Browsed by
Tag: nationalpark

Mission Beach: Let’s Jump Out of a Plane

Mission Beach: Let’s Jump Out of a Plane

Welcome to the Jungle

Next on our East Coast trip was Mission Beach. A stretch of beach where the Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. Most popular among backpackers for sky diving – the only place along the East Coast where you are guaranteed to land on the beach.

With that in mind, we had booked our sky dives for the morning after we arrived in Mission Beach. On our first night, we headed straight to the hostel. Having not looked into any of the hostels we’d booked we had no idea what we would be walking into. As it happens ‘Jackaroo’ can be found in the middle of the rainforest, a fairly long drive from the nearest town. Hosting spiders, frogs, mosquitos and other exotic animals alongside a steady flow of backpackers. We met up with our friends (who weren’t too happy about our hostel recommendation) and made a big pot of pasta. We spent more time swatting flies away from our food than we did eating it.

After dinner, we decided to explore the hostel grounds. With our phone flashlights on, we headed into the rainforest in search of spiders, bats, and frogs. We were not disappointed and met loads of native Australian creepy crawlies. When the boys started poking the web of a huge spider I decided it was time to head back to the relative safety of the hostel lobby. Seeing as we had our alarm set for 5 am we decided to try and have an early night, despite the constant background noise of buzzing insects.

Sky Dive Day

Morning came around and I woke up a strange combination of excited and terrified. My first problem; what do you wear to jump out of a plane?! After finding something that seemed appropriate we went and waited to be picked up by the mini van to take us to the Skydive Australia office. Once we had signed our lives away, been paired with an instructor and got the equipment sorted we were sent on another bus to meet the plane. On this journey, we got to see a wild Cassowary holding up traffic in the middle of the road. These endangered species are a rare sighting in the wild despite being more common in the North of Australia.

We eventually reached the small airfield where our plane was waiting to take us 14,000ft into the sky. The plane seemed far too small and lacking in seats to fit all of us along with our instructors inside.

Lets jump out of a planelets jump out of a plane
It turns out we had to sit on the floor of the plane. I ended up being the last to get in; putting me just centimetres away from the plastic sheet which functioned as the plane door. As we made our ascent my instructor would occasionally open the door and stick his head out to see the view. Luckily I was more excited than scared and in awe of the view below.

lets jump out of a plane

lets jump out of a plane

Time to Jump

As we reached a point which I thought must be close to 14,000 ft our pilot declared the half way point to our jumping spot. But somehow I was still less nervous and more excited about throwing myself out of a plane. Eventually, it was time to jump. From the moment we had booked the skydive I was sure I wanted to be the first to jump, not wanting to see everyone before me fall from the plane. Luckily, as I was the last person on the plane it also meant I would be the first person off.

With my harness secured and my instructor saying his final words of encouragement, I sat with my legs hanging out of the plane. Before I could even think about it, we were freefalling. After what felt like seconds the parachute opened and we were momentarily pulled back up. The rest of the sky dive was spent gently drifting back down to Earth. Admiring the view of the Great Barrier Reef below and taking in the unbelievable silence that surrounded us.

lets jump out of a planelets jump out of a planelets jump out of a planelets jump out of a planelets jump out of a plane
Not long after I successfully landed on the beach Sam’s sky dive also came to an end. Although I felt absolutely fine free falling from a plane I felt a huge adrenaline rush when I reached solid ground. I was thankful to be able to sit down soon after.

Later that day it was our friends turn to do their jump. By this time we had gone back to the hostel to chill on the hammocks and have some lunch. That afternoon, we all reunited in the hostel before our friends caught their greyhound up to Cairns. We had one more night in the jungle before our final Greyhound journey to Cairns. Our last evening in Mission Beach was very chilled, we sat outside watching the sunset as the creepy crawlies came out to play. We called it a night when a gecko climbed up Sam’s leg; retreating to the safety of our dorm room.

Magnetic Island: The Tropical Paradise

Magnetic Island: The Tropical Paradise

From Airlie Beach, we arrived at Townsville. Unfortunately, we had no time to discover this tropical town and instead caught the ferry straight to Magnetic Island. The island was supposedly named after Captain Cook’s compass broke when he passed by on his journey up the East Coast.

