Sunday, November 20, 2011

Frankland Islands

The bus was late as Dave, our driver, had woken up in the morning to find that his watch had stopped, and the alarm hadn’t gone off. We were a bit behind schedule and when we arrived at Cairns to transfer to another bus, it was full of people who’d been sitting around waiting for half an hour. We stopped along the way to make a couple more pick-ups in Cairns, then headed out to the landing stage where the boat would take us out to the Frankland Islands.

The Frankland Islands tour is unusual, in that it starts from a river, then heads out to sea – most of the Great Barrier Reef tours depart directly from Cairns. So, as we set out, our tour guides told us about the crocodiles in the river. “You won’t see any crocs, because they’re swimming along under the boat waiting for someone to fall in.”

The weather was a bit miserable as we chugged down the river, with drizzly rain and cloud covering the sky. But wait, what was that in the distance? Was it more cloud, or a patch of blue sky?

As we approached our destination, we could see much more blue sky overhead, and by the time we landed we were in bright sunshine.  We collected our snorkelling gear then headed out to the reef, guided by Dave, who knew exactly where he was taking us and what we should see there. This included giant clams, clown fish, angel fish, sea trout, and loads of other types of fish, as well as describing the various forms of corals that were visible below. We spent a good hour snorkelling, then returned to the shore for a trip in the glass-bottomed boat. On this trip we went round to another side of the island, there to see more fish and corals.

There are fish in here...honest!

Afterwards we sat down to lunch in the shade, eating a prawn and chicken salad provided by the tour. After lunch we took the “round the island” walk with Dave, as he pointed out various interesting things on the way. He encouraged us to look for interesting and unusual things on the beach, so we came up with a collection various shells and other artefacts; Dave explained what each one was and how the animals lived, including the death of a shellfish by a boring snail – no, it doesn’t go on and on about what it did in the holidays (!), it drills its way through the shell of its prey, and eats it. The shell we found had a characteristic hole through it, evidence of how it had met its end.

We also saw a pair of rare beach curlews,

And circling high in the sky, sea eagles of the type that we’d seen a few days earlier in Brisbane at the Koala sanctuary. Sadly my wildlife photography skills ended up with me having a lot of shots of blank sky where a sea eagle had just been. They were fishing near a tern colony so as well as trying to catch fish, they were being mobbed by the terns if they came too close to their nests, and also robbed by the terns who tried to get them to drop their catch. It’s a tough life, being an eagle.

Also on the walk around we saw some turtles, and this time my photography was a little better:

All too soon it was time for the return trip, which was a lot calmer and sunnier than on the way out. We went out onto deck when we were back on the river, trying to spot crocs, but with no luck. Still, the trees were interesting.

Crocodiles are masters of disguise


  1. We once did a tour with a glass-bottomed boat to Les îles des Glénan. Only that the boat didn't have a glass bottom but large windows below the waterline. It was marvellous. The photos my husband took didn't work out very well, though. The small island where we were dropped off for an hour or so didn't have anything much to offer (if it had we didn't see it). Sounds like a great holiday you spent there. :)

  2. Duude, you are on a ROLL !
    More later.
    H X