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The two winners of the Travello contest, Natalie & Tom, have an amazing journey ahead of them in Australia. They started off, on Friday the 19th of October, when they met up in Cairns, in Queensland. So how did it go when two complete strangers met up to embark on an epic adventure, and at the same time sleep in the same car?
However, the day before they flew out to meet up in person for the first time they were actually interviewed on LIVE national television on Australia’s leading morning show The Today Show. Watch the full interview below, it is pretty funny.
So here’s an update on what they have been up to on their first week:
Overview map of where and what Tom & Natalie got up to this week!
ROAD DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 725 kms
TRANSPORT Plane, Jucy Van, Boats, Hot Air Balloon
STAYS Jucy Van, Safari Lodge, YHA Cairns, YHA Mission Beach, Bungalow Bay YHA Koala Village
ACTIVITIES Barrier Reef trips, Daintree Tour, Cape Tribulation Tour, Hot Air Ballooning, White Water Rafting, Koala Cuddles
LOCATIONS Cairns, Cape Tribulation, Daintree, Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Atherton Tablelands, Mission Beach, Magnetic Island, Townsville
WEEK 1: TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND
After finally meeting each other on the day of their arrival in Cairns, both Natalie and Tom could quickly tell that they would get along just fine (which would then save them from some awkward 47 days together). Before starting their journey, Kate from Tourism Tropical North Queensland gave them a rundown of their destination, Cape Tribulation, and what to see and do there. She also explained that that Cape Tribulation is the only place in the world where you can experience two world heritage sites meeting, the two world heritage sites being the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
Jucy gave them the keys for their new home for the next weeks – a Jucy van Champ. This is a fully equipped van that comes with a small kitchen sink, fridge, gas cooker, a bed inside the car and on top of the roof, in a pop-up tent. With the Jucy van packed and ready, Natalie and Tom drove a bit further up north before they crossed a river with a ferry to reach Cape Tribulation. Here, they tucked in for the night at the Safari Lodge campground, in their Jucy van pop-up tent.
After some tips of what to see and do from the guys at Ocean Safari, Natalie and Tom explored Cape Tribulation and its beautiful beaches. Cape Tribulation is a headland within the Daintree National Park, which is famous for its remote and stunning beaches. Tom found a waterhole where he enjoyed a rope swing into the water, whilst Natalie explored the rainforest further as she found a colorful cassowary to follow. The cassowary is the third-tallest bird in the world and can be quite dangerous if provoked, but Natalie managed to keep herself safe whilst taking in the sight. After enjoying the beaches and the tropical rainforest, they spent the second night at the Safari Lodge campground.
The Great Barrier Reef
Natalie and Tom got to see the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest coral reef. It can even be seen from space! The tour was organised by Reef Magic Cruises, who took them out to explore the outer reef. They went snorkelling and managed to get up and close with colourful fish and sea turtles.
The next stop on their itinerary was Port Douglas. They got to explore the town, and Tom introduced Nat to a very Australian activity – cane toad racing! These races are organised at several bars, and you can take part in it by placing your bet on a toad. The toads are placed in the middle of a dance floor, and the first toad that leaves the dance floor is the winner. They say that if you kiss the toad it brings luck!
Natalie and Tom got to explore the Daintree Rainforest with the tour company Daintree Tours (with Raging Thunder). The Daintree Rainforest is part of the Wet Tropics Rainforest, which is the oldest surviving rainforest in the world. After venturing through the rainforest they were taken to a beach to enjoy some morning tea, before continuing on a crocodile cruise where they spotted a crocodile on the riverbank. They ended the trip with a stop at the Mossman Gorge where they enjoyed a dip in the cool water. Back in Port Douglas they checked out the boutiques, bars and restaurants before going to bed in their Jucy van pop-up tent.
Atherton Tablelands/ Mission Beach
Natalie and Tom woke up early for their hot air balloon tour with Raging Thunder, which started at 4 am., but the early wake-up call was worth it as they got to experience a beautiful sunrise from above. They flew over the Mareeba Valley on the Atherton Tablelands, which is in an area of Australia that has over 300 sunny days per year. They even spotted some wild kangaroos jumping across the valley below them! After the scenic flight, that lasted for about 30 minutes, they enjoyed a champagne breakfast back on the ground, which is included in the tour. After the tour they drove to Mission Beach where they set up camp for the night on YHA’s campground.
