We had to get up early today to get to the jetty for 8am. We were lucky it was Australia Day, so there were far fewer Aussies interested in the trip and we were only 32 instead of the normal 100. We set off on the boat down the river looking out for crocodiles, which frequent these waters, but didn’t see any, which was reassuring. When we arrived we were put into ‘stinger suits’ like rash vests but whole body suits, against their jellyfish, the stings of which can be lethal!! Then we got flippers snorkels and masks and were ferried to the most idyllic tropical island, just us, no-one else allowed. We had a fantastic hour in the water above the barrier reef, fish and reef watching. Quite tiring but an amazing experience, all the shapes, colours and sizes imaginable: never to be forgotten. Next we walked around the island with our guide explaining about the seeds, trees and plants we saw, and looking into rock pools to see what was there, mostly crabs. Then back to base, where shade had been erected and lunch of salad, chicken, prawns, ham and cheese was set out. A little rest after lunch then lots got back in the water to snorkel or just swim for a bit, keeping cool and enjoying being in that very special place. On the way out they served us tea or coffee and biscuits and tea and cake on the way back…great service! I had to be woken up as I was out for the count.
Rich had read about this amazing place between Cairns and Townsville built by a Spaniard Jose Paronella in the early 20th century. The story is all there on the internet, but really nothing prepares you for the place. We were a bit late getting there and debated going in, but they don’t close as they also have night tours so we had plenty of time to explore. There was a very knowledgeable young guide who took us around, then left us to explore on our own. The pictures of the waterfall, used to provide hydro electricity in the days when there was none anywhere else, can’t quite do it justice, and to imagine what it is like in flood is impossible, even when you see how far up the steps it got to.
It really is a wonderful creation, largely constructed by Jose, 800 balustrade columns, 500 concrete plant pots, not to mention all the ornate buildings, lily ponds, tennis courts and paths all around the property. Feeding the huge number of fish, eels and turtles in the river has become another visitor attraction. The present owners are very enthusiastic and intend to renovate to get rid of the concrete cancer which is everywhere, while still retaining Jose’s designs throughout. Photos ..... here.
We then drove on down to our overnight stop at Lacula Lodge, more of which later.