Travel Tips

Hiking the natural wonders of Pakistan

What to Do in Europe

Buckingham Palace in London, UK

What to Do in Asia

Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan

Tag: tropics

What to Do in Cairns, Australia

What to Do in Cairns, Australia

Cairns is located in the far northern reaches of Queensland in the northeastern corner of Australia. Once a booming port for the goldfields, it’s now a popular destination for tourists (foreign and Australian) exploring the nearby Great Barrier Reef and other points further north. It is probably my favourite city in Australia – from its small town vibe to it’s laid back feel and great weather. It’s a great city for travelers as it’s well laid out (so it’s hard to get too lost) with so much in close proximity to the downtown area and waterfront. Plus all the great outdoor activities right on its door step. If you’re wondering what to do in Cairns, I got you covered.

View from the top of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia
View from the top of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is a 2-hour drive north of the city of Cairns and well worth it. It is one of the most complex tropical rainforest ecosystems on earth and is also a region of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site.

You can go up and explore on your own, or take one of the many guided tours available. Since I was new to the area and would likely get lost in the forest I took a tour with Jungle Tours. In addition to getting me up there, the tour stopped at a wildlife habitat to see some kangaroos and crocodiles, the Alexandra Lookout for magnificent views of the Coral Sea and Daintree River, Cape Tribulation for lunch (which we ended up sharing with a Komodo dragon who stopped by our picnic table) and to hang out on the beach, a boat ride up the Daintree river to look for more crocodiles, and a walk through the Dubuji Boardwalk in the rainforest. It was a long day but such an experience!

The beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland Australia
The beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the longest reef in the world and the largest living structure on the planet (yes coral is a living thing). The reef is home to thousands of marine creatures including corals, worms, fish, rays, dolphins, sharks, whales, jellyfish and mollusks and is most always on everyone’s list of travel tips for Australia. Cairns has long been a destination for both international and local Australian divers as a starting point for diving the reef. Don’t dive? No worries mate as there are numerous local boating charters that will take you out to cruise through and around the reef, or take you snorkeling so that you can see the reef first hand and up close. Or if you prefer a birds-eye view, there are local helicopter companies that will fly you out so that you can really take in the reef, the surrounding rainforest and the whole city of Cairns.

Tropical fish in the Great Barrier Reef off Green Island, Queensland, Australia.
Tropical fish in the Great Barrier Reef off Green Island, Queensland, Australia.

Green Island

When I was in Cairns I was told by a fellow solo traveler at my hostel to try the Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruise charter to Green Island and I’m glad I did. Leaving at 9am, we traveled for just over an hour out to the island on a massive catamaran then had 5 hours to explore the island, the water and the Great Barrier Reef around it. The journey out to the island was great as we snaked our way around small coral cays. Once on the island, there were tonnes of things to do:

  • Snorkeling
  • Helmet diving
  • Glass bottom boat tours (for those travelers who want to see the reef but don’t want to get wet)
  • Nature walks through the island’s rainforest (both guided and self-guided)
  • Water sports including canoes, windsurfing and water-skiing
  • Beach volleyball
  • Lazing around on the gorgeous white sandy beaches to work on your tan

The island also has several restaurant options so you won’t go hungry while you’re there. It’s a great way to spend the day and experience the Great Barrier Reef first hand.

Esplanade Boardwalk

Running alongside the waterfront is the Esplanade Boardwalk. During the day it’s an idyllic place to catch some rays, peruse the various displays about the Aboriginal and local history, or use the various pieces of exercise equipment sporadically located alongside the esplanade. In the late afternoon, the activity picks up as people jog along, meet for picnics or just meet up to enjoy the scenery. It’s also a great place for travelers and locals alike to hang out and people watch. Be careful to stay out of the water, there are signs posted everywhere about the crocodiles that inhabit the area.

Crocodile warning sign on the beach boardwalk in Cairns Queensland Australia
Crocodile warning sign on the beach boardwalk in Cairns, Australia

If you want to hit the water to beat the heat the Esplanade has it’s own lagoon. The almost 5000 square meter saltwater lagoon has sand so you can build sand castles (for kids of all sizes) as well as picnic tables, decks, some shaded areas, water fountains and really strange metal fish sculptures. On weekends the Lagoon sets up a stage and features local live music. It’s a great place to hang out right next to the water.

Hit the Rails

Another great way to see northern Queensland is by hitting the rails. There are several scenic railways leaving from Cairns that give travelers the chance to see the surrounding area.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway travels from Cairns north to the mountain village of Kuranda located in the Kuranda State Forest. You pass through hand carved tunnels, by the Barron Falls and across mountain gorges.

The Gulflander heads out to the remote outback. Long known as the railway that takes travelers from “nowhere to nowhere” the Gulflander travels between Normanton and Croydon, on the same route that once connected the river port to the bustling gold fields. The journey takes a half day and will take you from the wetlands through the grasslands and into the arid Savannah country of Croydon.

The Savannahlander offers a variety of tours that will take you into many of the unique areas surrounding Cairns. Many of the journeys include stops in Stoney Creek Falls, the Undara Lava Tubes, Chillagoe, Mt Surprise, Forsayth, Barron Falls, Karanda, Dimbulah and more. It’s a longer journey that will give you a great experience in a 1960’s classic silver bullet train.

Ten Reasons to Visit Guam

Ten Reasons to Visit Guam

Guam is rare in today’s world in that it is still a bit off the well beaten tourist trail. For most of the world, with the exception of the Japanese who flock here, it isn’t the first place you think of when considering an island vacation. Guam being the biggest island that forms Micronesia has more than its fair share of pristine beaches and year round perfect temperatures, but those aren’t the only reasons to visit this relatively undiscovered paradise.