The short ferry trip brought us to Magnetic Island in the early evening. Having not eaten that day we were starving. We quickly made our way to the X-Base Hostel which was more like a tropical resort. The dorms were wooden huts on stilts just metres from the ocean. There was a huge bar area parallel to the beach as well as a pool. This was definitely my favourite hostel out of the ones we stayed in. After checking into the hostel we got talking to the other people in our room. There was a boy that I recognised from back home and it turns out we used to work together in Southampton, England and just so happened to be staying in the same hostel room on the other side of the World!

Magnetic Island HostelMagnetic Island Hostel
After a brief chat and catch up we walked to the shops before the hostel started serving food. That night we had pizza and enjoyed our free cocktails (which were more like juice than alcohol but you can’t turn down a freebie) and some happy hour drinks. Our first night on Magnetic Island was pretty dead as the full moon party was the previous night and everyone on the island seemed to be recovering.

Island Explorers

The next morning we hadn’t made any plans but decided to wake up early and enjoy our free breakfast while overlooking the beautiful ocean. We noticed one of our friends from Fraser Island and got talking to him. He mentioned an aquarium which he’d seen advertised as something to do on the island so we made plans to pay it a visit.

With no idea what to expect from this unknown aquarium, we started walking roughly in the right direction. We eventually reached the aquarium. Much to our disappointment it was better described as a few poorly maintained fish tanks in someone’s back garden with dead coral and a couple of sad looking fish.

Magnetic Island’s Koala Village

After that failure, we were determined to see some of the Island. We made our way to Bungalow Bay Koala Village which was home to a wildlife park. We paid a $29 entrance fee which gave us the chance to see lots of Australian native species and even hold some of them. For an extra $18 you can choose to hold a koala. Magnetic Island is the only island in Australia which has it’s own Wildlife park, giving you another excuse to check this place out.

In the wildlife park, we got to see and hold baby crocodiles, meet cockatoos and lizards and koalas. The highlight of the park was when a wild koala with a baby koala on her back climbed the trees into the park. Everyone lost interest in the park’s koalas and turned their attention and cameras to this proud mummy baby duo. There was also a huge spider which had made the wildlife park it’s permanent home.

Magnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife ParkMagnetic Island Wildlife Park

After meeting all the animals it was time for those who had paid extra to hug a koala and get their classic Australia pictures. From the wildlife park, we walked to the nearby beach – Horseshoe Bay. By now it was getting close to evening and our friends were on the Island waiting to meet up with us. After a short time on the beach, we got the bus back to the hostel.

Wine Time

That evening we were a group of six and all keen on having a few drinks. The bar staff announced that it was happy hour and bottles of wine were just $15. We decided to make the most of it and bought 3 bottles to start with. As the evening went on the bar staff kept announcing the end of happy hour, so we kept going up for a ‘final’ bottle. By the end of the night, our table was full of empty bottles of wine, we were all very drunk and playing drinking games on the beach. We eventually called it a night, the following morning we were supposed to be getting up early and renting 4×4’s to explore the West side of the island.

Bad Planning

Having planned to rent a 4×4 for days before reaching the island we excitedly woke up and went to book our car. The following day people had said that as long as you book before midday there would be no problem getting a 4×4. Unfortunately for us all of the cars were sold out by 9 am.  The receptionist suggested getting a bus pass instead which would only cost $7 each. Reluctantly we agreed and headed for the bus stop. We also got a big bag of carrots to feed the local rock wallabies near Geoffrey Bay which was the first stop on our Magnetic Island bus trip.

We arrived at Geoffrey Bay in the morning and walked the short journey to the smooth rocky home of the wild wallabies. The best time to see the wallabies is at sunset where they all come out in force for their dinner. However, we did manage to see quite a few peeping through the rocks. Including some babies in their mummy’s pouches!

The Forts Walk

Next on our bus trip was the Forts Walk. A hike which takes you high into the bush with incredible views. There is also the chance to spot koalas and see some fort remains from World War 2. We got our timing slightly wrong and ended up doing this 4km walk in the midday heat. However, we still managed to see 3 wild koalas and scramble our way onto the rocks to get some amazing views of the island. The forts were slightly less impressive than I expected but overall it was worth the hike. A personal highlight was spending almost 20 minutes clambering onto a big rock with an impressive view to try and get a group photo.

