Landing in Oz 12-2-2005

Where tropical rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef

By: Judy Koutsky

It is very rare to have two World Heritage Sites sitting side by side, yet that’s indeed the case in Australia’s Queensland where the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics rainforest meet. More than 2 million travelers make the journey to Queensland each year to combine these two attractions.

Just to get an idea of the size of the Great Barrier Reef, here are a few statistics: The Great Barrier Reef stretches over 1,200 miles and boasts more than 1,500 species of fish. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and is the planet’s biggest reef system with 2,600 separate reefs.

Quicksilver is one of the luxury tour operators that makes daily trips to the reef. The trip includes roundtrip transport, snorkeling equipment (diving is available for an additional cost), lunch, an observation area and, my favorite, a submarine tour.

Snorkelers can see hundreds of colorful fish and coral while in the water, but the submarine covers an extensive part of the reef including brain corral, giant clams and turtles that might not be seen otherwise. Visitors can spend a few hours snorkeling the reef and partaking in the submarine tour and they will quickly be surprised at the variety and color variation of living creatures in the deep blue waters.

Palm Cove is a popular jumping-off point for Great Barrier trips. This region is also fast becoming a trendy spa destination and many of the new resorts, including Sea Temple Resort, offer beachfront access as well as state-of-the-art spas. The rooms at the Sea Temple Resort are extremely spacious and the grounds consisting of three pools, a spa, gym and beach are especially fitting for families. And Palm Cove has the feel of Miami’s South Beach, with lots of great cafes, restaurants and resorts.

After spending several days at the reef and relaxing at Palm Cove, most visitors head north to visit the Daintree Rainforest. This is the world’s epicenter of biodiversity: there are over 400 species of trees and hundreds of animals including birds, dingoes, kangaroos and wallabies. In fact, the Wet Tropics rainforest which includes Daintree covers 2.2 million acres, making it an oxygen factory and a living museum of flora and fauna.

A favorite lodge for honeymooners and vacationing couples is Silky Oaks Lodge. Here visitors will enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest. Guests are treated to guided walks into the woods; the night walks offer chance encounters with a variety of nocturnal creatures.

For those guests wanting to explore the forest on their own, they should bike to Mosman Gorge, about a 30-minute ride from the lodge. This area offers amazing hiking trails that traverse past waterfalls, rich plant life and a diverse species of trees. The Daintree Rainforest has survived almost unchanged for 110 million years, meaning these rainforests contain several of the first flowing plant species from which all plants originated. Guests will feel like they are walking through Jurassic Park.

The Details

Commission: 10 percent

Sea Temple Resort
Commission: 10 percent

Silky Oaks Lodge
Commission: 10 percent

Tourism Australia

Travel agents can call, e-mail or go online and get more information about Australia and the Aussie Specialist program at:

Qantas offers direct flights from LAX to Sydney and internal flights up to Cairns, the jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.