I decided that my first stop on this year long journey would be the furthest place from the United States, that just so happened to be Australia. This has been a country that I have only ever dreamed of going to one day. A friend of mine recently returned from Cairns, Australia and only had the best things to say about the city so I decided that would be my first stop. After what seemed to be a 35-hour flight (JFK–>LAX, LAX–>SYD and SYD–>CNS) I finally arrived. For those of you who do not know, Cairns is closer to the northern tip of Australia and a huge tourist attraction because of the Great Barrier Reef.
Because of the constant hustle and bustle of NYC, I was ready to take this week and a half here and simply relax and catch a nice tan. The first couple of days, I walked around the city (very small perimeter), caught some rays down at the Lagoon, went to the Botanical Gardens, hiked a couple nature walks and read a couple books. I certainly can say that I was absolutely relaxed as I tried to settle down with my newfound life of being a traveling nomad. For those of you who do not know, Australia is apparently missing a layer of their ozone which makes the sun and the UV rays that much more intense, well I guess I learned the hard way because the first 3 or 4 days I got absolutely roasted. My colleagues had warned me beforehand to wear a ton of suntan lotion but I thought reapplying 50 SPF every couple of hours would do the trick, oh boy was I wrong! I think I finally learned my lesson after I fell asleep at the lagoon on my stomach, when I woke up my legs were completely burnt and swollen – that evening was not the best for me while trying to sleep away the pain.
After the burn subsided, I embarked with a tour group out to the Daintree Rainforest. This two-day journey was the highlight of my trip in Cairns so far. Before getting to the Daintree Rainforest, we stopped at a UNESCO World Heritage site to visit some Australian wildlife. Here I was able to feed Kangaroos, hold a Koala, gawk at a 9ft Crocodile, listen to the sounds of the birds and gaze at an endangered dinosaur bird, the Cassowary. Since the wildlife is unpredictable in Australia, this was the perfect way to see all the native animals all in one place.
After a couple hours exploring the different wildlife that Australia has to offer, we hopped back onto the bus and made our way into the Rainforest. Below are some fun facts I learned on the way to the Daintree Rainforest –
- The Daintree Rainforest is estimated to be over 125 million years old, making this the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Yes, this rainforest was around way before the Amazon.
- What makes this Rainforest even more unique is that it sits alongside the Great Barrier Reef, making it the only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites meet (last picture of this post shows where the two sites meet together as one).
- The rainforest stretches to be 1200 square kilometers in size (half the state of New Jersey)!
- This rainforest was named after a 19th century Australia photographer and geologist, Richard Daintree. Unfortunately, Richard was never able to make it to the Daintree Rainforest once it was named after him.
- This rainforest is home to a number of rare Australian animals such as the Cassowary (~1,500 left), the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo and the White Lipped Tree Frog – the biggest tree frog on the planet. Also while walking around you can spot the #2 and the #7 deadliest snakes in the world on the ground, the Death Adder and the Black Mamba.
- Today, over 400,000 people visit the Daintree Rainforest every year and it continues to grow at a rapid rate.
Once everyone finished their lunches, I was the only one who extended their stay overnight in the Rainforest so I had the rest of the afternoon to myself. While we were heading to the campgrounds that I was staying at, I noticed that we passed an exotic fruit farm a couple km’s back that I was interested in. I decided to venture into the Rainforest following the same road the bus took to look for this fruit farm. After a 45 minute walk with no cellular service or Wi-Fi, I finally got to the driveway just in time to start the 2pm exotic fruit tasting with 6 other people. I had no idea what I was about to taste but I was excited to try some new foods and get my palate wet. Sam, the young gentleman who worked and lived on the fruit farm was very knowledgeable of the origin of the fruits, how they were grown, how to properly eat them and how much their farm can make selling to wholesale vendors down the coast of Australia. Within the 90 minutes, I was able to try and learn about 11 new fruits that I never knew even existed. Below I listed each fruit I tasted and my opinions along with a slideshow of pictures from the tasting –
- Breadfruit – Tastes like a potato where people usually tend to fry it or bake it. Does not taste like a fruit.
- Starfruit – Very refreshing grape type of fruit. I have seen these sold in the US before but never tried one.
- Black Sapote (Chocolate Pudding Fruit) – Sapote means soft fruit, you pick the fruit when it’s hard and within a couple of days it softens up where you can eat it. This fruit has 2-4x more Vit. C than an Orange. It has a very interesting texture to it. Not my favorite fruit but interesting to taste nonetheless. Sam also served us Black Sapote Ice Cubes where he mixed black sapote, coconut water and lime together. These were delicious!
- Yellow Mangosteen – This was great! It was very sour and has the texture of a mango but the taste like a very sour and bitter lime.
- Purple Mangosteen – Very expensive fruit because it takes 15 years for the tree to start bearing fruit. This type of fruit is very popular in Southeast Asia and tastes very gooey like a banana. Overall one of the fruits that I enjoyed the most.
- Soursop – The ultimate cancer-fighting fruit! Recently, it has gained popularity due to the fact that it can kill cancer cells up to 10,000x more effectively than chemotherapy drugs, that too without side effects. It has a very gooey texture with a tangy flavor. The seeds are poisonous so you want to avoid eating them but this was my favorite fruit that I tried.
