Friday 21st February – Singapore
Travelled on the MRT (subway) - very clean and efficient
- and then took a bus to the Botanic Gardens where we spent
a couple of hours looking around the fantastic National Orchid
Garden. Here there are over 700 species of orchids and 3,000
hybrids – apparently the largest display of orchids
in the world.
Next we strolled along Orchard Road – famous for its
department stores and a mecca for all shoppers. We then had
a quick look around the Raffles Hotel.
In the evening we went to the Night Safari at the Zoo. An
incredible experience - we saw a huge number of animals, dimly
lit in their (mainly large) enclosures, seemingly unaware
of being stared at by the passing tourists. For me the highlight
was walking through the Malayan fruitbat enclosure –
here you can get right up to the bats and feel the wind from
their huge wings as they flap above you. Also impressive were
the hippos, giraffes, and leopards, whilst the most ridiculous
animal had to be the mousedeer – with a head like a
small deer but tiny skinny legs that were quite out of proportion
to its body.
Saturday 22nd February – Singapore
Went for a swim in the morning at the local swimming complex
just down the road from our friends' apartment. Amazingly
clean, and with not only an Olympic size competition pool,
but a second pool too. Wonderful to swim in this heat, with
mynah birds flying around and huge palm trees surrounding
In the afternoon we took a cab to Mount Faber from where
you can ride by cable car 70m above the port to the island
of Sentosa. We then toured the island using the monorail and
visited the dolphin lagoon first, where you watch a couple
of pink Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins performing the usual
tricks. Next we crossed the rope bridge to a tiny island which
is continental Asia’s most southerly point. After this
we visited Underwater World where, apart from some interesting
fish and jellyfish in smallish tanks, you get the opportunity
to walk through the main tank in a large perspex tunnel and
can see a huge variety of sharks, stingrays and other fish
swimming over and beside you – a truly amazing experience.
Finished off the evening with an excellent noodle meal in
Sunday 23rd February – Flight Singapore to Brisbane
Up fairly early at 0715 for our flight to Australia. Took
Singapore Airlines flight to Brisbane, departing just after
1100 on a 777-200. We arrived Brisbane a little late at 2030
local time (2 hrs ahead of Singapore).
Took ages to collect luggage, go through immigration and
then security (bags were X-rayed on arrival too) as Australia
is very strict on what can be imported into the country in
terms of foodstuffs. Tried phoning a number of backpackers
hostels but most were full, however we found space at Tinbilly
Travellers in the centre of Brisbane. Tinbilly’s was
a nice surprise as it’s only 6 months old, very clean
& smart, and we paid $25 each for a shared room for 6
(but we’re the only people in it). It even has an en-suite
bathroom. Not bad for under a tenner (GBP)!!
Monday 24th February – Brisbane to Southport
Took the train from Brisbane to Nerang – a 1 hour journey
south. Unfortunately for us today was the day that Queensland’s
18-month+ drought came to an end, and it rained hard practically
all day. All the news channels showed pictures of floods and
washed-away sections of road. Of course it's great news for
the farmers and many other people who have been suffering
badly from the drought.
In the evening our friends gave us a quick tour of Surfers
Paradise which was looking wet and windy. At least it’s
a lot warmer than England!
Tuesday 25th February – Southport & Surfers
Spent the day in Surfers Paradise - the weather started off
sunny but soon we saw a storm approaching over the sea, and
just made it to underneath a shop awning before a deluge arrived.
When it rains here, it really rains! Fortunately the heavy
showers were fairly brief and we were able to spend some time
on the beach interspersed with shopping in the large shopping
malls in the middle of town.
Met up for a drink with Zoe Stroud - a friend from Loughborough
- who works at the highly recommended Surf’n’Sun
Went to the Sushi Train bar for lunch. First time I’ve
had sushi - it was good, and pretty cheap here. We only paddled
in the sea as it was very rough and not inviting enough for
a swim. There was hardly anyone on the beach today due to
Wednesday 26th February - Southport to Brisbane Airport
then flight to Cairns
Still raining quite a lot in the Brisbane area so we escaped
the weather by taking the Airtrain from Nerang to Brisbane
Airport then a Virgin Blue flight to Cairns - 1,000 miles
to the north, and within the tropics again (16°South).
Temperature on arrival at 1945 was 29°C - so pretty warm
and humid. Booked into the Caravella Backpackers 149 for a
couple of nights. Got a decent twin room with en-suite shower
for $55 per night. It's not as central as some of the other
hostels, but is on the Esplanade and we have a view of the
ocean (just) from our room.
One deal the hostels give out is a free dinner and free drink
at the incredibly popular Wool Shed Chargrill & Saloon
- so of course we headed straight down there for a meal and
a good night out.
Thursday 27th February – Day trip from Cairns
- The Great Barrier Reef
A fantastic day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, setting
off at 0830 on a fast boat (Osprey V) and with 5 hours out
on the reef at two locations.
The temperature was once again about 30°C onshore but
a little less out to sea. Our first anchor point was 36 miles
NE from Cairns and we stayed there for 2½ hours. There
were about 70 of us on the boat, plus at least 10 crew –
all very friendly and determined that everyone should have
fun and enjoy the day.
This was the first time I have ever been snorkelling, and
what a place to try it! The views of the coral and the fish
were completely amazing – one of the best things I have
ever done. I went back in three times as it was so good you
just had to go and see it again! Unfortunately it was quite
a windy day, so the sea was quite choppy and hard to swim
against the wind.
After lunch on the boat we were off to another reef location
a bit further south, and 32 miles from Cairns. Here we spent
another 2½ hours and again we snorkelled several times
and saw a huge variety of wonderful fish, including the resident
Maori Wrasse that apparently always comes up to the boat.
The sea was really quite rough by now and that did slightly
spoil the experience, and also meant that the semi-submersible
trip was cancelled which was disappointing. Met lots of great
people on the trip - and would definitely recommend this to
Went out for a meal in the evening at a rather smart outdoor
café and had kangaroo. Very similar to beef steak!
Spent a second night at Caravella Backpackers.
Back to: Week 1 (Thu 13th - Thu 20th Feb)
Forward to: Week 3 (Fri 28th Feb - Thu 6th Mar)