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3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

MD
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3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

DH and I will be spending 4 nights in Cairns (3 full days) at the end of May. We want to do 2 day trips to the GBR and spend 1 day in Kuranda (hugging a koala is a must on this trip!)

First, the GBR. We have our nights paid for at a hotel in Cairns as part of a trip package, so we would rather not do an overnight trip on GBR unless it is much cheaper than to book 2 trips. We are avid snorkelers, but we don't do scuba diving.

It sounds like Passions of Paradise gets rave reviews around here, so that's the #1 consideration for us right now. For our second day, we were considering Wavelength snorkel tour out of Port Douglas, but it looks like transfers from Cairns are about $40 each plus the price of the trip. Is that company that much better that it would be worth the extra money? GBR is top of our lists of sights to see in Australia, so we don't mind spending extra, but only if it is really worthwhile! We want to be "wowed" by the coral and sea life. :) We do like that it seems like each company goes to different sections of the Outer Reef. If you don't think Wavelength is worthwhile, what other company out of Cairns would you recommend? Or would it be a better value just to book an overnight stay out on a boat and try to forget that we already paid for a hotel one night? :)

On to Kuranda. Like I said, we would like to go up there to the Koala sanctuary and walk around the town. Are there any hikes in the rain forest that you can take from Kuranda, or do you absolutely have to do the Skyrail to be able to stop in sections and hike around? We would like to take the bus from Cairns at least one way to save some money, and wouldn't be opposed to using it both ways if we can do a little hiking from Kuranda. We've done a lot of rainforest trips in some recent vacations, so the Skyrail isn't quite a major draw for us (especially at $45 each!)

Thanks so much!

Rebekah

Edited: 02 November 2011, 18:10
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1. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

I have taken several different boats out to the GBR from Port Douglas, but none from Cairns. However, I think any boat that goes to the Outer Reef (as opposed to Green Island or the Low Isles, etc.) is going to be able to show you coral and sealife which will "wow" you.

I have been on Wavelength many times and it is an excellent boat. The big advantages to Wavelength are that it is a small boat (30 passengers) so you get a lot of personal attention and that it is a snorkel-only boat so you aren't competing for time and space with divers. I would recommend Wavelength if you were in Port Douglas, but I'm sure you can find another good boat in Cairns should you decide not to incur the extra expense.

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2. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

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MD
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3. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

Thanks for your responses. Longhorn74 - One of the things that impressed me about Wavelength was that it is a snorkel-only boat, and I haven't heard that there are any others that do that in Cairns. How many stops did they make throughout the day? Do you think they were able to visit nicer parts of the Outer Reef since Port Douglas is farther north or did it really not make a difference?

MattoELITE - Thanks for that link. If we do end up using the Skyrail, it sounds like that would be the way to go. The Skyrail view does sound nice...it's just that a few months ago, we did a canopy tour in Honduras and ziplined across the tree tops of a rainforest with an ocean view in the background. So I can't imagine that the views would be all that different. Not that they wouldn't be beautiful, but $45 each person each way is kind of a lot when we had kind of a similar experience so recently. We're quickly finding that nothing in Australia is inexpensive, so we were just looking to save where we can. :)

Edited: 03 November 2011, 14:29
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4. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

Wavelength makes 3 stops on their day trip. As their website notes, they have access to 20 different sites and they choose 3 of these daily based on weather conditions, etc.. You can read more about these sites and see some photos by going to their website.

I don't know that the reefs that Wavelength goes to are any "nicer" simply because PD is further north than Cairns. I thought the reefs we saw on other boats we took from Port Douglas were just as good as those we saw on Wavelength. The difference was that some of those boats only went to 2 places and they were larger ships with divers as well as snorkelers.

As I said before, I think you will find "wow" coral and sealife no matter which boat takes you to the OUTER REEF.

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5. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

I agree Longhorn, the magic words are OUTER REEF.

If you would prefer a day which involves as much time in the water as possible with thousands of fish and unbelievably beautiful coral, in an uncrowded boat with other like-minded people - rather than non-swimmers and here-just-to-watch tourists - then I would recommend Wavelength or Calypso from PD.

Any day out on the reef is terrific, but having tried quite a few (including Passions of Paradise), these two stand out for great staff, room to move onboard, and the best snorkelling.

