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When to Go.

Visitors from the Northern Hemisphere who propose a brief stay in Queensland, particularly excursions to The Great Barrier Reef and Northern Destinations should be aware of the Australian Seasons being reverse to Seasons in their home countries. Generally, the weather during the Queensland Summer , December - February, is very hot and humid. It can be quite uncomfortable for older folks to walk around. Apart from the heat , it is our 'Wet Season'. For a short stay visitor this could be frustrating , as they could encounter rain throughout their stay. Could is the 'Operative Word' as the possibilities for it to rain just at nightime is also on the cards. December through March is also what we in Queensland know as The Cyclone Season. Some years we are lucky and have none, but others it can be several. Apart from our 'Wet Season' the remaining months are generally dry in comparison, so short term visitors be aware. Longer term visitors can generally afford to wait a couple of days for the weather to be ideal for their special trip to The Great Barrier Reef. So bearing in mind all the possibilities, if you are staying for a short time, pick the right time.

Things to Remember.

A Great Barrier Reef vacation will almost always include Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling, Great Barrier reef diving, or at least wading around in shallow water, or walking on coral cays. You need to be aware that The Great Barrier Reef has several very dangerous marine animals, so you need to be on your guard all the time you are walking on coral, in shallow water, snorkelling or diving. The most common dangerous animals of the Great Barrier Reef includes jellyfish, several species of fish, sea snakes, octopus, and even certain shellfish that can potentially be fatal to humans. If you take the right precautions, and you know what to look out for, you can reduce the danger, and still enjoy the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef on your special trip.

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The Queensland Armchair Guide pick as the No1 Experience in Queensland is a visit to Willie Gordon's Ancestral Rock Art Site set high in the hills above Hope Vale, outside Cooktown.. Here he shares the stories behind the art, and explains how the cave paintings speak of the essence of life and the lores of his people.These magical award-winning Aboriginal Tours with Nugal-warra Elder, Wilfred (Willie) Gordon, are now listed as One of Australia's Ultimate Must-Do Experiences.Willies site link can be found on either our Aboriginal Page or The Cooktown Page.

Willie Gordon
Coral Cay North Queensland,

Every astronaut who enters space will at some stage on his return mention The Great Barrier Reef. This Wonder of the Modern World , protecting almost the entire length of Queensland's Coastline, is the only living organism that can be seen from Outer Space. The Marine Life is just breathtakingly colourful. A trip out to The Great Barrier Reef from one of the many departure points in Queensland is an unforgettable experience that will remain with you for the rest of your life. This is a must when you visit us.

A journey from Cairns to Kuranda in North Queensland on the Scenic Railway is another unforgettable experience. The track itself is an engineering marvel. The Railway passes Baron River Falls on the climb to it's destination at Kuranda. The Railway Station is a delightful, picturesque ending to a wonderful Rail Ride. Kuranda Markets, and The Butterfly Sanctuary, are there for your pleasure before you return for a second helping of the delightful scenery on your journey back to Cairns.

Kuranda Scenic Railway.
Charters Towers Post Office.

Travel 130 klms West of Townsville and you arrive at Charters Towers. The architectural splendour in this small City is a treasure to behold. First stop is the Visitor Information Centre in Mosman Street to pick up the Heritage Walking Map. The Stock Exchange, The World Theatre, and The Old Post Office are but three of the many Heritage listed Buildings in this City. The best view of the City is from Tower Hill where a small amphitheatre shows a movie in the evenings called 'Ghosts after Dark.' The Charters Towers visit is truly a step back in time.

A special place to visit anytime of the year is Cooktown on the Endeavour River,300 klms North of Cairns. The town is steeped in history and the fishing is out of this world. Even more special is the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June when the townsfolk have their Discovery Festival. Celebrating the landing in 1770 of Lt. James Cook and his crew, this is a fully costumed highly colourful re-enactment of the landing and first meeting between Cook and the local Guugu Yimithirr Tribesmen. It is an event not to be missed , but book early for reservations next year. We booked in January this year and only just made it. The Lions Den and The Endeavour Falls are two spots just out of town that are worth a visit too.

The barque 'Endeavour' moored in the Endeavour River Cooktown.
The white silica sands of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island.

