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Great Barrier Reef, Kuranda Railroad, Skyrail Excursions from Cairns

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Oct 31st, 2011, 09:46 PM
  #1
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Great Barrier Reef, Kuranda Railroad, Skyrail Excursions from Cairns

We're two couples, 60-ish, active, looking forward to exploring in and around the Cairns area in mid-November, and hoping to take several excursions.

The combination of the Kuranda Railroad and the SkyRail over the rainforest sound interesting. Are these worthwhile, or are there alternative tours of this type worth considering? Would anyone know if it is necessary to book these in advance, and if so, how far in advance?

None of us is a diver, but we all swim, and want to experience the Great Barrier Reef as well. Reef tours seem to be in abundance. While we continue to sort through the options we'd appreciate any advice from those who have been there. Also wondering how far in advance reservations need to be made.

Thanks for your input.
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Nov 1st, 2011, 03:28 AM
  #2
 
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Suggest that you leave your reef bookings until you are here and can respond to the weather. We are having some unusually strong winds for this time of year.

The train-skyrail excursion is well worth doing. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore at the stops and even in Kuranda which is a little kitsch.

Also suggest you hire a car and explore the Atherton Tablelands. I am prejudiced as I live here but it is a beautiful part of the world and cooler than Cairns and with wildlife in abundance if you know where to look.
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Nov 1st, 2011, 05:29 AM
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Mostly reef trips can be booked on arrival, unless you're after something which only takes small numbers, for instance I was recently unable to get some guests on Sea Star for the next day. I was able to get them on a similar trip but with more passengers, but they were a bit disappointed. This is particularly likely to happen after a spate of bad weather, people have been hanging back from booking until weather clears, then everyone wants to go the reef at once.

You can always book your trips in advance, and as long as you give 24 hours notice to the operator who will be happy to change the date with no cancellation fee, if they have vacancies of course.

There really isn't a substitute for the Skyrail/Kuranda Train trip, however there are plenty of other rainforest trips out of Cairns, take a look at www.wildernessecosafaris.com Billy Tea does a good 4WD to Cape Tribulation and also Chillagoe, and www.northernexperience.com.au covers part of Atherton Tableland and rainforests to south. Or, as Alan suggest, rent a car for the Tableland. It would be wise to book Wilderness Eco Safaris in advance as it only takes 7 passengers, the others can be done on arrival.
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Nov 1st, 2011, 06:04 AM
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tt7
 
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As already suggested, the Kuranda train/skyrail trip is well worth it. We've done it a few times over the years and always enjoyed it. I would suggest taking the train up and the skyrail back - the train (usually) has two trips up in the morning so you have a 'fixed' starting time for your day. As the skyrail runs continuously (whereas the train obviously doesn't), you can then take the skyrail back down whenever you decide you've had enough, without being tied to a fixed train time back.

Wherever you stay should be able to arrange the trip for you, including transport to/from your hotel as part of the cost.

The train station is at the "bottom" of the village (meaning it's somewhat uphill to the rest of it). There's a free bus (at least, there used to be...) that meets the train and will take you up and drop you at the top of the village, conveniently close to Birdworld, the Butterfly Sanctuary etc, which are worth a visit. Those attractions can, I think, now be included as part of your ticket, depending on which package you buy.
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Nov 1st, 2011, 09:11 AM
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I was vacationing in Cairns two weeks ago, during their early rainy season downpours. The railroad rides were canceled due to the heavy rain. Skyrail and boats out to the reef were still operating, with plenty of empty seats.
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Nov 1st, 2011, 01:38 PM
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yes, oscarandpenelope, that was the spate of very wet weather I was referring to above and Kuranda train was closed for two days due to possibility of mud slides. This was record-breaking October rainfall, I've never seen anything like it in October over 18 years of living near Cairns.

Still, water drained away very quickly and vegetation is freshened and green again, before that downpour we were dying for rain, just didn't expect so much so quickly. And apart from yesterday, which was a bit windy, perfect reef weather since.
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Nov 1st, 2011, 09:58 PM
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All good information! Based on your input, we're going to play it by ear and make our decisions after our arrival in Cairns. Have also learned that the Reef will be spawning while we're there! Not sure what that means, but it sounds exciting!

Thanks, everyone, for so generously sharing your knowledge with us. Keep it coming if you think of anything else. And, should you see a group of twits wandering about Cairns in a couple of weeks, give us a wave!
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Nov 22nd, 2011, 06:51 PM
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We're back now. We loved Cairns! Would return in an instant, if it were possible!
Took the Reef Magic/Marine World Reef Tour & witnessed some amazing underwater sights! However, the combination of heavy wind and tidal action took its toll on many aboard. The staff felt it was rough enough that day to cancel operations of their semi-submersible vessel, and to shorten the reef visit to avoid further damage to their catamaran and pontoon.
We also enjoyed the combined Kuranda train/skyrail trip. While the train was interesting, unless you're one of the lucky 25% with a window seat, it is difficult to see much of the scenery. There is quite a bit of overgrowth along the route as well. The combined train/SkyRail round-trip schedule allowed us only a little over an hour to see Kuranda. More time would have been better. If we were to do it again, I would consider going round-trip via SkyRail, and take photos of the train at the Kuranda station, also saving approximately $60 per couple.
Thanks, all, for your input!
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Nov 25th, 2011, 01:09 PM
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Dave, glad you are back home safely and thanks for coming back to to forum. Shame about the weather for you. It is now quite cool with some light rain around on the Tablelands. A more normal scenario for this time of year would be for warm nights leading into hot mornings with storms in the afternoon.
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Nov 25th, 2011, 01:11 PM
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re your 'overgrowth': there is the issue of what to do with natural regeneration of vegetation where we are used to having a view. Not an easy question to answer for many reasons. One of my friends complains to me, as a tree planter, that I have taken many of his favourite sights away from him.
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Nov 25th, 2011, 08:39 PM
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Alan,
Thanks for the friendly greeting!
About the "overgrowth," I'm not suggesting that anything needs to be done about it (I love your flora). Just didn't find the views from the train as accessible as hoped.
I heartily endorse your recommendation of leaving plenty of time to explore the "kitsch" of Kuranda. We thought we had, but then fell victim to the train's tardiness, and time constraints imposed by the SkyRail/return bus schedule. That said, we were very fortunate to have an excellent boardwalk tour at the second rainforest SkyRail stop, guided by a very enthusiastic naturalist named "Mike."
As for the weather, we found the Cairns environs extremely enjoyable. Despite the conditions at the reef, and some queasiness on my part, it was a highlight experience that we will always remember.
Thanks to you and your fellow Aussies for your friendly hospitality!!
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Dec 1st, 2011, 05:10 PM
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Dave,
You are most welcome. All the best for the festive season.
Alan
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Jan 8th, 2013, 06:07 PM
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The cable car is a fantastic experience. Look for the green tree ant nests in the canopy.

I enjoyed the railway but it is a little over hyped. The cable car was definitely my preference. It gives you a stop off to view the Barron Falls but there are lookouts in Kuranda.

For the Great Barrier Reef, look at the Australian government site on the subject. They provide info on reputable tour operators:
http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/visit-the-r...rism-operation

Also consider staying in Port Douglas instead of Cairns as Port is incredible and my favourite destination in Australia. Enjoy!
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