Special Spots, Magical Moments: No. 2 – Cape Tribulation

1 10 2008

Cape Tribulation, North Queensland, Australia

The wide, white sand sweeps in a gentle curve from one end of the cape to the other. Lush, rich green jungle embraces it along one side while the clear surf breaks from the reefs beyond. There is a clear blue sky overhead and a bracing wind from the sea that provides a delicious reprieve from the tropical sun. Despite its pristine perfection, there is not a single other person in sight. I could be on Robinson Crusoe’s desert island searching for the footsteps of Man Friday, but instead of Daniel Defoe, this spot is rich with the history of Captain Cook.

 

This is Cape Tribulation: a magical spot in tropical North Queensland, Australia several hours from Cairns. Separated from the south by narrow winding coast roads and a ferry journey across the wide Daintree River, it is a magnificent place where the World Heritage listed ancient Daintree Forest meets the Great Barrier Reef. By conscious choice, it is blissfully devoid of huge hotels, casinos or sprawling complexes of shops and nightclubs. Instead, accommodation is tastefully hidden amidst the trees and barely visible from the sea or the air and the few shops and restaurants are low-key and casual.

 

It is quite clear that humans are the guests here. Signs on the beach warn of box jelly-fish in season and advise against swimming around the point because of crocodiles. Visitors are told to be aware of the cassowary: Australia’s endangered but aggressive large bird which lurk in the woods and can surprise walkers. The verdant jungles resound with the symphony of unseen insects, reptiles and birdlife. A stream winds its way from the jungle, across the beach and into the ocean. Its crystal clear shallows look idyllic if it were not for the signs warning of crocodiles. But for all the untamed wildness, this truly is a blissful spot and one of the best beaches in the world.

 

Not far from shore lies the Great Barrier Reef, and a trip out to its wonders from Cape Tribulation is guaranteed to be one of the highlights of any trip to Australia. Instead of queuing at a cement dock along with hundreds of other day-trippers, you simply stroll through the lapping surf, climb aboard a small zodiac and head out to your intimate dive boat. As you head away from land, you glance back and see the unchanged view that mesmerised Captain Cook hundreds of years ago when he first explored Australia’s east coast.  Once at the reef, you may well not see another boat during your whole day, but you will see the magnificent coral, the colourful fish, the stingrays and reef sharks.

 

As wonderful as daytime is at Cape Tribulation however, it is in the evening and at night that I truly appreciate and relish its isolation. A stroll for dinner takes you down sidewalk-free dirt roads where the only sounds are from the trees and perhaps the very occasional car. The jungle-clad hills above are invisible except where they blot out the millions of stars. Restaurants are relaxed and laid-back, but serve excellent meals including the freshest seafood imaginable. By day, you can be as active as you like but at night it’s time to relax and drink in the magic of unspoiled solitude.

 

Back in our hotel room in the middle of the forest, I hear the wind pick-up through the trees. Rain soon begins to lash the windows and roof and builds to a tropical downpour. The water streams from the roof in torrents and splatters on the tiled walkway outside, lulling me to sleep. The next morning, sunlight streams through the windows and I can hear the gentle drip of water falling from the leaves to the damp forest floor below and the call of birds. Outside, everything is lush and green again and the sky a perfect blue. I’m ready for another day in paradise.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan

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How To Avoid Getting Stranded

22 09 2008

“If it’s a desert island, why wasn’t he called ‘Man Sundae?”  (Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia) 

For most of my life I rather fancied being stranded on a sun-drenched white sand desert island, but only if it included a few umbrella’d drinks, a bountiful supply of food, a comfortable bed, a fan wallah and a way to get home whenever I became bored. Realistically, it’s not likely to happen unless my private yacht runs aground on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island just after he’s re-stocked and left for several months abroad.

 

However, the possibility of becoming stranded overseas is a real one on the rare occasion when airlines or tour operators become bankrupt. And unlike Man Friday and Benn Gunn, there’s little romantic about it when it happens to you even if it’s in some idyllic bliss.

 

Although you can not be 100% safe, there certainly are precautions you can take to minimise the chances of being a modern-day Robinson Crusoe…except without the straw hat and talking volleyball.

 

1)     Perform a little due-diligence into your airline or tour operator. A quick internet search should find out the organisation’s background and basics of its financial or labour situation. A search for news stories should give you a hint if something’s not right.

 

2)     Book through a travel agency. Not only are travel agencies covered by government-mandated travel compensation funds in many places, but people in the industry have an ear to the ground and often hear about financial problems or instability before anything makes it to the press or the public. In addition, your travel agent can assist you to re-book your trip or to get you home in the quickest and most economical manner if the worst happens.

 

3)     Pay by credit card. Most credit card companies will still refund your payment if a company goes bankrupt before you have received your goods or services. If you pay by cash, you don’t have that protection.

 

4)     Check insurance. Some insurance companies include coverage if your travel provider goes bankrupt before you travel or will assist you if you are stranded away from home. Have your travel agent advise you on any available protection.

 

 

Given the hundreds of airlines, charter companies and tour operators throughout the world, bankruptcies are still very rare. However, since vacations are still great luxuries for most of us and something that we work very hard to be able to afford, choose very carefully, and eagerly anticipate, the more we can do to avoid a life experience as trying as Madonna’s “Swept Away”, the better!

 

 

Photo and post by:  Simon Vaughan