If one is talking about sheer scenic beauty, then Whitehaven Beach in The Whitsundays must be in the forefront of places to visit. The best day - trip is with Fantasea Cruises departing from Shute Harbour daily. Included in the trip are stop offs at Daydream and Hamilton Islands to pick up more sightseers before you depart for Whitsunday Island's world famous beach. Sunglasses are a must on this trip as the pure silica sands are blindingly bright to the naked eye. This beach is listed as one of the top five beaches on the planet and cameras are a must to record your visit of a lifetime.

Still in The Whitsundays, we have another world famous destination. Hayman Island is a resort holiday that most of us can only dream about. The Resort is Top of the Range in every sense of the word. I can vouch for the location, I live here. Arriving at Hamilton Island Airport, the guests are sheperded to the waiting 'Sea Goddess' for the hour long trip north through the Whitsunday Passage, complimentary drinks all the way. On arrival, everything runs smoothly and before you know it the holiday is over and you sit on the flight back home thinking it was all a dream.

View of Hayman Island.
View FromAirlie Beach to Double Cone Island Island.

Wherever these wandering young nomads visit on their travels around Australia, they always seem to find the little town of Airlie Beach. For a town so small it offers so much for the hardy backpackers. On arrival at the bus station it is only a short walk to the various hostels in the main street of Airlie. There are two companies that offer a variety of transport for their use. Cars, scooters, motor bikes, bicycles and small 2 seater buggy style contraptions are all available to get around this great holiday destination.

120 klm's North of Cairns is the tiny village of Daintree. This whole area has a wild magic to it. Everything is in abundance here. The wild life, the plant life, the birds, and butterflies, are all numerous. Depart from The Daintree River Jetty for a hour long cruise to check out the saltwater crocs and savour the peace and quiet of the river. Jump on the vehicular ferry and travel 11 klm's north and you arrive at The Daintree Rainforest Environmental Centre. From here you can stroll along the Boardwalk through the Rainforest. Just half an hour from here you can visit Cape Tribulation where they say The Rainforest meets The Reef. A wonderful day-trip.

Daintree River.
Lorakeets at Currumbin Sanctuary.

The Gold Coast is the premier destination for visitors to Australia, and one special visit is to The Currumbin Sanctuary. Located a few klm's south of Burleigh Heads it is an ideal place to take the kids or the crinklies. This is a 20 Hectare Reserve with free ranging areas for the wildlife that reside at the Sanctuary. Twice daily the staff organise feeding of the thousands of lorakeets that visit the Sanctuary. You can have your own tray, and the birds get right up close and personal for those memorable photo opportunities. If you are feeling lazy you can traverse the Sanctuary on The Miniature Railway and stop for lunch at the Sanctuary Cafe. A great trip for the kids.

If you are looking for a complete getaway Fraser Island is the place. Remote beaches are abundant on Fraser and you can camp out and not see a soul for days. The largest Sand Island in the world, Fraser is 123 klm's from North to South. Over 40 freshwater lakes, all above sea level and surrounded by dense forests are home to a variety of birds and animals. Fishing parties are numerous on Fraser when the Tailor are running. If you prefer a conventional holiday lifestyle you can stay at The Kingfisher Bay Resort on the Western side of the Island or choose alternative accommodation on the ocean side.

Fraser Island.
Koala at Lone Pine Sanctuary Brisbane.

The State Capital has one of the special day -trips. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a favourite for everyone who visits Brisbane. To enhance the visit you can pick up a cruise boat at North Quay in the centre of the City and enjoy the 12 klm trip up the Brisbane River. This Sanctuary is the largest of it's kind in the world. Apart from the Koalas, this Sanctuary hosts at least a hundred other different species of animals and birds. Kangaroos, Wallabys, Emus, and wombats can all be seen in their natural environment. Opportunities to have photos with these creatures are available.

Discover the Great Barrier Reef. If you want to get up close and personal with marine life, snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef are available on one of the many day-trip excursions. Manta rays, moray eels, coral trout and giant rainbow fish make snorkelling and diving enchanting. Or you can view the beauty of the reef from the comfort of a glass bottom boat. Tours are available from 1770 or from further afield Bundaberg. Lady Musgrave Island and Fitzroy Reef are both reached by day excursions from the shore. Lady Musgrove Island is a national park, home to a lagoon over eight kilometres in circumference. It is also the perfect place to view starfish, sea urchins, clams and corals that are exposed on the coral cay at low tide.

Lady Musgrave Island.

Safety on a Great Barrier Reef Holiday.