Food

Guam’s culinary experience is one of its best features. The climate makes for the ideal environment to grow a variety of the tastiest fruits, such as mango, papaya, and bananas. It’s location close to Japan and Spanish influence – it was once a Spanish colony – combined with the ethnic features of the local population make for some wonderful twists to traditional dishes from these countries. You’ll even find some of the best jerk burgers at the Jamaican Grill, thousands of miles from its Caribbean origins. The heavy Japanese influence means that you’ll find plenty of high quality restaurants serving sushi and other fish dishes. One local specialty every visitor should try is bubble tea, a wonderful, sweet, refreshing drink that combines tapioca in tea, frozen coffee, or smoothie form.

Shopping

If you love shopping until you drop, then Guam won’t disappoint. You’ll find a mixture of major international brands you recognize from home and plenty of unique boutiques. To top it all off international visitors can shop duty free. There is even a shuttle bus that is hop-on hop-off that takes you to all of the main shopping areas. For high fashion, including Prada, Chanel, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and popular cosmetic brands, such as Urban Decay, Clinique, and MAC head to the DFS Galleria. Another shopping center featuring luxury names is Tumon Sands Plaza, not as big as DFS, but also excellent. Not far from these shopping centers is a 24-hour K-Mart, said to the world’s biggest, where you will find a massive selection of clothes, household items, and toys, at much more reasonable prices than its luxury neighbours. Another top bargain hunting place to shop is Guam Premier Outlets.

Underwater World

Located in the shopping area of Tumon is the amazing Underwater World aquarium. It is home to over 2,000 sea creatures, including many native species. The major attraction at the aquarium is its tunnel-aquarium, which is 319-feet long, one of the longest in the world. The tunnel-aquarium holds an incredible 3-million gallons of salt water where you can see sharks, stingrays, and giant groupers. Visitors can witness live shark feedings where divers enter the tank and hand feed the sharks, protected is three layers of special gloves, one being kevlar.

Chamarro Village

To experience local culture and find unique souvenirs make sure to check out Chamarro Village. It is open every day, but the best time to go is on Wednesday night, when the night market is held. All of the restaurants and shops here are operated by the local people who are called Chamorros. On Wednesday night there are over 100 vendors selling their locally made items and food. The market attracts thousands of people and is a great way to mix with the people that live in Guam. It’s the perfect place to try eating a local specialty, such as eggplant grilled with coconut milk and lime, people watch, and soak up the culture of the island.

Carabao

The carabao is a massive but gentle giant. These animals are Guam’s national symbol and native to the Philippines. They are a domesticated water buffalo that can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and grow large, curved horns. They are well suited to the hot, humid climate of Guam and enjoy wallowing in mud holes when they are not being used on farms. They were first brought to Guam in the 17th century by Spanish settlers. While there are much fewer carabaos in Guam today they still play an important role in the culture where they are often present at festivals. It is possible to ride a carabao, something children in particular love to do and something you won’t get to experience in pretty much any other place in the world.

Ship Wrecks

If you enjoy diving Guam offers some of the most unique diving experiences in the world. Just off the coast in Apra Harbor you’ll find two ship wrecks that rest on the sea floor, side-by-side. What makes this dive site so unique is that the ships are from both world wars and from two different countries. One is a German ship from World War I, the SMS Cormoran and the second is the Tokai Maru, a cargo ship from Japan that was sunk in World War II. The ships are so close together that you can touch both of them at the same time.

Lina’la Chamorro Cultural Park

To learn about the ancient Chamorro people of Guam a visit to the Lina’la Chamorro Cultural Park provides wonderful, interesting, and educational experience for visitors who can learn about a culture they haven’t encountered before. The main attraction of the park is the recreation of a village as it would have been 500-years ago before any non-native people arrived in Guam. The recreated village is on the same site as an actual village that stood there at least 1,000-years ago. The village features authentic clothing, tools, and homes with costumed people carrying out daily activities like they would have hundreds of years ago. In addition to the ancient village, the park is also home to an animal zone, complete with carabao rides for children, lessons in traditional Chamorro crafts, food, and dancing, and a pretty nature walk.

Hiking

Guam is a treasure trove of hidden natural wonders that can only be discovered by hiking, or as locals call it ‘boonie stomping.’ Guam is filled with beautiful, lush vegetation, waterfalls, hills, and flowering plants. One animal you’re sure to see a lot of are geckos, who you’ll spot on rocks or walls, especially in the evening. Don’t worry though, these cool creatures are completely harmless and only eat insects. There are plenty of hills to climb that offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

The World’s Tallest Mountain

When you first look at Mount Lamlam, you have to ask the question how is this the world’s tallest mountain? At 1,332-feet high – from ground level – it isn’t very tall at all when compared to the mountains of the Himalayas or Alps. To solve this question one has to look below the sea. The mountain, which is found in the small town of Agat sits next to the Mariana Trench, which reaches 6.78-miles below the sea. To put this in perspective put the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, which is 29,040-feet high at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. When placed here, there would still be nearly 7,000-feet of water above it.

White, sandy beach in Guam
White, sandy beach in Guam

 

Beaches

One of the most obvious reasons to visit Guam is its stunning, pristine beaches. Turquoise water, soft white sand, and gorgeous swaying palm trees await sun seekers and water sports lovers. Governor Joseph F. Flores Beach Park is over a mile long and one of the island’s most popular beaches. You can rent jet skis here or enjoy its grassy park that is perfect for picnics. For great snorkeling head to Taga’change Beach Park, where there are great tidal pools with plenty of sea life. Unlike the white sand on most Guam beaches, Talofofo Beach Park’s black sands are great for walking and sun bathing.

Been to Guam? Let us know if we missed anything in our list.