It’s been a productive 3 days in Cairns: 2 days ago we flew over the Great Barrier Reef and yesterday we dove straight into the middle of it. So today would be more a free day where the group save for Bryce, decided to rent both a car and a van to drive around the different national parks surrounding Cairns at a leisurely pace. Bryce, who on a previous trip to Cairns already had done a lot that we were planning to do today, instead went bungee jumping on a BMX bike. Totally fair.
Our first stop was the Kuranda Koala Sanctuary. It costs $19 AUD to enter and $22 AUD to take a photo with a koala that’s not under duress and cared for in what seems to be an ethical and safe environment.
We got to the sanctuary as it opened at 9am, so the group wandered around petting various animals while waiting for the half-hour photo sessions to begin at 10am. The sanctuary has wombats, koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies wandering out freely among the petting zoo area.
Definitely didn’t pet the crocs though.
The most interesting creatures you can find here are the human tourists.
Those with a good pair of eyes may spot out a well-preserved and real downed airplane somewhere in the trees:
When 10am came around, they got us ready for our best prom photo stance. But in all seriousness, the staff ensure you pose like a tree so the animals won’t notice a major difference from their natural habitats.
I admit, I was a little conflicted whether to participate at all, but the staff here did a good job convincing me this was indeed an ethical place to do any sort of thing in the first place.
You have the option of holding a snake, a koala or both.
Everyone chose the obvious.
They rotate the koalas so they don’t get too stressed out, while ensuring that you’re really holding onto them as if they believe you’re a tree they can sleep on. Every koala who gets held goes through this for no more than 30 minutes in total a day, with a whole day off every 2 days where they take a break and do nothing but sleep and eat. They really tried to make sure we wouldn’t feel guilty for being there.
After an hour at the petting zoo and receiving our photos, we had lunch at Frog’s Restaurant located within the sanctuary grounds and then drove 30 minutes to check out the waterfalls at Barron Gorge National Park.
A 15 minute hike led us to a few watering holes and a small set of waterfalls.
We took about 45 minutes swimming around here before heading back.
We then drove an hour up to Wooroonooran National Park, passing by Walsh’s Pyramid, the world’s highest freestanding natural pyramid.
Once we parked, we hiked about 700m towards Josephine’s Falls.
…which was a more reputable waterfall featuring a natural water slide and tons of locals and visitors.
We spent about an hour here before driving back towards Cairns, trying to see if we could find any platypus’es hanging out at a local beach.
Alas, this was the point when a major lightning & thunderstorm struck the area, flooding the streets, the beach, and leaving little hope to find any animals brave enough to come out in the deluge.
So we drove back into Cairns, reuniting with Bryce and having dinner back at our favorite local ramen shop Ganbanranba Ramen. We then returned our cars at 9:30pm and turned in early for our 6:50am flight tomorrow to Uluru.
– At time of posting in Kuruanda, it was 77 °F – Humidity: 80% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: light thunderstorms