Magnetic Island Forts WalkMagnetic Island Forts WalkMagnetic Island Forts Walk

Palm Trees and Wallabies

Our next bus journey took us to Horseshoe Bay. We decided to spend some time here while waiting for dusk when we would try and befriend the Wallabies for the second time.  Whilst chilling on the beach I found a wonky palm tree and thought it would be fun to attempt climbing it. Somehow I managed to get the highest and am now considering a career in coconut collecting.

Magnetic Island Palm Tree
Eventually, the sun started to drop so we hopped on the bus back to Geoffrey Bay. Within minutes of arriving and opening the slightly warm bag of carrots, furry friends precariously approached us from all angles. We sat down, surrounded ourselves with carrots and waited as the wallabies hopped around us. This was definitely a highlight from my time in Magnetic Island, and it all it cost was the price of a bag of carrots and a bus ticket!

Magnetic Island WallabiesMagnetic Island WallabiesMagnetic Island Wallabies

Boozy Bingo

For our final night on Maggie Island, we joined in with the hostel’s game of boozy bingo. This follows the same rules as generic bingo but with the addition of drinking and doing challenges. We had decided to have a more chilled night so we didn’t end up doing too well. It was still a lot of fun and a good way to spend our last night on the island.

The next day we stayed in the hostel ready for our midday ferry. This docked at Townsville where our coach would take us to Mission Beach.

 

Noosa and the Everglades

Noosa and the Everglades

Our next stop along the East Coast brought us to Noosa. Described to us as a rich person’s Byron Bay we were excited to explore the area. As the Greyhound had picked us up from the zoo it was pretty late by the time we arrived. We were staying in the Nomad’s Hostel for 2 nights, a short walk to the main beach and Hastings Street. Hastings Street runs parallel to the beach and is where you can find boutique shops and restaurants.

On arrival, we checked in and went straight to the onsite bar for a $10 burger and free beer. As Noosa is a popular stop before Fraser Island there were lots of backpackers. We ended up talking to some people in our dorm who had just returned from their Fraser Island tour. That night we went to sleep quite early for our tour of the Everglades te following morning.

The Everglades

For our Everglades tour, we were with a company called Noosa Everglades Discovery. They picked us up from our hostel and took us to Noosa River where our boat was waiting. Shortly after we were on the river and heading to the everglades. Noosa’s Everglades are one of just two in the World, the other being in Florida. This unique area of subtropical wetland is home to over 44% of all Australian bird species. It also has a history of logging, with some signs of it’s past still recognisable. For instance, part of the river becomes very shallow, at some points barely even knee deep. In order to transport the logs down the river, they dredged a boat-sized path which is still used today when accessing the everglades by boat.

As we headed into the everglades we were surrounded by a blanket of lilypads which are in bloom for most of the year. Not far from here was where we reached our first stop. Here we got off the boat and had morning tea in the bush. After filling up on cakes and coffee it was time to split up. Some people remained on the boat while some others were given canoes and told to carry on down the river until the next stop. We were on the boat for this part of the trip, and would later canoe the return journey. This part of the journey was the most picturesque. Here the water becomes almost opaque due to the tea tree content. The colour of the water combined with the lack of wind creates a mirror effect, where the trees perfectly reflect on the water.

Canoeing in the Everglades

The distance between the first stop and our lunch stop was around 3 kilometres. Knowing that we had to canoe on the return journey after eating didn’t feel me with confidence. Eventually, the canoers made it to the lunch stop where we had a BBQ and were shown a building from the logging days. This is also where Sam decided to go for a swim, in the freezing, black water which we were later told was home to Bullsharks. On the return journey, we were each given an oar and told to meet them further down the river. After struggling to figure out how to get the canoe moving in a straight line we were on our way. The everglades are said to be one of the top places to canoe in Australia, and I can see why. Being so low down you can feel the canoe slicing through the water, creating a ripple in the otherwise flat river. I was pleasantly surprised by the ease and peacefulness of the journey and didn’t want to stop when we eventually caught up with the boat.