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6. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

I snorkeled with Wavelength and can thoroughly recommend them. The crew went out of their way to make sure everyone has a great snorkeling experience. Food and facilities were excellent. it's far more pleasant to be on a smaller boat, closer to the water, part of a smallish group, than to be on a monstrous two level boat with a mob.

As for Kuranda, it is a total dump. There are innumerable shops selling low quality merchandise, and the town shuts down at about 3. There are no rainforest walks from there, though you could get a taxi to the start of the Barron Falls walk - its just at the edge of town, about a k each way and with great falls views, and through rainforest.

There are no hikes in the rainforest off any of the stops on Skyrail ( unless you count a 400 m walk as a hike).

if you want to hike in rainforest, you should hire a car and drive up to the Atherton Tablelands. The simplest walks are around the two crater lakes, but there are many more possibilities depending on your available time and fitness. The tourist bureau in Cairns ( the official one not the operators posing as tourist bureaus). Have heaps of QNP brochures on parks and walking.

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MD
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7. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

Thanks again for all of the responses. I think you all have pretty much sold us on Wavelength. :) Love the idea of 3 stops, smaller boat/smaller crowds, and all snorkeling. We truly can't wait!!

As for Kuranda, like sasha7778 suggested, we are starting to wonder if it would be a better idea for us just to hire a car while in Cairns (we could also then just drive ourselves to Port Douglas for Wavelength). Should we skip Kuranda altogether and aim for a self drive to Atherton Tablelands or Daintree? If we choose one of those two places, do either of them have some type of koala sanctuary close by where you are able to hug a koala? Or would it be necessary to stop in Kuranda on the way for that? We will also be in Sydney and Melbourne during this trip, but my understanding is that of these 3 places, Cairns is the only area where that is allowed.

So would you recommend Atherton Tablelands or Daintree for a whole day (bearing in mind a stop at a koala sanctuary is a must on the list!) Or is there a different "self-drive" location altogether we should look into?

We're both in our late twenties, love the outdoors, and are up for pretty much anything that involves beautiful scenery. We like to hike, but wouldn't want that to necessarily take up our entire day (no long 8 hour hikes or anything). We love waterfalls, rainforests, mountains and the beach, so we are open to any suggestions! Oh, and DH wouldn't mind seeing some crocodiles in the wild if that's possible anywhere.

Thank you so much!

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8. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

If you hired a car you could really tick several of your boxes in one easy day by heading north to Port Douglas and on to Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Port is about an hour's drive from Cairns along one of Australia's most scenic roads and is home to Wildlife Habitat:-

http://www.wildlifehabitat.com.au/index.html

where they have a wonderful collection of Australian birds and animals and, yes, you can get up close to a koala!

About 20 minutes further north is Mossman Gorge, the southernmost part of Daintree National Park, which has short and longer rainforest walks, swimming holes - you can wander round yourselves or join an Aboriginal guided walk.

The Daintree car ferry is 30 minutes further north - it runs constantly and only takes about 10 minutes to cross - then you have an amazing drive through the rainforest with several short boardwalks along the way. Lovely, almost deserted beaches at Thorntons and Cape Tribulation and the interesting Daintree Discovery Centre with aerial walkways, canopy tower and interpretive displays.

I think you would enjoy it more than Kuranda which (sorry Kuranda!) really is quite touristy.

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9. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

Sunbird - Thank you so much for that information! That all definitely sounds perfect for how we would like to spend our third day in Cairns! We're still debating on whether or not we want to rent a car, but I did see a company called Jungle Tours that does a tour that includes almost everything you listed. Are there any others that we should look into? It seems like an awesome day trip but quite a long day, so I'm sure my DH would appreciate sleeping on a bus on the way home versus having to drive himself. :)

Thanks again!

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10. Re: 3 Full Days in Cairns - Questions about GBR and Kuranda

Thank you. I'm sorry I'm not an expert on day tours (our guests are all self-drive) so hopefully others will make some recommendations. Looking at Jungle Tours' website their "Go Wild Day Tour" looks perfect for you and they have good reviews on TripAdvisor too. A good idea to have someone else doing the driving when you only have a day to do it all - especially if you have to drive on the 'wrong' side of the road?!