From Skydiving to Scubadiving
These last few weeks have been some of my favorite of my entire trip – finals were finished and the weather made for perfect beach days, and I finally took a trip up to the Tropical North Queensland, to the city of Cairns and Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays.
Before I left Wollongong though, I decided to check out the best view of it I could get- by dropping out of a plane, at 14,000 ft high. It was quite an experience, to say the least. The nerves I had on the short plane ride up to altitude were really the worst part, but the amazing view of Wollongong was even a good distraction from that. Thankfully, I was the first one out of the plane, and the stomach drop feeling you get from roller coasters never really came, except you really feel like you’re just floating on a really windy day, with a much better view. The jerk of the parachute was a lot less intense than I thought, and floating down looking into the city was fun to point out where I went to Uni, to the beach, as well as my accomodation (plus I learned to steer a parachute!). I would HIGHLY recomend going skydiving someday- it’s over before you know it and the adrenaline rush is the best caffeine pump ever!
Traveling to the Whitsundays was beautiful, since it’s a group of islands off of the coast of Queensland and everything is green, tropical, and basically like walking right into a romantic honeymoon getaway. The island has some notoriously cheeky cockatoos, and when you check in they tell you to always keep doors closed or your room will be demolished by the little guys, since they’re about as clever as a three year old kid. Hamilton Island only has golf carts as transportation, and it only takes about ten minutes from one beach to the other. We spent a day kayaking in the harbour, then another day taking a day trip out to the Whitehaven beach- where the sand is made up of all silica, and is known as some of the softest and whitest sand in the world. So, so, SO amazing!
I spent a few days traveling through Cairns, visiting the Kuranda rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, and a day trip through all of the waterfalls in the Atherton Tables of the rainforest (including one from an Herbal Essences commercial!). The first day we spent up in the Kuranda rainforest, taking a 100 year old scenic train up the mountain before exploring a butterfly sanctuary, trying kangaroo and crocodile for lunch, then getting to ride in a 75 year old Army Duck through the rainforest before feeding kangaroos and cuddling koalas in the wildlife park. The end of the day we took the Skyrail over the rainforest, and it was the most incredible views of the mountains and gorges with the background music of hundreds of tropical birds singing to us. All in all, an amazing day for a conservationist like myself.
The next day was spent out in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef- scuba diving for the first time, and snorkeling above hundreds of tropical fish and who knows how many meters worth of coral. It was incredible to see all of the types of fish you see in pet stores roaming around through the coral in their natural habitat, and it really made me incredibly happy to see. Albeit the coral was a little less colorful than I had imagined, but I feel that I learned heaps about the biology and ecology of the area just by chatting with the local biologists they have as tour guides on board the vessels.
We drove on a day trip through the Atherton Table, a flat spot on top of the mountains surrounding Cairns. And let me tell you, we went into deep rainforest this day. I think we saw at least 6 different spiders that were the size of my palm, and there were definitely no glass walls to look at them through like there are in zoos. Exciting, but I well kept my space from them. We swam in four different pools, and the most famous of which are the Milaa Milaa falls which were used in the filming of an Herbal Essences commercial, therefore we all took photos doing hair flips beneath the picturesque falls (a lot harder than it looks, surprisingly). We also swam in a lake that had a local crocodile, and that was as stressful as you would expect whenever our toes hit a rock or plant below us (but hey, bragging rights?). Then spent the rest of the road trip jamming out to old songs and chatting with the other internationals on the bus together, spotting pythons, wallabies, and plenty of Lorikeet parrots.
All in all, the trip up to Tropical North Queensland was probably one of my highlight trips in Australia, due to the fact that I’ve gotten to study the biodiversity from afar for so long and suddenly be enthralled between the rainforest leaves and see all of the insects, plants, and animals in total harmony was such an incredible experience for me that I’ll never forget, especially since much of the life is in danger of becoming extinct due to habitat loss and changing environments or predation.
And now, as I finally make the trek back home, I have a lot to be thankful for and long way to go to be situated back in my home culture, but I feel like I’ve grown so much and seen so many incredible places that I won’t know where to start when people ask: “How was Australia?”
Stay tuned to find out whether or not I figure out a simple answer to that question…