On 18 February this year, I left the UK on a marvellous trip Down Under on Singapore Airlines. I was one of a group of just ten selected travel agents to embark on this wonderful visit.
We all met at Heathrow Airport for your flight with Singapore Airlines to Sydney with a change of planes at Singapore.
The service of Singapore Airlines was super-efficient and very attentive; both the food and the smiles of the air hostesses were beautiful. After approximately 24 hours, we landed in Sydney to connect with flight to Hamilton Island, situated in Queensland at the tip of the Great Barrier Reef, in what is known as the Whitsundays.
Hamilton Island is a large resort complex with many activities to enjoy. At first sight it looks a little incongruous to the surroundings, but after a day or so it definitely grows on you and when the time comes, you are quite reluctant to leave. The tropical ambience and the relaxed atmosphere are something very special and the sulphur-crested cockatoos which visit your balcony every day enhance this tropical experience. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset yacht cruise, courtesy of Sunsail – a very popular excursion.
Next stop, Ayers Rock, in the heart of the Red Centre, a designated National Park. Another flight! Ayers Rock can only be described as an eerie experience, made even more so by the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories we were told.
The countryside was unseasonally green due to the unexpected rainfall in the previous few weeks. I had an interesting walk around the base looking at the fascinating cave drawings. The Aboriginal name for the Rock is “Uluru” and this is what the Rock is now known as.
Nearby are the Olgas, their Aboriginal name being “Kata Tjuta”, possibly more impressive than Uluru and just as curious. We stayed at the Ayers Rock Resort, known as Yulara, which is in sight of the monolith and lies just outside the National Park. Our stay of two nights here was ample as temperatures in late February are in the excess of 40⁰C at the height of the day and flies are very troublesome. We then journeyed to Cairns for a stay of two nights at Palm Cove and two nights at Port Douglas, which are nearby beach resorts Palm Cove. Cairns seemed cooler after the heat of Ayers Rock, although temperatures were around 32⁰C and humidity was approximately 80% – but this is life in the tropics, and the rain is warm. My advice? – visit North Queensland in the dry season which is May to September when both temperature and humidity are lower.
We spent a great day visiting Kuranda, a little rainforest village reached by diesel train and the sky-rail – a cable car which takes the visitor over the top of the rain forest so you get a birds eye view – an absolutely marvellous experience.
Kuranda itself has many attractions including markets, shops, a butterfly house and a notarium. The whole experience is fascinating. We also visited Tjapukai – an Aboriginal attraction with a cinema and a dance stage, boomerang and spear-throwing exhibitions and digeridoo displays. I certainly learned a great deal about Aboriginal history and their way of life.
On another day, we took to sea with Quicksilver, the main operator in the region for Great Barrier Reef excursions.
Quicksilver run a very well organised operation. You are picked up from your accommodation and taken to the port. Once on board a fast catamaran, you’re away out to a pontoon moored at the edge of the Reef.
This is your experience of one of the natural Wonders of the World… enjoy diving, snorkelling or take a semi-submersible trip to view the beautiful coral and fish through glass. Quicksilver also offer helicopter trips over the Reef for an unusual aerial view.
In just a few days it was time to fly south to Sydney in New South Wales, and a change to city life.
The weather was beautiful and sunny and felt much fresher after Cairns. Cooler and less humid
First, we enjoyed a cruise around Sydney Harbour for the best views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge
Sydney with it’s hustle and bustle is well worth a stay of at least five days. The Rocks is one of the oldest areas of the city, with well preserved buildings in narrow streets and many cafes and bars.
Darling Harbour, another exciting corner of Sydney, used to be an area of wharfs which has been very sympathetically modernised and boasts an aquarium and maritime museum. I was very fortunate in seeing the yachts competing in the BT Round the World Challenge just leaving their moorings at Darling Harbour to complete the next leg of their journey.
All too soon it was time to leave Sydney and fly Singapore Airlines to Singapore. With one night to break our journey home there was just time for a walk down famous Orchard Road to window shop. I had time to appreciate that Singapore is very clean and has the appearance of a garden city but with a lot of high rise buildings. The strong, heady smell of orchids fill the air. All of our travel arrangements went like clockwork and all our nine flights were on time which was very impressive!
Find me in the gallery and I’ll tell you more!