Tuesday, February 20, 2018
GETTING TO KNOW YOU… Friendly fish on the Great Barrier Reef.

Sailing Australia

Editor December 7, 2016

DARWIN, situated on the Timor Sea, is closer to Singapore than Sydney and is the capital of the Northern Territory. It was named after Charles Darwin (although he never visited here).

It’s a very friendly city and it seems many people who have come here on a holiday then decided to stay. It’s the end of the dry season and the weather is still balmy, but when the wet season arrives the humidity will soar and many southerners will return home, forced out by the searing heat.

There is a lot to see and do including a visit to Litchfield National Park, with its high magnetic termite mounds, massive waterfalls and rainforests.

Also worth a visit is the Territory Wildlife Park, maybe a harbour cruise, the museums and galleries and the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre.

There are various modes of getting around. At the visitor’s centre, you can catch the double decker hop-on-hop-off bus, which will take you to all the major sights.

Darwin is also famous for its day and night markets and its food fusion. Being so close to Asia, you can select from a wide variety of eateries, and while on the subject of filling up, it is estimated that the average ‘Territorian’ consumes over 60 gallons of beer a year.

If you get the opportunity, don’t miss the Defence of Darwin Military Museum. It’s interactive and gives you a real insight into Darwin’s defence in the war, and the major air battle that was fought there with the Japanese.

If you want to get out of Darwin, you can take a tour down the Adelaide River. It’s about a two hour drive and then you board a river craft for the jumping crocodile tour.

It sounds a bit kitsch but is well worth it. Using rods and lines with meat on them, massive crocodiles leap right out of the water reminding you why you want to keep your arms in the confines of the boat.

We then sail around the very top of Australia, the Cape York Peninsular. It is here that we pick up our reef pilot, Captain Glenn Robinson. He guides the ship through the inside waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and when you see it, you realise why it’s called the Great Barrier Reef. It’s actually the biggest living structure in the world, which is why this is surely something we need to protect.

Thousands of tonnes of shipping use the reef passage each year. It’s safer than being out in the wilds of the Coral Sea and much quicker with the shorter distance to travel.

Our port of call is Port Douglas. It’s a very pretty place with resorts everywhere, but no one is allowed to build higher than tree height, so from the sea, you can’t see all the buildings. Tourists from around the world flock here for its tranquil beauty and bright blue sea, but be careful and make sure you keep one eye on possible crocodiles and one on the stingers.

Discovered in 1877, Port Douglas was almost wiped out by a huge cyclone leaving a population of only 100. Tourism only got underway big time thanks to Christopher Skase, who had to leave Australia in a hurry ahead of the tax office. It was his initial dream that saw resorts developed and a massive palm tree planting program that gave the region its tropical island feel.

In the beginning, the race was on to see if Port Douglas or Cairns (only one hour away) would be the major centre. Cairns won.

Must sees while there are the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway with gondolas that take you high above and through the rain forest and something new, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park. The park allows you to interact with local Aboriginal culture, learn how to throw a boomerang and view ancient Aboriginal artefacts, and they serve a pretty good meal too.

On arrival at Port Douglas, our ship anchored off using port tenders to get most of the 4,000 passengers ashore. I got my tender ticket and then waited two hours until I could board a tender. These were boats from the port and our ships tenders remained on board. On my return to the port, the queue ran from the jetty to the car park. A ship’s officer said the captain had now moved the ship closer to the port and launched the ship’s tenders to deal with the massive number of passengers waiting to re-board. It took an hour and a half to get back on board.

Among those hundreds of passengers waiting with me, there were no happy campers. Not good enough Royal Caribbean.

To be continued…

Until next time,

Safe Travel’n,

Geoff Vallance.