbling experience, especially from within the semi-sub.  When you see portions of the reef as big as houses and consider that it stretches for 2,600km and is an ancient platform for an abundance of life, you truly appreciate why it needs to be protected.  Ocean Spirit Cruises are a great way to go out and see the reef, but if you can’t afford the $188, there are budget tours for around $99.  If you plan to visit any of the towns and cities along the coast that call themselves the ‘Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’, I highly recommend that you allocate  some cash for a  day on the water.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

 

 

Thanks mum!  I had a great day on the Reef, and my bum didn’t peel one bit!

 

Cobbold Gorge

Natural Wonders : Cobbold Gorge

Cobbold Gorge

 

Cobbold Gorge was on our bucket list from the beginning, and it was fantastic to finally see it in the flesh… or sandstone.  It is located within Robin Hood station, which is owned by the Terry family.  The cattle property is around 1300 square kilometres but Cobbold Gorge is within a 4,000 acre nature reserve where the cattle are not permitted to graze.

 

We booked ourselves in for a morning tour of the gorge, and boarded the bus to the nature reserve.  Before embarking through the gorge, we were treated to a bush tucker walk.  We learnt about various plants in the area that supplied glue, insect repellent, contraception, antiseptic and food, like the Aniseed Bush, which provided a liquorice flavour to damper, and Bloodwood Tree, a popular place to find sugarbag.  The local aboriginals would find the sugar bag by catching a single bee and sticking a small feather to its butt.  They’d let the bee go and follow it back to the hive of delicious sugar bag.

 

We also learnt about the amazing work of termites, and were delighted by the fluttering of Common Crow Butterflies.  They are so numerous because they don’t have many predators due to their amazing ability to absorb the flavours of the things they consume.  Because they eat from plants such as Oleander, they are not very appetising to other creatures.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

At the end of the bush tucker walk, we found ourselves at the grave of John Corbett, a pioneer who died 1871.  He was only 12 when he willingly came to Australia to make his fortune.  By the age of 14, he was digging for gold in Ballarat with his brother and became a wealthy lad.  Over the next 10 years, he established hotels in Brisbane, and when gold was struck in Cloncurry, he wanted to monopolise the area by establishing another hotel in Normanton.  This was when John’s luck ran out.  After a series of misfortunes, he was found robbed and dead in the bush with a six-foot spear in his chest.  Local aboriginals were blamed for his murder but there are rumours that this wasn’t the case at all.

 

After an enthralling tour of the bush, we boarded the boats and set forth into Cobbold Gorge.

 

The Gorge

As we floated quietly along the river in an electric-motored flat-bottomed boat, we learnt that Cobbold Gorge isn’t just any old gorge – it’s a baby gorge!  Having only been discovered in 1992, the creek that formed Cobbold Gorge changed its course only 10,000 years ago, so Cobbold Gorge is still fairly young.  It was named after pastoralist and surveyor Frank E Cobbold, clearly because he was awesome.

 

The gorge is about 6km long, with 30m cliffs on either side, and is 2m wide at its narrowest point. The water maintains a fairly constant level and is fed by springs that seep through the 200 million year old sandstone and reach the gorge 30 years later.  There was plenty of wildlife to spy on.  We saw a few archer fish, a baby turtle, and plenty of lazy freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun.

 

 

 

The Resort

If you’re looking for a place to disappear to for a few days, then the Cobbold Gorge Resort is for you.  The campground offers quiet and relaxing scenery, unpowered, powered and powered ensuite sites, and includes facilities such as a guest laundry, Wi-Fi, camp kitchen, BBQs and fireplaces.

 

MacDonald’s Deck is a fully licensed bar and restaurant with heaps of character.  Have a few drinks and a meal while you soak in the Aussie outback.  Nearby, is the Boomerang Bar, a swim-up bar in the infinity swimming pool. There is also Corbett’s Store, which offers a variety of souvenirs and a few grocery items as well.

 

 

 

The Essentials

Bookings for tours and accommodation at Cobbold Gorge are essential.  Call 1800 66 99 22 or email enquiries@cobboldgorge.com.au for more information.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

Sunset at Cottesloe

Experience : The Sunset Coast

Crystal clean beaches framed by cafés, restaurants, pubs and fish and chip shops, the sunset coast stretches from Joondalup down to Cottesloe and is the perfect place to watch the sun disappear over the horizon.  The tourist drive runs along the coast and is dotted with lookouts that overlook the ocean, and the massive houses are purposely built to take advantage of the view.

 

Hilarys Boat Harbour

We started our Sunset Coast adventure here – a busy and dynamic space full of activity and colour.  There’s a sheltered beach with calm waters, a shaded beach with a playground, as well as carnival rides and a big gauntlet, an aquarium and marine discovery centre.  Near the marina is a complex of shops, cafés, fast food outlets and restaurants.  The environment was very family orientated, with the beach and grassed areas declared as dry zones.

 

 

Scarborough

Scarborough is another seaside suburb along the coast with great beaches and lots of resorts and apartment blocks that overlook the horizon.  The further south you get, the most ‘party’ orientated the coast gets, with more pubs and alcohol consumption.  There was more of a nightlife scene here, and it seems that it would really get pumping once the sun goes down.

 

Cottesloe

Everyone’s summer favourite!  Affectionately known as ‘The Cott’, this is a great place to watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.  There is plenty of young people having fun on the beach, lots of pubs and cafés that overflow with people (even on a Sunday night!), and of course, there is a line out the door of the fish and chip shop.  We sat on a tiered retaining wall with a BBQ chook and ate while we watched the sky turn gold.

 

While we were in Perth, Cottesloe was hosting the 6th Annual Sculptures by the Sea, which turns the beach and foreshore into a scuplture park.  We drove down after sunset to check out the works by around 70 local and international artists.