- Mamey Sapote – This fruit takes 18 months to grow and is very high in Vitamin A. It has an avocado texture to it with a sweet potato taste.
- Sapodilla – Carmel color with a fig/date flavor. This fruit was OK, not my favorite but bearable to eat and enjoy.
- Jakfruit – OMG this was gross, but everyone else seemed to love it. These fruits can grow up to 50KG (110lbs!) Although there were a lot of health benefits to eating Jakfruit, I could not stand the taste of it.
- Jaboticaba – Frozen berries where the skin was more tart and the flesh is sweet. These were great and very enjoyable on a hot day. These reminded me more of sweet tarts than a fruit. I would eat these any day of the week!
- Miracle Berry – This berry originated from Ghana. Sam had handed us two berries and a lime. Before we ate the berries, we were instructed to suck the lime which was extremely tart and sour. Then we had to swish the berry in our mouths for a minute or two. After the berry was all over your taste buds, Sam instructed us to try the lime again and I couldn’t believe it but the lime was SWEET almost like I was eating a sugar cane. After you eat the Miracle Berry it makes everything else that you eat for the next 30 minutes sweet, it was awesome!
After the exotic fruit tasting, Sam handed me a map of the Rainforest grounds where I could walk on the Dubuji Boardwalk through the mangrove swamps to the beach. From the southern beach, I made my way 4km up north to the Cape Trib Beach House where I was staying that evening. The beach only had a handful of people on it so it was very peaceful and relaxing to walk home listening to the waves crash down. I stayed at least a good couple of yards away from the water since there were warning signs along the coast because Crocodiles live in the water here (VERY dangerous).
The next part of the evening was very unexpected. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of this day after walking in the hot sun through the rainforest that I almost didn’t go down to eat dinner until I heard that there was going to be a fire show on the beach. I made my way to the beach but before the fire show started I was in awe of how the stars were glowing in the sky. I guess I have been living in NYC for so long that I forgot how beautiful the stars look at night when you are in the woods. As I looked up in awe around me, I instantly had goosebumps because of how gorgeous the sky looked and how peaceful it was to step away from everything and listen to the waves crashing down, the frogs ribbiting in the forest, and the birds singing to each other. This was the first time during this trip that everything became real for me and got me excited to see what the future held. It suddenly became real that I was about to see the world in a whole different perspective for the next couple months and be mesmerized by the sights, the sounds, the cultures and the people of the world. As three younger hippie looking people danced around on the beach with fire flaming hula hoops, fire torches and fire sticks to indie music, this was the perfect ending to an incredible day.
I woke up the next morning refreshed and wide-eyed to start the day snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, a dream of mine that was about to come true. Below are some fun facts about the Great Barrier Reef and how large it spans across the coast of Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living coral system in the world, stretching 2300km along Queensland’s coast from Bundaberg through Cairns to the top of Cape York, it contains 1600 reefs and a 1000 islands and is the site of the biggest orgasm in the universe. The Great Marrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system that can be seen from outer space. The Great Barrier Reef is greater in size than Tasmania and Victoria combined as well as the UK, Holland and Switzerland combined.
The Great Barrier Reef was the first Australian site to be placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, now there are 15 Australian sites.
After a quick breakfast and some yoga on the beach, I got all my gear ready to hit the road for some snorkeling. Luckily I had some practice under my belt in Hawaii so I wasn’t brand new to the underwater lifestyle. We departed around 8:30am on a boat heading towards Mackay Reef where we would see two different dive sites. It was a short 30-minute drive out to Mackay Reef where there was a small island where birds nested and the corals around it. Before we were able to jump into the water, we had to wear our stinger suits to protect us from the jellyfish that resides in this area. Some of the jellyfish can be so small you can barely see them but they can have tentacles that reach 5-7 feet long! You will see in all my pictures below that I have a full stinger suit on for precautionary measures. For the next hour, I went through the different corals and interacted with the largest sea turtles I have ever seen as well as a mini shark! I thought I had seen the best in Hawaii, oh boy was I wrong. The underwater world was jaw dropping with the most colorful corals, exotic fishes, large sea turtles and baby sharks all swimming around me. During the next couple of hours, I swam alongside numerous schools of fishes and got up close and personal with the largest clams that I have ever seen. The pictures below does not even begin to describe the experience I had at Mackay Reef. After the three hours we had to snorkel around the corals, I was absolutely exhausted. I had totally worn myself out trying to keep up with the sea turtles and the school’s of fishes. This had totally opened my eyes up to how much of the world I did not know existed under the surface, it also got me really excited to get PADI certificate in Thailand in the upcoming month! This was an experience that I will never forget and hope to come back and see with my kids one day.
After the epic Great Barrier Reef tour, we stopped for a quick lunch and I went back on the bus to head back home. Before getting to Cairns we went on a Crocodile Boat tour. Because of the heat, the crocodiles in the wild did not want to be found. Unfortunately after an hour boat tour up the river, we were not able to see any crocodiles, they must have all been hiding under the water or in the shade. Fun Fact – Crocodiles can hold their breath for up to 2 hours, WOW!
Scouring for Crocodiles….none to be found!
After the quick boat tour, we were back on the bus. We stopped at the lookout point that I mentioned above where we were able to see the point where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Daintree Rainforest. This was the perfect end to a wonderful 2 days in the Daintree Rainforest!
Next stop – Sydney, Australia!