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Cairns/rainforest

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Canada
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Cairns/rainforest

Hi, my husband and I will be in Cairns for five days in early December. We've never been, and we are interested in snorkeling, and rainforest tours.

We do not want to self-drive as the roads are reverse from Canadian roads so we are a bit nervous. However, we do not like tours that are too touristy.

We are interested in a rainforest tour that allows us to walk/hike some of the time, rather than sit in a car all day long. We also would like a tour that is different from other tours (i.e., we don't want to go to places that are packed with other tourists). We were looking into the Bloomfield rainforest, Cape Tribulation, Daintree Explorer tour. Does anyone know anything about it. Can anyone recommend anything else that might be more suitable?

We are also interested in Snorkeling and perhaps an intro scuba trip. We are considering Ocean Spirit, or Tusa. Does anyone know anything about either of these trips?

We are staying at the Outrigger in Cairns. Is this a decent hotel?

Any other suggestions of what to see while we are there would be great.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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1. Re: Cairns/rainforest

The Outrigger in Cairns is a great hotel. Top location and really well appointed rooms - especially if you have an apartment. the rooms facing the back (or pool/city) can be noisy if the Courthouse Pub has live entertainment, but then again, the waterview rooms can have a bit of traffic noise. But overall is just a fantastic hotel.

If you are considering Ocean Spirit vs Tusa - two completely different type of operators. Ocean Spirit are sailing catamarans that go to Upolo Cay, a sand based bird sanctuary. The snorkeling is usually not very good and the diving has never been good - with the sand in the area the water is usually very silty so this would not be my vote. Its a great fun day - very relaxing, but if your objective is a good day viewing the reef, I would give this one a pass.

Tusa Dive is a dedicated dive operator and will take snorkelers, as well as offer intro dives. This is always my first pick when someone says dive or snorkel in Cairns. They run small (25) new boats and they don't go to platforms with tons of people. They will take you out away from the crowds and where the weather will allow the best diving.

As for Daintree - honestly, I think all the Daintree scheduled trips are too structured. The guides usually take you to the touristy spots and to find one that will take you hiking etc - tough one. Most of this day trip is driving anyway, due to the distance you must cover in one day. And besides, one road up, one road back so you see the same thing on the way home - good time for a nap?

There is a company called Adventure Tours Australia - not totally keen on them but they do a fun a active day. Pick up from your hotel - stop at Rainforest Habitat in Port Douglas for a critter look-see, a hike in the Mossman Gorge, a Daintree Croc Spotting Cruise, a tour of the Daintree/Cape Trib and you are back after around 11 hrs. I would guess there are others that do similar routes, but this is one of the most active I have done.

Canada
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2. Re: Cairns/rainforest

Thanks so much for your help BigfishLittlefish. We will definitely book Tusa (if there is any space left).

One more questions....is the diving better than the snorkeling? That is, in an intro dive, will we see just as much snorkeling as we would diving? Or would you recommend we try the dive?

Thanks again for your help!

Australia
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3. Re: Cairns/rainforest

If you really want to avoid the touristy tours, perhaps you should rethink the question of car hire. Swapping sides for driving is not as difficult as it sounds especially up in far north Queensland where traffic conditions are not at all bad.

The places you mentioned are are all truly beautiful and worth going to. Have you considered basing yourself in Port Douglas for a night or two? That way you'll spend less time in the car as most of the places you mentioned are north of Cairns and beyond Port Douglas. There should be good prices as it won't be peak period. Its a great scenic drive on a good road.

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4. Re: Cairns/rainforest

You are most welcome - an intro dive is just great, and will you see more? Honestly, you will see much more if you are doing well and not too terribly nervous. Being all wound up will only create anxiety and all you will be concerned with is breathing, gear being uncomfy etc - but if you are already really relaxed in the ocean, then yes, give an intro a try - can be a great experience.

If surface conditions are really calm, snorkeling is great, but if a bit rough, then maybe a dive is good so you can see from depth. Some of my snorkels on the reef have been better than my many dives, so I guess it depends on your dive site, conditions and how I feel that day....

Would say, if in good health and have a great sense of attitude and adventure, you will probably love it so much, that you may even consider getting certified when you return home!

Canada
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5. Re: Cairns/rainforest

Thanks explorer and BigfishLittlefish.

We haven't thought about basing ourselves in Port Douglas. Maybe I'll look into that. Can you recommend any hotels?

What is the distance between Port Douglas and Cairns?

Thanks re- the diving advice! I know that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best dives spots in the world, so it would seem a shame to be there and not give diving a try.

Thanks again to both for your help!

gk
Brisbane, Australia
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6. Re: Cairns/rainforest

Just a correction - Michaelmas Cay is the bird sanctuary. Upolu Cay has nothing on it but sand.

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7. Re: Cairns/rainforest

Thanks GK, yes, it's been some time since I have been out on Ocean Spirit and yes, totally forgot about Michaelmas Cay! Thanks for that.

Re: Hotels in Port Douglas - wow, there are a ton of them. Best to get one right in town so you can walk to all the great restaurants.

Port Douglas is one hour north of Cairns but a world away. A very quite yachty town with one main street, Macrossan. Lots of good eats, great 4 Mile Beach, small but adequate shops. Many of the hotels have a 3 night min stay now.

There are 3 Outrigger's in PD, all really great so you cannot go wrong there. If you want a lovely adult hotel, The Peninsula is fantastic - right across from 4 Mile Beach and at the end of Macrossan so location is a 10. All rooms are suite and breakfast is included. Lovely place.

If you were to consider PD, you can get there from the airport by private car transfer around $120ish-150A each way, or coach transfer. If you choose this location, then maybe consider Poseidon or Quicksilver Silversonic for your intro dives from PD. Agincourt Reef is just lovely!

Windsor, Ontario
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8. Re: Cairns/rainforest

I am heading to Australia this Thursday and will be spending a week in Cairns. I have booked my week through a travel place ..the website is www.fnqapartments.com and they made up a week package for me. I can let you know how it goes when I get back if you like.

I had them make a package based on the cairns city budget package.

Cairns, Australia
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9. Re: Cairns/rainforest

Pete Baxendell of Heritage and Interpretive tours does take personalised Daintree and Bloomfield rainforest trips and is not at all "structured" - www.daintree-specialised-tours.com You can choose your own destination on some trips, if you wish.

Agree with bigfish re Tusa for day trips, it has roving permit for many reef sites and skipper picks the best of the day, according to tides and weather. If you're interested in snorkelling only would also recommend Wavelength out of Port Douglas (will pick up in Cairns) - take only 30 per boat (as does Tusa) to low tourist impact sites.

Ocean Spirit now has 3 different motor/sailer cats to reef sites- all lovely boats with great food and crew. Ocean Spirit 1 goes to Michaelams Cay which is also a bird sanctuary (snorkelling and diving and has semi-submersible). Ocean Spirit II is the cheapest (snorkelling and diving) to Oyster Reef and Upolo Cay, the new boat is snorkelling and sailing only (leaves from Cairns or Palm Cove) to Oyster Reef and Upolo, but at different times to Ocean Spirit II, so you're not all there at once.

Have just done a 2 night liveaboard on Pro-Dive's Scubapro (diving or snorkelling) out of Cairns - great trip and crew - was lucky enough to have perfect weather.

Canada
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10. Re: Cairns/rainforest

thanks so much for all the great suggestions! I'm looking forward to the trip!