A Great Barrier Reef vacation will almost always include Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling, Great Barrier reef diving, or at least wading around in shallow water, or walking on coral cays. You need to be aware that The Great Barrier Reef has several very dangerous marine animals, so you need to be on your guard all the time you are walking on coral, in shallow water, snorkelling or diving. The most common dangerous animals of the Great Barrier Reef includes jellyfish, several species of fish, sea snakes, octopus, and even certain shellfish that can potentially be fatal to humans. In fairness if you take the right precautions, and you know what to look out for, you can reduce the danger, and still enjoy the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef on your Great Barrier Reef trip. The list of dangerous marine animals plus a brief description follows.

Box Jelly Fish.

This is one of the most dangerous creatures on the reef, and can be found swimming close to the shore from November through to March. It gets its name from the shape of its body, which is a box shaped bell with clusters of tentacles extending from each corner, which can reach up to 3 metres in length. They are nearly invisible because they are so transparent, and the strongest advice is if you want to swim off a beach in the summer months, then swim inside the netted areas. Their sting is agonising, however a single sting is bearable, but the problems tend to arise from panic, causing entanglement with the tentacles and a lot more stings. Enough venom can kill an adult, or drowning due to the panic. If the tentacles are stuck on a victim then they can be neutralised by pouring vinegar on them.

Irukandji Jellyfish.

This is very small, being only a few centimetres in diameter, and it is to be found at the northern end of The Great Barrier Reef. They tend to be found in the deeper waters of the reef, but can be swept inshore. Divers and snorkelers are most at risk, and they usually appear in the summer months November to March. The sting goes unnoticed for possibly as long as half an hour, but then the venom begins to take hold, and it can be strong enough to hospitalise adults. Although it's small it's very dangerous, because you won't see it unless you are specifically looking.

Blue Ringed Octopus.

It is the only dangerous octopus in the world, and is the size of a golf ball, and looks cute. The Blue Ringed Octopus has a beak that can penetrate a wet suit and poison that can kill an adult in minutes, and there is no known antidote. It lives in rock pools and coral, and is very dangerous when the blue rings glow an electric blue, when it feels threatened. It is spectacular when this happens, and it attracts children, so they need to be warned not to touch anything!! The bite doesn't hurt, and will happen if you pick it up. Within a few minutes the venom will give breathing difficulties and nausea, and worse still if it triggers an allergic reaction.

Cone Shells.

Cone shells look very pretty but this shellfish is one of the most dangerous animals on the Great Barrier Reef. The problem is that there are many different types of Cone Shells all over the Reef, some harmless, and some so deadly they can kill a human, as they have the most potent neurotoxins known about, in their venom. If you add to this they have attractive shells then holidaymakers pick them up, and if threatened the Cone Shell will fire a harpoon like dart into the victim. You will know if this happens or if you stand on one when walking, because the sting will be felt straight away.

Lion Fish.

Lion-fish are members of the Scorpion Fish family and are found all over the Great Barrier Reef. They are difficult to see, and much sought after, but they hide up in crevices and small caves. The fact that they like shallow water makes them a threat to swimmers, because they have venomous and extremely large fin spines that can penetrate the skin, giving immediate pain resulting in muscle swelling, cramps, nausea, fainting and even death. They can be recognised because they have stripes similar to a zebra.

Stone Fish.

Stonefish are ugly looking creatures, mottled green - brown in colour, with 13 dorsal spines that release a poisonous toxin when pressed, so stepping on one is a very painful experience. The pain can be excruciating and death is a possibility.. They are found mainly in the warmer northern half of the Great Barrier Reef, and they live on top of rocks or the seabed, where they lie motionless, and their camouflage colours make them almost impossible to see. They are therefore a danger at low tide when walking along the beach, so footwear with thick soles is important. The severity of the pain and the symptoms will depend on the depth of penetration of the poisonous spine.

Sea Snakes.

Finally there are 15 species of sea snakes on the Great Barrier Reef, and all of them produce lethal venom. The good news is they have small fangs and aren't aggressive, and no-one has died from a bite.

Sting Rays.

Stingrays can be very unpleasant if you stand on their tail, as they whip up and can cut you very badly. You must ensure your anti tetanus is up to date before leaving home. All this makes depressing reading, but remember tens of thousands of people take a Great Barrier Reef vacation every year, and only a very few are unlucky, so be sensible, take precautions.

Author----Peter R Stewart.

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