We started our day with buffet breakfast at the hotel, which featured cereals, breads, eggs, breakfast meats, and a lot of fresh fruit options, including a juicer to make your own fresh juice. We met up with the group and boarded a bus to Port Douglas.
We then met up with our boat which would take us out to the Great Barrier Reef. Adventures by Disney used Quicksilver Cruises for the tour. Our group was able to board the boat before the rest of the 200+ people, and we met with our naturalist. This also enabled us to stake our some comfortable seating for the 1 1/2 hour ride.
At the beginning of the ride we had to decide it we wanted to sign up for the optional (for additional cost) activities of diving or helicopter ride. We arranged to go on the advanced snorkeling private tour with the naturalist ABD had arranged for us, which started right upon arrival, at 11:30. When the boat anchored at the pontoon, we got outfitted in the provided “stinger suits,” goggles, snorkels, and fins. The stinger suits are made of lycra and cover your body from ankle to hood to protect from jellyfish. It also had the added bonus of preventing sunburn.
After about an hour on our snorkel tour we returned to the boat and had some lunch on the pontoon. The lunch was buffet, and I was particularly impressed that they had a specially pre-made meal provided for me so that my seafood allergies wouldn’t be an issue with the buffet. My husband quickly went back in the water to continue snorkeling. My daughters were done with being in the water, and we opted to check out the reef from the submersible boat instead. We enjoyed the ride so much we rode for two full tours. At 2:45 the boat departed back for Port Douglas.
After disembarking, we had a short amount of time to explore the gift shops at the docks. I have found this the most affordable place to purchase souvenirs on the trip so far. My husband picked up some $10 AUD t-shirts, and my daughter and I both found some sundresses. Spoiler alert: Today’s pins feature Nemo and are my absolute favorite ABD pins to date.
The evening was on our own, so after returning to the hotel we make the short walk into the shopping/restaurant strip of Palm Cove. Our guides had given us ample warning about the dangers of crocodiles in the area, and it was highlighted even more by the signs on the beach noting recent crocodile sightings. Even the special “safe” netted off swimming area was off limits.
We grabbed takeout seafood from Pete’s Place, and brought it back to the hotel to eat in apartment’s kitchen.
I have to preface this with the fact that this was my favorite day of the trip so far… because: KOALAS!
We had a rather leisurely morning, which gave us plenty of time to catch up on our emails and social media from the comfort of our balcony sofa before eating breakfast at the hotel and meeting up with the group at 8:45.
We boarded a mini-bus (it was nice that for our time in Cairns we had more appropriately sized buses for our group of 16, compared to the large coaches we had in the other locations) which took us to our first stop at the Tjapukai Cultural Center. Upon arrival we had our faces painted in aboriginal styles, and then headed into a theater-on-the-round where we they presented the origin story of the Tjapukai people in a combination of movie and live acting. The theater was designed for large groups, but they did the show for only our small group. I think the combination of the acoustics and the fact that they switch back and forth between English and their native language made the presentation a little hard to understand, but it was beautifully and very professionally done.
From there were headed to an outdoor amphitheater where again just our small group watched the performers play local instruments including the didgeridoo and percussion boomerangs and demonstrate aboriginal dance. We even got up and did some dancing ourselves.
From there we continued outside to fields where were were able to give a go at boomerang and spear throwing, and then we sat down to paint our own souvenir boomerangs. Note: lefties like me need to be careful to find the left handed boomerangs at the table.
Our last stop was some time with the didgeridoo player, who demonstrated the depth of sound that it was create, and gave a few members of our group a chance to give it a try.
Before heading on the bus we had some time in the gift shop, where our guides had recommended as a good place to purchase aboriginal gifts because we know the proceeds would go to the local people. I picked up a scarf and my daughter found some body lotion.
Our next stop was the rainforest town of Kuranda. We took a bus up there, and then were given free time to explore and each lunch on our own. From reading reports from past ABD trips we had learned that the Koala Gardens in Kuranda was the best opportunity on this trip to get to hold a koala, so I had pre-purchased tickets to the Gardens on Expedia before I departed. We had been advised that the lines for the koalas could be long, so we headed immediately there from the bus. As it turned out, after I mentioned my plans to the rest of the group, our entire tour came along. We were very lucky and found the koala in the middle of a photo session and there were only about a half dozen people in line in front of us. Shortly after our group got in line they closed the line for a while and started up again a little later.