Tully River/ Mission Beach
Another action-packed day for Natalie and Tom as they embarked on a white-water rafting tour with Raging Thunder on the Tully River. The river is considered one of the best rafting spots in Australia, and has grade 3-4 level rapids, that go through the World Heritage Rainforest – a truly unique way to experience the Rainforest. After getting soaked and experiencing the exhilarating rapids, Natalie and Tom enjoyed a BBQ lunch with the group, which is also included in the tour. The night was spent in the Jucy van on YHA’s campground, along the beautiful Mission Beach.
Natalie and Tom drove their Jucy Van 240 km. to reach the Breakwater Marina in Townsville, from where the ferry goes to Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island is a World Heritage site, that is located on the Great Barrier Reef, and is known for its granite boulders all over the island. Natalie and Tom spent their afternoon exploring the island, feeding some rock wallabies they found among the boulders, and snorkeling by shipwrecks (a popular tourist attraction). They checked into the YHA Bungalow Bay Koala, which is the only resort in Australia with its own wildlife park. At the park guests get to hold koalas and see wombats up close – the perfect Australian experience!
Stay tuned on our blog to follow Natalie and Tom on Travello’s Ultimate Aussie Adventure…
Thanks to this week’s featured prize partners:
Tom is from country Victoria and currently living in Sydney. He recently returned from a trip to Utah in the US. Tom is a great photographer, videographer and drone operator, so he's looking forward to capturing some amazing footage for your all t o share across your socials as well. Make sure you check out some of his footage he shot from Kokoda and PNG for taste of whats to come!
Natalie is from the USA but has recently moved to Melbourne! She is a former TV news reporter in the US so she is certainly comfortable in front of the camera telling her stories about the adventures with you all. She is also an avid video producer and videographer as well, so you can expect some interesting edited videos from Natalie at some point a long the journey when they get a break!
Are you looking for a holiday destination where you can truly escape the hustle and bustle, completely disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with nature? Then Heron Island is the little oasis you have been looking for. Aside from staff and invited guests to the Heron Island Research Centre, this is an exclusive island for Heron Island Resort guests only, there are no day-trippers, and, with television-free rooms, no mobile phone reception and limited wifi this is your chance to let go for a few days, to completely escape, if you can control your anxiety about not being connected to the outside world for a few days that is!
This tiny island sits right on top of the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, which completely surrounds the island. It’s so small in fact that It only takes 20-30 minutes to walk all the way around the island. Just what you’ll see on that trip around the island does vary depending on the time of year. For example the Turtle egg laying season begins in November with the last of the hatchlings appearing May/June. While bird life really take off December to March with over 100,000 birds on the small island! Then of course from June to September you’ll also see Humpback Whales breaching along reefs too.
With all the excitement and joy I had on the island though, there were also moments of fear and sadness. Not fear for what lies beneath the waters or lurking in the coral canyons, but a fear that my future grandchildren, in fact even my 4 year old daughter, may not ever have that same opportunity to see the reef as it is today but rather only as a totally bleached, dying or dead reef.
It sickens me to think that. To have to explain to them we possibly had the chance do something about saving the reef but we left it too late for them. The Great Barrier Reef may well sit on the Australian coast line, but this is not an Australian priority, this is a human priority globally. We all need to take action now, not next year or leave it up to someone else.
Now, I don’t want to paint the rest of this story into all doom and gloom, as there are in fact positive things happening, however I hope this serves as a harsh reality check for those that may not have been aware of how serious the situation is.
There is no denying it, the Great Barrier Reef is severely under threat from not just climate change, but also poor water quality, coastal developments and also illegal fishing. We’ve now had an unprecedented coral bleaching event 2 years in a row, with one before that in 2002 and 1998 before that. That is unsustainable, if it happens again over the next 24 months we could be on the brink of an ecological collapse of the oceans due to other marine life affected by the dead corals. As coral, if not completely dead already, can’t rejuvenate when bleaching events are so close, it takes the fastest growing coral 10 years to recover after a bleaching event
Now of course, if you are making the 2 1/2 hr ferry (or 20min sea plane) journey out to Heron Island, then high on your to do list has to be diving on the reefs. As Heron Island boast some of the world’s most incredible reefs to dive on, along with an absolute abundance of amazing marine life such as turtles, huge manta rays (I saw 4 manta rays on one dive!), black and white tip reef sharks and so many large and small colorful fish, not to mention the migrating humpback whales too. All 20 of the dive spots are just a 5-15 minute boat trip from the Heron Island Jetty. There are huge coral cathedrals, the famous Heron Bommie and more.
