a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
Cairns is the jumping off point for exploring the ecosystems and wildlife of tropical Australia: coral reefs, tropical rainforests, mangroves and savanna. The town itself offers a lot, too, from cafes and beaches, to wildlife in her botanical gardens...
For most of my adult working life I live I was based in Cairns. I moved here, like many naturalists and biologists, because I was attracted by the natural beauty and diversity of the area. I never got sick of the city and its surrounding areas.
Boy, where do I start?
This page acts more as a jumping of point to links in other parts of this website. The most obvious part of this growing city for most visitors is the Cairns esplanade.
In the leafy suburbs of Cairns are various natural places to explore, such as the Mt.Whitfield, the Lakes, and the Cairns Botanical Gardens.
Within and around Cairns, there is also a number of wildlife parks and zoos in Cairns and the surrounding area, including the excellent Rainforest Habitat, Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary, Hartleys, and Cairns Tropical Zoo.
But Cairns is also a jumping off point for coral reefs, lowland tropical rainforest, highland rainforest and savanna and wetlands. Due to the safety of Australia and the ease of travel in North Queensland, you really are better off striking out on your own. However, if you are limited in time or mobility, there are many tour options available. The hotels in Cairns prefer it if you stay in their hotel for the night, so there is an endless variety of day tours.
In the waters alongside the tropical east coast is of course the Great Barirer Reef, the largest reef system in the world. North of Cairns is one of the most famous places, called Lizard Island. A less expensive option with great wildlife is just off Cairns, combining coral reefs and hundreds of nesting seabirds, is an island called Michaelmas Cay.
Just south of Cairns there are many places to visit. Just south of Innisfail is the beautiful and secluded Etty Bay, a great spot to see cassowary, the largest animal in the rainforest.
Up in the Atherton Tablelands there are many excellent places to experience the rainforest and watch birds & other wildlife. Quite a few of these places are accommodations, my two favourites being Chambers Lodge and Possum Valley.
Further north of Cairns is Port Douglas, Mossman and the Daintree region. Across the Daintree River, there is an interpretative centre called the Daintree Discovery Centre.
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? One of the first expeditions I am booked to work on is the NZ sub-Antarctics with Silversea Expeditions and Australia with Coral Expeditions. And here is a shortened version of one of my lectures in a warmer part of the world.