We paid $25 each to hold the koala, and for the photo package that included the digital image. We could have just done the $22 print-only package, because we didn’t realize they would also allow us to take photos with our own cameras. After all getting individual turns with the koala, we also posed together as a family with the koala. There wasn’t any extra charge for this, but we only took the photo with our own camera. There is a height requirement for being the one to hold the koala, and the 5-year-old on our trip was upset that he wasn’t tall enough.
The Kuranda Koala Gardens is also a small petting zoo, where you can walk through a path and get up close with wallabies and other animals. They provide food you can use to feed them, and the wallabies were happy to be pet. It’s a tiny facility, and the main attraction is definitely the koala photos. The photos took us about 20 minutes and then we explored a little more around the petting zoo area, and still had plenty of time to explore the town’s markets and grab some lunch at Annabel’s Meat Pies.
For our trip down from Kuranda we took the Skyrail. On the long ride down we made two stops: the first to catch a few of the waterfalls, and then second to switch to another Skyrail to continue to the bottom. The views of the rainforest canopy are striking, and it was interesting to see the small strip of land between the rainforest and ocean from above.
We had a little time back at the hotel in the late afternoon and my kids got to enjoy the hotel’s beautiful pools for the first time, while the adults did some last-minute laundry and started to think about packing up for the next leg of the trip.
Our evening activity was a trip to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. This place is run by the same organization as the Kuranda Koala Gardens. The facility was closed to the public, and our group were the only people there. We started our visit with a boat tour through their crocodile-filled waters. There were crocs everywhere, and the guides demonstrated fooding the crocs with meat on a stick strung by a rope. Hearing the snapping jaws up close amazing.
After the boat ride we were treated to passed appetizers as our group all had the opportunity to hold and get photos with a baby crocodile and a snake. From there they took us over to the amphitheater where they demonstrated more croc feeding and explained more about how some of the crocs came to be there. Apparently some of the “nuisance” animals are sent there if they are deemed dangerous in their wild communities (like attacking people on a golf course, etc).
Our last stop of our tour involved meeting and getting to hold a black cockatoo, and then some photos with a koala. The photo setup with the koala was very similar to what we had experienced at Kuranda, but the zookeeper held the koala the whole time, so she was in your family photos. I was excited to have a second opportunity in the same day to pet a koala, although I do wonder why Adventures by Disney chooses not to include the holding experience that everyone had privately organized and paid for earlier in the day. I thought perhaps it is due to the group sizes on large tours, but for our smaller tour it seems that it might have been feasible since the koala was there anyway.
Dinner at the Hartley’s was right by the side of the river, with crocs swimming right up next to you. (There was no cause for concern, though, since they are well fenced in.) The tables were nicely set including some cute Christmas decorations, and we all got to open some Christmas crackers to find the surprise inside. The meal included a salad and pasta buffet and a table side platter filled with bacon-wrapped fillet mignon, hamburger or hot dog, grilled fish and tater tots. Sidenote: Australians love their hash browns, tater tots and fries/chips. They were at almost every meal, including all of the breakfasts.
They opened up the gift shop just for us at the end of our visit, and then we headed back to the hotel for out last night in Palm Cove.
We packed up our bags and left them outside our rooms for the bag pull this morning at 7am and then enjoyed our last buffet breakfast at the Pullman. We really enjoyed the rooms and laid back nature of the hotel. It was so nice to have a two bedroom apartment to stay in, complete with laundry, and we enjoyed our giant balcony and pool view. Adventures by Disney also covered our wifi expenses, which would have otherwise been pretty high for our family of four with 2 devices each.
We spotted a few wallabies in the fields on the way to the airport, and then we checked in for our flight at the Cairns airport. We are flying JetStar for this flight, and this is a bare-bones airline where you have to purchase even the soft drinks. ABD told us in advance that they will cover the cost of one drink for each of us. To be continued in the Gold Coast… (read more here)
This trip review is from our Adventures by Disney Australia trip. I book my ABD trips through Archer Luxury Travel. My camera for this trip was the Fuji X-T20 with with the 100-400mm lens for wildlife and the 18-55mm kit lens for around town (as well as my trusty iphone 7).Share on Facebook
Categories: Adventures by Disney