Gardens, fish, and butterflies

posted in: Travel | 0

That east wind kept on blowing and we decided a trip to the reef was going to be too uncomfortable. Instead, we opted for a visit to Cairns’ world class aquarium, where we could visit the reef without getting wet. The aquarium didn’t open until 10am so we spent a couple of hours wandering around Cairns’ delightful botanic garden.

The gardens have been there since the 1880s. They started off as simply a chunk of land with native vegetation but the scope has been expanded since then with the addition of mainly tropical species like bamboos, epiphytes, and gingers. A network of paths has been developed, many of them boardwalks. In a normal year, the place would be damp, or even wet but November had been a very dry month. I learnt later that Cairns had imposed level 1 water restrictions. That doesn’t happen very often up here. Still, it was pleasant walking through the rain forest admiring some lovely plants.

We had coffee in the garden’s outdoor café, then went back to the CBD to see the aquarium.

There’s much more in the aquarium than denizens of the reef. The exhibits are designed to teach visitors a little about the ecology of species that live around water so the first few displays featured snakes, lizards, and amphibians. These guys are kept in the size of tank you might have at home. The main tank is enormous, large enough to comfortably hold sharks, rays, gropers, and a wide variety of flora and fauna you’d find on the reef. Smaller tanks had anemones, sea horses, and even a few of the reef’s major villains, crown of thorns starfish.

A diver in the main tank
Lion fish – complete with poisonous spines
Moorish idol – remember him from Nemo?
Speaking of Nemo…
Sea horses

From the aquarium we drove up to Kuranda, a tourist village in the cooler highland above Cairns. We’d been there before on the Skyrail (cable cars giving a lovely view of the rain forest) and in the historical train that winds its way up the mountains. Read all about it here.

Kuranda is usually full of tourists but of course in these days of covid, there was a lot of room between the visitors. Stalls in the markets were closed, as were a number of eateries. The wildlife displays were all open. After all, the birds and animals still needed to be fed and a few visitors was better than none.

Sandy and I wanted to spend some time in the butterfly sanctuary while the boys did – something else. As we paid for our tickets, I signed the covid registry. The first entry was the date. I turned to Sandy and asked, “What’s the date?” I’d hardly said the words when I burst out laughing. Today, folks, was my seventieth birthday. I explained to the bemused lady at the counter and we all had a laugh. We asked her how business was going what with the restrictions. She shrugged and explained the butterflies and caterpillars still needed to be looked after. School holidays had been a bit busier and they were looking forward to the borders with Victoria and NSW being opened. Many of their visitors came from the southern states.

Birdwing butterfly
Butterflies mating

We both managed to take lots of photos of butterflies, included the highly-prized birdwing. Butterflies are actually much more interesting than you might think. The boys eventually rang Sandy’s mobile to encourage us to leave, please.

That evening we enjoyed a pleasant meal in the hotel restaurant. Though we found it hard to understand why we had to sign in on the covid register. At breakfast all we had to do was give our room number. After all, the hotel already had all our details.

We would be checking out next day, Col and Sandy to head for home, Pete and I to a hotel at Palm Cove.

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