I was expecting the worst, but have been pleasantly surprised by Cairns! The council has redeveloped the waterfront area and rebranded it the "Cairns Esplanade", with a huge saltwater swimming pool in the shape of a lagoon, exercise machines, free BBQ areas and the coolest children's playground I have EVER seen! Well done, Cairns!
We went for a walk along the Esplanade at dusk and nothing can prepare you for the sheer tropical factor of the place: thousands of parrots screeching in the trees, bats the size of pelicans swooping down, mangrove trees, Aboriginal people (not just dressed up for tourist shows), more mullet hairdos than I have ever seen before in one place. It feels like a frontier town that's won the lottery and had a makeover.
We took an organised trip to the Great Barrier Reef to Saxon and North Hastings. We saw turtles, barracuda, parrotfish, giant clams and hundreds of other kinds of fish and coral in an astonishing array of colours. However, visibility wasn't the best and the reefs didn't appear to be all that healthy (lots of dead and dying coral).
To be honest, we were both a bit disappointed as we've both snorkelled in a lot of places around the world and have heard that this is one of the most amazing places, but it seemed (perhaps) to be a victim of its own success? The boat had 89 passengers and I saw many (especially Asian tourists) walking on the reef with their fins and picking things up! So, imagine if the boat goes out every day for 365 days a year and at least a couple of handfuls of schmucks traipse around in the reefs every time - it doesn't sound sustainable to me...
Today, we head further north to Port Douglas for some R&R and a little beach action and then towards Cape Tribulation and the depths of the Daintree Forest. Who knows, we may even spot a cassowary?