Australia Adventure: Keep Cairns Weird

After a few wonderful days in Brisbane, we took a short flight north to Cairns, where we would spend a night before setting sail for a week on a liveaboard to dive the Great Barrier Reef.

We booked an Airbnb apartment at the home of Kaj and Nicky, who left us a friendly welcome in the cute kitchen.


Their property was lovely, and we were invited to help ourselves to the fruit and vegetables they were growing in and around the garden.


On their advice, we purchased a bus ticket and took a 12-minute ride to the city center. We walked from the bus stop to the dive shop to check in with Mike Ball Expeditions for our liveaboard excursion, then we strolled around downtown. As we passed city hall and the public library, we caught an interesting aroma on the breeze. It smelled a lot like the inside of a cave, and, sure enough, there were hundreds of bats hanging from the tree overhead.


Searching for the source of the smell …

Turns out this is home to the Spectacled Flying Fox, a type of fruit bat that loves this particular fig tree known as the “Nursery Tree.” The Cairns Regional Council was originally going to evict the bats but then changed its mind and decided to invest money in the maintenance of the heritage tree and its guests.


The Cairns Spectacled Flying Fox, a type of fruit bat named for the light hair that surrounds its eyes like glasses (photo: Dave Pinson, Cairns and Far North Environment Centre)

After lunching on the pier and buying some last-minute dive gear, we began walking back toward the bus stop. We wanted to make sure we were catching the correct bus, so we asked a woman waiting nearby. She was very helpful, and we got to know her a bit as we waited.

Mary was from Papua New Guinea and told us she’d moved to Cairns after her husband died. She said it was a fairly nice place to live, but the ever-present tourists meant she had to keep her eyes open to avoid pickpocketing and other issues that come with a transient population. As we talked with her, a young barefoot woman approached me and asked my name. I responded politely but kept my distance, because the girl was clearly strung out on something. As she walked away, Mary cocked her head and said, “See what I mean?”

Turns out that Cairns is like the Florida of Australia. Very few people we met there were from there, and they were all a little sandy.

On to the Great Barrier Reef!