Last Sunday we returned from a fantastic week's holiday in Palm Cove.
Palm Cove is a small resort just north of Cairns in Far Northern Queensland, and an ideal base for exploring the World Heritage Sites of the Great Barrier Reef and Rainforests.
While in Palm Cove we (myself, Rach, Lauren and my Mum and Dad) stayed at the Villa Paradiso apartments situated smack bang in the centre of Palm Cove overlooking the beach. The apartment was the best we've ever stayed in and I'd definitely stay their again if we re-visit Palm Cove.
Palm Cove itself is a beautiful little resort set against the long curving Palm Cove Beach with a backdrop of rainforest covered mountains. The Palm Cove promenade is lined with 500-year-old Melaleuca trees and all the hotels and apartments are set low so that out at sea, and even on the Pier at the northern end of Palm Cove, the resort is completely hidden from view.
Cairns Night Zoo
On the second night in Palm Cove we went to Cairns Night Zoo, which is only 5 minutes away from Palm Cove. Visiting a zoo at night is a completely different experience to the day, and only being a small zoo, Cairns Night Zoo go out of their way to make it a memorable, hands-on experience.
When we got there we were welcomed into the restaurant where we were treated to a traditional Aussie BBQ and a FREE BAR. I could have quite happily stayed at the free bar all night but in the end I'm glad I continued to the tour as it was quite an experience.
There was only a small group of us. We were all given a torch and followed a guide around while he took us around the main attractions. This being Tropical Far Northern Queensland, most of the attractions were things that can easily kill you!
It started off quite tamely with birds of prey swooping over our heads (it was that close that if I was wearing a wig it would surely have come off).
One of the guides seemed to spend the entire evening covered in Possum piss...
And of course, you can't go to a zoo in Australia and not stroke a Koala...
There was a fair share of the nasty stuff though, including Crocodiles, Snakes and the pest which is the Cane Toad. I had to laugh when my Mum was stroking the Cane Toad thinking it was just a normal toad, completely oblivious to the fact that the toad's paratoid glands contains venom that if exposed to could inflict cardiac arrest and kill you within 15 minutes! Aaah isn't it pretty!
The night also included billy tea and damper around a camp fire whilst feeding kangaroos. My mother was absolutely smitten with the Kangaroos, especially when she saw one with a Joey...
The night ended with us being entertained by a swagman and his band while singing along and dancing to traditional Aussie bush songs. It really was a perfect evening.
The Great Barrier Reef
The highlight of the holiday though for me was the trip out to the reef where I had my first go at SCUBA diving.
We booked the excursion with QuickSilver, who picked us up by coach from our apartments, drove the scenic ocean highway up to Port Douglas, and then transferred us to their huge Catamaran which took us out to their diving platform on the Agincourt Reef, which is in the Outer Barrier Reef.
I did an introductory SCUBA dive. It only lasted about 30 minutes but it was a fantastic experience and something I hope to repeat. In fact, I'm now hooked and have added PADI certification to my to-do list.
I hired an underwater camera but of course the pics you take yourself of the reef can never look the same as what you see in the brochures, unless of course you've got all the professional gear and lighting equipment, and have gone to the right reef at the right time of day. Apparently the reef photographers sometimes spend weeks underwater just waiting for the right conditions to get the perfect shot.
The experience of swimming with the fishes (not in the Godfather way) and touching the coral was truly amazing. As everything is alive down there whatever you feel immediately responds to your touch, and every bit of coral has a different texture.
I put my hand in this thing and it gently closed up to my touch...
We also all got the chance to snorkel on the reef, and the revelation for me was Lauren. When I had tried to get her to wear a snorkel and mask in the pool in preparation for the trip, she wouldn't entertain it. However, out on the reef in fairly choppy water she was like a fish to water, figuratively speaking.
By the end I was having trouble keeping up with her. She had a perfect technique with the flippers and kept shooting out all over the place and wasn't bothered in the slightest by all the fish swimming around her. I've got high hopes for her - she's going to be an amazing swimmer.
Another truly remarkable day-trip was the SkyRail and Scenic Railway trip through and over Queensland's World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest. Stretching for over 500 kilometres along Tropical North Queensland’s coastline, the rainforests are the oldest continually surviving rainforests on earth and once covered the entire Australian continent.
The day started with a 90-minute train ride on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. Built between 1882 and 1891, the railway is a remarkable feat of engineering. Built by hand, the railway winds for 75.1km through dense rainforest, rises to an altitude of 327.1m and includes 15 tunnels, 93 curves and dozens of difficult bridges mounted many meters above ravines and waterfalls. The railway cost the lives of many of the brave men who worked on it.
On the way up to Kuranda we had a brief photo stop at Baron Falls...
Kuranda itself is a picturesque mountain village in the rainforests, with many attractions, historic buildings, upmarket restaurants and coffee shops. At Kuranda, after the obligatory coffee and cake, we ventured out on the Jungle Walk which then went into the River Walk.
The best bit of the day though was the trip back down. The SkyRail Experience involved a 7.5km cable-car ride over the top of the rainforest canopy.
The view in every part of the ride was nothing short of spectacular...
The rest of the week was spent relaxing on the beach and by the pool, and sampling some of Palm Cove's excellent restaurants.
The whole week was one I'm sure none of us will ever forget, and serves to remind me exactly why we emigrated to Australia.
You can see many more of our photo's from this trip on flickr. Friends and family will need to sign-in to see all the pics.