Full disclosure here: I’ve never really been a fan of Green Island. Ever.
Although my first trip over a couple of years ago yielded a much sought after turtle sighting I was unimpressed with the coral and found the fish life severley lacking. Two more visits, via the sailing boat Ocean Free, gave me nice days but with more fun happening on board the yacht than the island itself.
For what is technically just a coral cay, Green Island gets a ton of visitors and it means that during peak times you’re likely to be jostled around. This is especially true as many of the tourists are from China and genuinely have a different idea to Westerners like me of what constitutes personal space and politeness*. (I once saw a woman push a chair out of her way in the dining area…despite the fact that someone was sitting in it like it was a totally normal thing to do.) It means that time spent over there felt closer to taking the tube during rush hour than a serene and relaxed island afternoon.
*Not casual racism, I swear, totally true! Other cultures etc! They think it’s rude when we blow our noses…
I’ll admit it, I was ever so slightly down about the place.
So when I heard that Cairns Adventure Cruises were offering a new half day tour to the island which got you there before the other boats I was intrigued, but only in a professional sense. Any new tour that pops up is of interest, especially if it’s regarding something that I get asked about a lot. I wasn’t much interested in getting up early to visit a place I wasn’t too fussed about though. Sometimes you need your weekends to be weekends!
Then I started hearing the rave reviews.
Customers who we’d booked on came back to thank us. A friend mentioned what a cool time she’d had. A colleague couldn’t stop gushing about his morning.
I had to see what all the fuss around Cairns Adventure Cruises and their new tour was about.
Unfortunately on the morning I’d earmarked for my trip they weren’t running the trip, but I was told they’d be in touch if anything changed.
Happily, it did.
Unhappily, I’d spent the previous two days on the go on other adventures having earmarked Friday morning as lazy lie-in-and-Downton-Abbey-in-bed time and so when my alarm blared at 6am I was feeling less than enthusiastic. My brain and body did not want to wake up. At all. I cursed my bad luck, poor me having to visit a tropical island for free when all I wanted was to snooze my alarm. I bet you’re hearing the tiny violins playing a sad song now, right?
The boat used by Cairns Adventure Cruises is fast, seriously fast. One large coffee and a 40 knot 30 minute ride on a jet boat later and I arrived on the island a lot more awake and way more enthusiastic.
As we all stepped on to the pier I encountered something I’d never experienced before on the island…serenity. It was completely silent and deserted, a total opposite to the usual craziness I’d felt. Although the Cairns Adventure Cruises boat holds about 20 we had a little group of seven and we were the only souls to be seen. The second we were all offloaded we raced to the beach, eager to make the most of our isolation.
Again, usually I’m not a huge fan of the snorkelling from Green Island. Thanks to decades of visitors and a nasty outbreak of COTS there’s not a huge amount of coral to see and exploring from the beach is pretty disappointing.
But with an entire area all to myself? Bliss.
The rest of our group, despite being Aussies from the Gold Coast, totally freaked out and left the water when we spotted a shark. My reaction? To chase it with my Go Pro for pictures. Their reaction? To swim to the pier and climb out there rather than swim back to the beach. Nuts, but great for me.
I found a perfect little nemo home, complete with little and large clownfish that kept me occupied for a while. Then while on the lookout for turtles I caught two huge dark shapes out of the corner of my eye and was shocked out of my turtle blindness by a pair of eagle rays swimming along beside me.
There’s no doubt in my mind that they would be off in quieter waters had the usual hordes been milling around me and I couldn’t believe I’d been so unenthusiastic about coming here. What on earth was I thinking? (Obviously I was thinking of sweet, sweet sleep).
Sadly all good things must come to an end and after nearly 90 minutes of total peace the first of many boats pulled up, offloading loud passengers. The Cairns Adventure Cruises group had changed it’s location and I joined them to explore from the main beach.
Intent on finding at least one turtle I was stoked to find two of them, one after the other, both very happy to pose for the camera.
The first was happy to let me swim alongside him/her Go Pro pole outstretched in an attempt to nab a great selfie. I’m a big believer that marine life will let you know when you’re not wanted and I’ve had enough turtles bolt away from me to know when to back off, but my new mate barely deigned to acknowledge my presence.
Conscious of time I reluctantly headed back to dry land after about half an hour only to bump into another even friendlier shelled friend.
There’s a myth that turtles get absolutely off their faces when they eat seagrass. I’ve never bought into it but seeing how docile this little guy was changed my mind somewhat. His whole world was the patch of grass right in front of him and I could practically hear him ‘cowabunga dude’-ing me every time I duck dived down. He even tried to give the Go Pro a nibble and I ended up with a few pretty funny shots right up his nose!
Once again, I couldn’t imagine having seen two turtles so close to shore and so close together has there been the usual crowds of people splashing around right off the beach. If you’ve got the whole ocean to graze you’re not going to pick the busy bits now, are you?
I could easily have stayed swimming with my new pal all day but I had another set of creatures to meet, creatures that were ever so slightly more toothy than my turtle buddies…
Did you know that there’s a croc park on Green Island? It’s called Marineland Melanesia and it’s been there for decades, ever since George Craig rocked up with his collection of crocs and tribal art and decided to make it his home. Pretty cool right? It’s been a family business ever since and I was lucky enough to be shown around by the founder’s granddaughter Jemma who I’m a big instagram fan of.
She’s an incredibly interesting lass having spent her childhood on the island. When TTNQ ran a video competition last year I wasn’t surprised to see her story picked and the video she made is excellent, go check it out!
When she isn’t too busy uploading ace photos of nemo she works in Marineland Melanesia and, because she is a lot braver than I am, gets to feed the crocs every day.
I don’t know if I’d have a smile that big on my face if a croc had just launched itself out of the water at me, but there you go. When it comes to prehistoric killing machines I’m about as chicken as the meaty carcasses the crocs were munching on.
The Marineland Melanesia is well worth a visit. Entry is $18 (or $15 for Cairns Adventure Cruises customers) and there were only a few people watching the presentation with us meaning that we got a very personal tour and got very close to the reptiles being fed. I even got a tiny bit splashed by one and nothing with prepare you for the sound of a croc hissing less than a metre from your face. They might be eating chicken, but one look into those eyes and it’s very clear what they’d prefer to be ripping to shreds…
After having a smooch with baby croc Cuddles (surprisingly cute) we checked our watches and found it was time to head back to the boat. Perfect timing really, because the island was starting to fill up rapidly and the previous serenity was nowhere to be seen.
Sitting right at the front on the way home as we raced across the water, I reflected on my morning. It might have taken a few visits and two years but I had finally fallen a little in love with Green Island. And it felt good.
I may have raced from a salty shower straight to work but I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to finish off my weekend.
Need to know:
- The tour is $120 for adults, $65 for kids and $320 for a family.
- If you want to visit the crocs at Marineland Melanesia then guests of the tour get in for less $15 which is saving that’ll buy you an ice cream for the journey home.
- For the non swimmers you can book yourself a glass bottom boat tour with another company for $15.
- This would be great for people prone to seasickness. The journey is short and you get fresh air the whole way!
- DO IT IT’S AMAZING