The boat ride back took around an hour and we were back in Noosa by around 6 pm. That night we went to the hostel bar again for food and drinks. We met a few people who would be on the same Fraser Island tour as us so we spent some time with them.

Noosa Everglades

Exploring Noosa

For our final full day in Noosa, we decided to see the beach and have a look around some of the shops. Although the beach isn’t massive, it is pretty. With white sand, waves perfect for beginner surfers and a national park lining the South end Noosa main beach is perfect for a day of tanning and swimming. You can also hire Stand Up Paddleboards and surf boards here if you fancy something more adventurous.

Noosa Main Beach

After a walk along the beach, we found ourselves along Hastings Street. With surf shops, boutique clothing shops and handcrafted jewellery I was in my element. Sam wasn’t so impressed as I dragged him round every shop. After repeatedly having to remind myself I couldn’t spend all my savings on bikinis and anklets it was time for food. As we had a super early start the next morning for Fraser Island we decided to stay in the dorm. We ended up making friends with some drunk guys who were pre-drinking there.

To find out about my time in Fraser Island, what we did there and my favourite parts have a look at my article. For other articles I have written, check out my portfolio.

The Blue Mountains: A Blue Haze

The Blue Mountains: A Blue Haze

One of my favourite memories from our first week in Sydney was The Blue Mountains. We only planned this trip the day before and got a last minute booking with a company called Happy Travels who would be picking us up at 7 am the following morning.

That morning also happened to be the day we were checking out of our hostel in favour of an Air BnB in Coogee. So we woke up at half 5 in the morning, repacked our backpacks and checked out of the hostel before the 15-minute walk to our pick-up point. As other tour buses heading to the mountains came and went we started wondering whether we had been forgotten about but just as we went to call the company a tour guide shouted our names and we were on our way.

Featherdale Wildlife Park

To break up the 2-hour drive from Sydney’s CBD to the Blue Mountains we had a 1 hour stop at Featherdale Wildlife Park. This was our first chance to see Australia’s native animals; including Kangaroos, Koalas, Dingoes, Wombats and Cassowaries to name a few. An hour gave us plenty of time to stroke the koalas, hand feed the kangaroos and get some postcards from the gift shop.

Feeding Kangaroos Featherdale Wildlife Park

Kangaroo at Featherdale Wildlife Park

The Blue Mountains

It was another hour coach journey before we reached our first stop in the Blue Mountains. Here we went on a short walk to the famous rock formation – the Three Sisters. The walk took us through a sub-tropical rainforest where we were convinced we would see a snake or spider lurking in the trees. The funnel-web spider is a very venomous species of spider which is regularly found in the Blue Mountains; luckily you won’t bump into one of these killers unless you start poking around in the holes where they sit and wait for prey to show up.

The view of the mountain range is not a disappointment and rightly called the Blue Mountains, unfortunately, the pictures from my iPhone 5 don’t even begin to do it justice (I’m hoping to go back to the Blue Mountains in the next month so I can get some better pictures). The blue haze which gives the mountains their name is caused by the masses of eucalyptus trees which release a chemical that scatters light wavelengths causing the blue-greyish appearance of the distant mountains.

The Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

While looking out over the mountain range and admiring the three sisters (also known as Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo) our tour guide told us an aboriginal-style story about how the rock formation came to be. We were also given aboriginal face paint which was made by mixing the sandstone from the mountains with water.

It was now time for lunch so we were driven to a hostel in a small village within the mountain range. While we ate our lunch from the comfort of an open fire and incredible views of the surrounding area we were asked if we wanted to go on a second bush walk before going back to the CBD. We all agreed to go and after lunch, we were driven to our final stop for the day.

This walk took us through another sub-tropical rainforest and lead us to a waterfall. Standing just a few metres away from the water as it rushed into the pool by our feet was an incredible experience and marked our first time ever seeing a waterfall. The walk now continued uphill until we came out to another viewing platform which provided one last chance to admire the mountains before the 2-hour drive back to the city. After a long day, I fell asleep for almost the whole journey home.

Blue Mountains Waterfall

Waterfall at the Blue Mountains
NB – Don’t wear shorts to the Blue Mountains in the middle of Australian winter!