It’s a very special place indeed, but don’t just take my word for it though, two of the worlds most respected nature explorers, Jacques Cousteau & Sir David Attenborough rate it as one of their most favourite places on earth. In fact, Sir David Attenborough is so passionate about saving the reef that he has a dedicated site just for it here, with Heron Island featuring prominently.
However you don’t even have to be a qualified diver to experience the spectacular marine life and coral gardens, you can simply snorkel right off the beach near the jetty, out to the wreck or around on North Beach or Shark Bay. The choices are endless. In fact, you will see snorkelers from dawn to well after dusk, depending on tide times. In reality the most dangerous animals you will encounter will be possibly the cone shells, do not pick them up, and of course always wear protective footwear when walking out at low tide.
Aside form the diving and snorkelling there is of course still plenty to do. Make sure you get yourself on a guided reef walk at low tide to learn all about the smaller critters on the reef. Or book into the spa for a little pampering too. For the children there is also a great Junior Rangers program to keep them occupied for a couple hours too. I’d also highly recommend the tour of the Queensland University Research Centre on the island too, they are doing incredible work on the island, in particular studies on protecting the reef, which I will get to shortly.
It is one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the Great Barrier Reef recorded its hottest-ever average sea surface temperatures for February, March, April, May and June 2016 since records began in 1900.
When combined, this six-month period was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average air temperature of 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than the late 19th century. June 2016 marked the 14th consecutive month where the monthly global temperature record was broken, the longest such period in the 137-year instrumental temperature record.
Just a couple month ago, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies completed their report on their aerial surveys for 911 reefs along the Great Barrier Reef
Of all the reefs we surveyed, only 7% (68 reefs) have escaped bleaching entirely. At the other end of the spectrum, between 60 and 100% of corals are severely bleached on 316 reefs, nearly all in the northern half of the Reef
At the time of putting this article together, the 2017 G20 Summit was being held where the world’s leaders (minus the POTUS), reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, in fact agreeing to aim lower than the 2-degree global average rising temperature target.
In the same week South Australia announced that Elon Musk’s Tesla has committed to building the world’s biggest lithium ion battery to be connected to a wind farm. Plus, Al Gore was also in the country promoting his movie An Inconvenient Sequel as well.
While at the same time the Australian Government was wheeling and dealing with a company called Adani to build Australia’s newest and largest coal mine in Queensland, one of the world’s biggest in fact and one that would require it to unfortunately be shipped out right through the Great Barrier Reef.
In fact, Deloitte recently completed a review to determine the true economic, social and icon asset value of the Great Barrier Reef and concluded that the value was an estimated $56 Billion. The full report can be viewed here.
However, in my view, if you need to communicate to people that the Reef has a $56 Billion value to us, well, then those people are looking at it from totally the wrong perspective. The Reef does not belong to anyone, it’s Earth’s gift to us all. It lies on Australia’s doorstep and as such Australia is it’s guardian, not its owner, Australia needs to lead the protection of it for the world.
We can still do something about this collectively though, its not all doom and gloom. Infact, right on Heron Island at the Research Centre, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his team of scientists from the University of Queensland aim to predict the fate of the Great Barrier Reef into the future by subjecting controlled samples of today’s corals to the higher sea temperatures and increased ocean acidity predicted as a result of climate change 100 years from now.
I managed to get a look at the experiment tubs. Their results are eye opening and shocking, it unquestionably shows almost complete loss of the living corals and reef structure. However their experiments also give a faint glimmer of hope too. If we can manage to stick to the Paris Agreement and CO2 emissions can be stabilized and then reduced, then Professor Hoegh-Guldberg’s team and their scenario experiments on the impact of CO2, temperature and water acidity and quality have shown that we can still positively improve the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef, there is still time to save the reef, if we all act now and governments act responsibly for the long term instead of short term political gains.
Heron Island is such a magical place, it really is. I have another follow up blog that will outline my top 20 tips for your stay at the Heron Island Resort. So in the mean time, I really hope this helps to open your eyes as to why we must act now to help protect the reef’s future.