Leaving the Boat

Cairns Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 206 › view all entries

We woke at 6am, packed and headed down to breakfast. Today 6 of us would be returning to Cairns and a new group arriving to carry on the trip to 7 or 10 further days. We were ferried across to Lizard Island to Watson Bay in the inflatable tender and landed on the beach like in the movies.

 

Our divemaster Karen took us, and any other ramblers from the remaining group on a walk around the island. It is remote, and very private; you can only stay on the island in one of 3 ways. The first is to spend 3000 AUS dollars a night to stay on the tiny private resort; the second is to work for one of the research stations on the opposite side of the island; and the third is to camp, but you have to bring ALL your supplies, including fresh water, as there is no supply here.

 

The aborigine name for the island is Stingray, because it looks like one, though how they should know that we don't know and it was sacred to them. Captain Cook wrecked the Endeavour nearby (now named Endeavour Reef) as he couldn't work out how to get out of the reefs.

He climbed to the top of the hill of Watson Bay where we stood and memorised a route to navigate out.

 

Later some Europeans settled on the island with some Chinese servants to hunt sea cucumbers and the aborigines arrived to find them on their sacred island. There was a scuffle and in the confusion one of the Chinese servants shot one of the aborigines. They returned with a party and attacked. One of the other servants was killed but Mary Watson and the others escaped, hence the name Watson’s Bay.

 

Lizard Island is a National Park, and the path from the beach to the air strip climbed through sand dunes, up rocky, sandy hills, through mangrove forests and over wooden bridges.

We wandered up to the lookout and Karen explained some of the plants and animals around. The ground was covered with black ants but there are green ants in the trees. They make their nests at the ends of branches by folding the end pinnate leaves over and sticking them together in layers to form a crude ball. If you tap or shake these they come out and will attack!

 

The Eucalpytus trees are numerous and subject to controlled burning. The oil inside is very volatile and in the heat of summer can spontaneously combust so they burn the trees periodically. The bark on the Eucalyptus has evolved to burn and peel and leave the tree unharmed beneath.

 

At the airstrip we waited for the tiny plane to arrive to take us on a low-level flight to Cairns.

This is because the divers will suffer decompression sickness if they dive down and then fly up! When the plane landed, out got this handsome man dressed in a smart pilot uniform with flight glasses looking every bit the part, and proceeded to demonstrate the life jacket procedure as you would receive for an international flight to us. The sight of this fella in an inflatable jacket demonstrating the safety procedures at the side of a strip of concrete in the middle of nowhere tickled me. Never the less, in such a tiny plane I think we all paid close attention!

 

Getting into the 10 seater plane meant walking bent double through a narrow gap 20cm wide between seats. We sat immediatley behind the pilot and watched all his gauges, while he chatted up our dive hostess all the way back showing each other their holiday snaps on their cameras! So much for 'autopilot'....

 

The flight was amazing and a lovely way to say goodbye to the reefs.

We looked out for whales and dolphins but only saw a couple of shark shadows lurking beneath the surface. We passed the world's biggest silicon mine, the miles and miles of white silicone being passed down a long conveyor belt to a ship at the edge of the bay.

 

Arriving again in Cairns airport is lovely, with the freshwater ways meandering through the lush vegetation under blue skies and bright sunshine. Again I was amused at the 'Arrivals' reception for the miniature planes and helicopters - a door beside a hangar leading to a miniature hotel style reception - Heathrow it ain't!

 

We got dropped by the dive bus to a hotel in the centre in the hope of finding a suit for Andy for the wedding.

After a successful shopping trip we met one of the dive group 'Clay' later for a meal. Clay has been Andy's dive buddy and they have got on famously. Clay is an unusual American in that he has not only travelled outside of his state, but also internationally (though only this once) and has taken a whole 2 weeks holiday. Apparently this is unheard of, and his friends think he is 'different'. It is frowned upon to take more than 3 days at a time holiday, or even to use up your full holiday allowance, and since everybody hunts or fishes, why would they leave their country in the pursuit of new experiences? They are not jealous that he had been diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Um. Okay then....

 

We had reserved 2 crabs and a table on the waterfront at a restaurant called Pescis on the recommendation of one of the dive group. After a glass of champagne we had a couple of bottles of a nice white wine called Mad Dog or something like that while we waited for our 2 mud crabs and a seafood platter to arrive. I was slightly apprehensive as I am squeamish about 'dismantling' things and had to overcome the aversion to run screaming from the table in order to grasp the clicky orange crab legs and scoop out all the good stuff.

Once I got the hang of it though I was on a mission - this crab wasn't going to beat me!

 

Andy's seafood was wonderful, the best scallops and mussels I've ever tasted, and even the calamari was beautiful. We treated ourselves to dessert (orange and Grand Marnier parfait and lemon vodka tiramisu), had a couple of Ports and Benedictine and then wandered to the casino. Personally I don't understand gambling - the compulsion to hand over hard earned cash with the likely outcome that you won't get it back, but it was fun to get better acquainted with Blackjack and Roulette, and in fact Clay left the table 25 dollars up on 100 so that was pretty good going.

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Cairns Hotels & Accommodations review
Comfortable and clean, fairly inexpensive (we paid 98 AUS dollars for a double room for one night - about 40 UK pounds). The hotel is well-placed in t… read entire review
Cairns
photo by: Katie_Kate