Daintree was such a cool little spot for exploring! The scenery was very refreshing after the Sydney suburbs and the beach was drop dead gorgeous. We went on several really nice walks through the rainforest and one just so happened to include spotting TWO CASSOWARIES. Cassowaries are giant birds (almost the size of an emu) that live in the rainforest and pretty much look like dinosaurs… pretty much because their species has managed to survive that long. I was in the back of the hiking group and was talking to my friend about how cool it would be if we saw a cassowary when not a minute later I hear a rustling and two of these huge birds come out of the bushes! Were were all so shocked that we actually got to see them in the wild and stayed dead silent probably for fear of being attacked. Because Daintree is one of the only places where the rainforest meets the sea, the beach was absolutely beautiful and I felt like I was on a secluded tropical island. The beach right outside of our accommodation was called Cape Tribulation and is known worldwide for its beauty.
The next day, we took advantage of our close proximity to clear blue waters and went snorkeling… on the GREAT BARRIER REEF. I was so so so excited about the fact that we were actually going out to the Great Barrier Reef that I didn’t even let myself think it was real until I was actually swimming. The one and only Great Barrier reef that I’ve been dreaming about witnessing for my entire life. We all got suited up in wetsuits and then hopped on a 30 minute boat ride out into the ocean. Before we knew it, we were all geared up with flippers and snorkels and masks looking ridiculous and jumping off the side of the boat. It was freezingggg cold but it was so beyond worth it. I’m from Florida and have been lucky enough to snorkel in the Caribbean numerous times, but Australia still managed to impress me- I felt like I was filming Planet Earth. Just as I was swimming atop the water gazing down on a crazy colorful undersea world, I noticed a giant sea turtle on the sea floor! Yes, and sea turtle. My heart was filled with joy. I watched it sway in the ocean current for an awkwardly long amount of time seeing as I was so fascinated by it, and then proceeded on my marry way exploring the rest of the reef with a giant smile glued to my face. I wasn’t expecting to actually see a sea turtle?! The water was crystal blue and made the bright red and orange coral and blue starfish look even prettier. I saw dozens of different kinds of insanely patterned fish and one almost as big as me that I thought was a shark for a second- yikes! Seeing such magnificent creatures in their native habitat was one of the coolest things that I have ever had the opportunity to take part of. As I was headed back to the boat, I was swimming full speed ahead seeing as I was one of the last ones in the water (naturally), and another sea turtle decided to swim past right in front of my face! You can’t see to the sides in the crazy goggles, so I had no idea I was about to almost collide with it until it was an arm’s length away. I froze and stared at it while it stared right back at me as it bolted away. Sounds crazy I know, but it happened and I’m so happy it actually did. The Great Barrier Reef: a place I would visit again and again.
The next day we went on an aboriginal tour near Mossman’s Gorge and learned a lot about indigenous plants and all of their natural remedies/ effects on human life. It’s amazing how easily they can point at a plant and be able to say how it can be boiled down to be used in tea to help with all kinds of different medical issues, or mosquito repellent, or for luring in animals. Later, I even got to go hopping between rocks among the “second purest water in the world,” so you could definitely say I was very happy.
After waiting hours for the bus to pick us up, we finally started our journey to Cairns where we checked into our rooms. It was a wonderful setup for the end of the trip with two of my closest friends here. In Cairns, we studied for our exam and spent our days exploring the little town with our free time. It was very small and filled with lots of touristy stores for souvenir shopping, so I spent the majority of my time along the water soaking up the view with friends. One night we had a group dinner at the zoo and feasted before going into the zoo to see jumping crocodiles, kangaroos, and birds galore. But I also took this opportunity to hold a koala. Hold. A. Koala. I died. It smelled horrible but it was incredibly cute and one even licked my ear. I also held a boa, and proceeded to flip out as the snake started to constrict around me… No thanks. Why is it that I love nature but it somehow always seems to come back at me? After the tour of the zoo, they led us to an outdoor room where we all danced like crazy people to the aboriginal music they were playing.
On one of our free days while everyone was studying, I met up with my family. Yes- my family is now in Australia. I know it’s crazy but it’s very true! Their cruise ended outside of Cairns so they rented a car, picked me up at my accommodation where I hugged them for 5 minutes each (it’s been 2 months without them), and headed to Port Douglas for some family togetherness. As we drove to this cute little beach town an hour up the coast, I told them of all of my adventures until they got tired of me bragging and we all sat down for a delicious lunch. After exploring the town and window shopping for a while longer, we headed back into Cairns where I had another group dinner with my study abroad friends planned. It was a really fun last night out with them seeing the town and sitting along the water talking about all the great things we got to see the past 5 weeks. And now I’m here in the airport pretty much sobbing my eyes out yet again as I say goodbye to all of my friends that I met a few weeks ago but feel like I’ve known forever. I’m extremelyyyyyy sad for my study abroad experience to be over (and truthfully I never ever ever want it to end), but knowing I’ve still got a few days in this great country with my family is the only thing keeping me from being classified clinically depressed. 10 more days of family vacay in Australia are calling my name!