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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Discovering the Remote Islands of Indonesia - Page 6

Written by Roger Marks
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The next day was spent in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We did both morning and afternoon snorkeling excursions. The Great Barrier Reef stretches for nearly 1,500 miles along the coast of Queensland, comparable to the length of the U.S. West coast. In the morning excursion, we encountered a number of larger schools of parrotfish. We snorkeled among some of the most beautiful sea corals—a real underwater garden—and saw lots of tropical fish.

 

In the afternoon, we did three drift snorkels which were spectacular. The Zodiac cruised some distance in the ocean from a small sand bar. The waves of the ocean effortlessly carried us toward the sand bar standing alone in the vast expanse of water with no sight of land. This bar continued to diminish in size as the tides moved in. We snorkeled just above the area where there was a wall that dropped to great depths. We saw a white tip reef shark and a green turtle. On one excursion, we reached the sand bar but only a few square feet of it were now standing above the water surface. We quickly gathered up our gear and barely made it on board the Zodiac as we watched the sand bar completely disappear under water.

 

The next day we visited Lizard Island, a granite island about four square miles in size. Named by Captain Cook in the late 18th century on account of the number of lizards Cook and his crew found here, Lizard Island is now known for its proximity to what are some of Australia’s greatest underwater experiences. We decided to skip the hike on the island and research station and opted instead to go snorkeling from the beach. We saw giant, colorful clams which came in various brilliant colors and impressive sizes. They can weigh more than 400 pounds and measure as much as four feet across. Interestingly, these enormous clams have an average lifespan of 100 years. Colors of the clams included bright purples, reds and blues. After lunch, we snorkeled again at another location and saw more giant clams, along with many coral and tropical fish. The reefs close to shore were bursting with colorful fish life. Our ship ended its journey in Cairns. From Bali to Cairns, we traveled 2,900 nautical miles.

 

Kuranda and Cairns, Australia

 

Early the next morning, we did the Kuranda day tour, the final excursion organized by the ship, which included travel by coach, railway and sky rail, exploring the quaint mountain town of Kuranda. We first boarded a train for an hour and 45 minute journey through the rainforest. We then got off the train, walked for a half hour through a mini-rainforest and then we took a tram for five miles (with two stops along the way, where we hopped out and explored the forest floor on boardwalks, and an interpretation center) and finally we arrived by cable car to the town of Kuranda. We then took a bus to the old section of town where we walked around the streets.

 

We stumbled upon an Aborigine art gallery and, unexpectedly, we ended up buying a large painting by the famous Aboriginal artist, Billawarra. It was acrylic on canvas and titled Rainbow Serpent. The dreamtime story behind the painting is that the Rainbow Serpent invited two brothers seeking shelter from a storm to sleep in his mouth. A tribe looking for the missing brothers came upon the serpent and knew he had devoured the boys. They cut the serpent’s stomach open to look for the boys and discovered the serpent had transformed the boys into parakeets. The two birds flew out of the serpent’s stomach. The painting is filled with all sorts of Aborigine symbolism.

 

We had a wonderful seafood dinner in Cairns at the restaurant Dundees.

 

On our last and final day of the trip, we explored the town of Cairns. We walked along the sea front, had a relaxing lunch at another seafood restaurant, Barnacle Bills, and then took a taxi to the botanical gardens where we spent a couple of hours walking through beautiful gardens. We returned to the city and walked down a street where the trees were filled with bats. In the late afternoon/early evening, the bats awaken and fly into the mountains and return at dawn to nest in the trees in the heart of the city. We passed some historical buildings in town and briefly stopped in the old library building. We visited a modern church known for its beautiful stained glass windows. We sat on the balcony of our hotel room and watched the native white cockatoos fly by.

 

Our trip to Bali and cruising through the islands of Indonesia ranks among the very best of our 30+ years of travel to different parts of the world. Exploring the island of Bali with a private guide and driver, the comfort of the National Geographic Orion ship and its daily excursions, and the amazing meals served aboard the ship all made for the ultimate vacation.

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©Roger Marks

 

 

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Last modified on Friday, 02 September 2016

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